IN PUTIM OSSUARY


From the Czech of Antonín Klášterský (1866-1938)

Come, let's stroll the field,
the day’s so bright,
to Putim Cemetery
and its ossuary.
Gaping skulls stacked there,
ages old, awake.
Give them hell, we shouted!
Mon Dieu! cried the French.

Over many years peasants
dug up a hundred skulls,
and here again one, and another,
as the plough turns up the earth.
Now so many here grinning,
cared for, gleaming in the dark,
empty sockets staring
at you all at once

You say, memento mori
for the salvation of sinners
Remember here, how quickly life
fades and disappears;
and that only a short candle.
The silver candlestick remains.
The sinner regrets,
contrite in his heart.

Perhaps, however, a different
conclusion, Monsignor.
When I depart, let everything
around me be lit up;
I want to sing and kiss,
gurgling blood with gusto,
I raise a cup full of wine
to toast the beauty of life.

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