Jan Kochanowski

1530 - 1584 / Sycyna / Poland

Lament II

If I had ever thought to write in praise
Of little children and their simple ways,
Far rather had I fashioned cradle verse
To rock to slumber, or the songs a nurse
Might croon above the baby on her breast.
Setting her charge's short-lived woes at rest.
For much more useful are such trifling tasks
Than that which sad misfortune this day asks:
To weep o'er thy deaf grave, dear maiden mine.
And wail the harshness of grim Proserpine.
But now I have no choice of subject: then
I shunned a theme scarce fitting riper men,
And now disaster drives me on by force
To songs unheeded by the great concourse
Of mortals. Verses that I would not sing
The living, to the dead I needs must bring.
Yet though I dry the marrow from my bones,
Weeping another's death, my grief atones
No whit. All forms of human doom
Arouse but transient thoughts of joy or gloom.
O law unjust, O grimmest of all maids,
Inexorable princess of the shades!
For, Ursula, thou hadst but tasted time
And art departed long before thy prime.
Thou hardly knewest that the sun was bright
Ere thou didst vanish to the halls of night.
I would thou hadst not lived that little breath -
What didst thou know, but only birth, then death?
And all the joy a loving child should bring
Her parents, is become their bitterest sting.
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