20 Aug

Barbarian from the Balkans

I bring to you a fantastic poem by Serbia’s renowned poet Desanka Maksimović. Her writings, amongst other famous people form Serbia and the entire Balkan region, make me really proud to be a “Balkanite”.


by Desanka Maksimović

I am not ashamed to be –
as you say –
a barbarian from the Balkans,
that zone of filth and turmoil.
You will hear now
that even among us
there is some culture, unknown to you.

You first inquire and suspect
you are distant from your own sons,
at your table you do not allow
just any stranger.
You can drink
without offering anyone
a glass of wine.

But with us our customs are crude,
we allow all beneath our roof,
we still greet those we encounter by chance with
a kiss,
we carry out feats in the name of hospitality,
among us each man has
a whole tribe
of friends and family.

You, granted, have
several million statues of Christ
one per person
along roads and fields, in jails and schools,
but with us, when people believe in God
they carry Him within themselves
and silently
almost in their sleep,
they pray to him.

You, it is true, have for each corner of life
a gadget or machine,
you have calculated all and know all
your inventions are awe-inspiring,
while we still use old-fashioned tools
and all around is still healthy
as natural as clay
even death, even birth, even life.

You have entire collections
of laws and knowledge about freedom
you write and speak of everything
but we without word or symbol
live freely
and adhere to some natural order
similar to fire, wind, or water.

With you everything is prescribed accurately,
that’s a fact,
when to eat, speak and dress
but, when we speak, we yell
and wave our hands
and slurp our soup
and don’t remove our gloves
and wear pigskin shoes,
we have a lot of peasantly habits and things
and our kingly ancestors
were, indeed, cattle herders.

Our people, honestly, can, when enraged
kill, destroy and burn
But we are not the ones that calculate and suppress
We don’t consider the whole world
our field
We would not endure that even
some jungle unfortunate weep because of us.

Our soul is spacious
even though we are small.

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Copyright: Miloš Đekić