Tuesday, December 09, 2008

On Living

Which we post mainly so that we don't lose this poem

On Living
         - Nazim Hikmet

Living is no laughing matter:
You must live with great seriousness
Like a squirrel, for example -
I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
I mean living must be your whole occupation.
Living is no laughing matter…
I mean, you must take living so seriously
that even at seventy for example, you’ll plant olive trees -
and not just for your children either,
but because although you fear death you don’t believe it,
because living, I mean, weighs heavier... .

Let’s say we’re at the front -
for something worth fighting for, say.
There, in the first offensive, on that very day,
We might fall on our face, dead.
We’ll know this with a curious anger,
But we’ll still worry ourselves to death
About the outcome of the war, which could last years.

Let’s say we’re in prison
And close to fifty,
And we have eighteen more years, say,
Before the iron doors will open.
We’ll still live with the outside,
With its people and animals, struggle and wind - I mean with the outside beyond the walls.
I mean, however and wherever we are,
We must live as if we will never die.

This earth will grow cold,
a star among stars, and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet -
I mean this, our great earth.
This great earth will grow cold one day...
Like an empty walnut it will roll along
in pitch-black space...
You must grieve for this right now
- you have to feel this sorrow now -
for the world must be loved this much
if you’re going to say, "I lived"...

Translated by Randy Basing and Mutlu Konuk
Found over at Kafila at the end of a very readable piece by Nivedita Menon.


Szerelem said...

oh this is one of my faviurite Hikmet poems! I still struggle with the original Turkish but the translations is very good too...

Ludwig said...

[szerelem] you lurker you. but yes, it is rather nice. added bonus for me was the fact that i'd never read any before. the Sunday one is also pretty spectacular.

Space Bar said...

this one has sat in our kitchen for the last three years. i read it every day while waiting for the coffee. one of these days i think i will be able to recite the whole thing.