Saturday, 4 October 2008

nazim hikmet

On Living


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:
you must take it seriously,
so much so and to such a degree
that, for example, your hands tied behind your back,
your back to the wall,
or else in a laboratory
in your white coat and safety glasses,
you can die for people-
even for people whose faces you've never seen,
even though you know living
is the most real, the most beautiful thing.
I mean, you must take living so seriously
that even at seventy, for example, you'll plant olive trees-
and not for your children, either,
but because although you fear death you don't believe it,
because living, I mean, weighs heavier.


Let's say you're seriously ill, need surgery -
which is to say we might not get
from the white table.
Even though it's impossible not to feel sad
about going a little too soon,
we'll still laugh at the jokes being told,
we'll look out the window to see it's raining,
or still wait anxiously
for the latest newscast ...
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 prisonand 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 earth will grow cold one day,
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even
but 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'' ...

trans. randy blasing and mutlu konuk


Roxana said...

we must live as if we will never die.
why, swiss?

swiss said...

i'm unsure that this line should be taken in separation. in the context of the poem i take it to mean something along the lines of that old saying about time enough for worrying about death in the grave.

such is the separation between healthy/unhealthy, youth/age, at least where i am that people (more or less under the age of sixty)seem almost infantilised when it comes to death. and those that are preoccupied by it never seem to be coming to work with the likes of me and stare it in the face, tho i appreciate we all have our limits -i don't, for instance, like working with children but that's really a choice and i would if i had to.

in short, we only get one shot at this life thing. better to be concerned with it while we have it i think.