Kocbek Edvard:
The Lippizaners

A newspaper reports:

the Lippizaners collaborated

on an historical film.

A radio explains:

a millionaire had bought the Lippizaners,

the noble animals were quiet

throughout the journey over the Atlantic.

And a textbook teaches:

the Lippizaners are graceful riding horses,

their origin is in the Karst, they are of supple hoof,

conceited trot, intelligent nature

and obstinate fidelity.

But I have to add, my son,

that it isn’t possible to fit these

restless animals into any set pattern:

it is good, when the day shines,

the Lippizaners are black foals.

And it is good, when the night reigns,

the Lippizaners are white mares,

but the best is,

when the day comes out of the night,

then the Lippizaners are white and black buffoons,

the court fools of its Majesty,

Slovenian history.


Others have worshipped holy cows and dragons,

thousand-year old turtles and winged lions,

unicorns, double-headed eagles and phoenixes,

but we’ve chosen the most beautiful animal,

which proved to be excellent on battlefields, in circuses,

harnessed to princesses and the Golden Monstrance,

therefore the emperors of Vienna spoke

French with skillful diplomats,

Italian with charming actresses,

Spanish with the infinite God,

and German with uneducated:

but with the horses they talked Slovenian.


Remember, my child, how mysteriously

nature and history are bound together,

and how different are the driving forces of the spirit

of each of the world’s peoples.

You know well that ours is the land of contests and races.

You, thus, understand, why the white horses

from Noah’s ark found a refuge on our pure ground,

why they became our holy animal,

why they entered into the legend of history,

and why they bring the life pulse to our future.

They incessantly search for our promised land

and are becoming our spirit’s passionate saddle.


I endlessly sit on a black and white horse,

my beloved son,

like a Bedouin chieftain

I blend with my animal,

I’ve been traveling on it all my life,

I sleep on it, and I dream on it

and I’ll die on it.

I learned all our prophesies

on that mysterious animal,

and this poem, too, I experienced

on its trembling back.


Nothing is darker than

clear speech,

and nothing more true than a poem,

which the intellect cannot seize,

heroes limp in the bright sun,

and sages stammer in the dark,

the buffoons, though, are changing into poets,

the winged Pegasi run faster and faster

above the caves of our old earth

jumping and pounding -

the impatient Slovenian animals

are still trying to awaken King Matjaz.


Those who don’t know how to ride a horse

should learn quickly

how to tame the fiery animal,

how to ride freely in a light saddle,

how to catch the harmony of the trot,

and above all to persist in the premonition,

for our horses came galloping from far away,

and they still have far to go:

motors tend to break down,

elephants eat too much,

our road is a long one,

and it is too far to walk.

Translated by Sonja Kravanja