Father and Son
Come, Grandfather, blow on your pipe now,
And I will take up the tune
With songs of our heroes, of haidouks,
Songs of voivodes, of chieftains,
Of Chavdar the terrible haidouk,
Of Chavdar the captain of old,
The son of Petko the Fearsome!
Let the lads hear and the lasses
At spinning-parties and wassails;
The champions up in the mountains,
The men as they sit in the taverns:
Let them hear what kind of children
Heroic Bulgarian mothers
Have born us and bear even now,
What kind of young men our country,
Our beautiful country has nurtured,
And still nurture even today.
For oh, I am weary, Grandfather,
Of hearing nothing but love-songs,
Of singing only of sorrows,
The poor people’s sorrows, Grandfather,
Or else of my own petty worries,
My worries and sorry afflictions!
Sad am I, Grandfather, wretched,
But play me a tune – never fearing.
For I have a heart bold and stout,
I have a voice sweet as honey,
So that if nobody hears me,
My song will soar up and be carried
Over the forests and valleys –
The forest will then take it up,
The valleys my song will re-echo,
And I will be rid of my sorrow,
My sorrow, Grandfather, and heartache!
And should anyone want to suffer,
Should I say of him ‘Poor devil?’
A hero puts up with no burdens –
For I have said and still say it:
Happy is he who able
To revenge at his will all his honour –
To do good to those that deserve it,
To slash at the bad with his dagger.
So let me take up my song now.
Who knows not of Chavdar the chieftain,
Who has heard nothing about him?
A chorbadji or a bloodsucker,
Or the Turkish army commanders?
A shepherd up on the mountain,
Or all the poor and unhappy?
For full twenty years did Chavdar
Stand at the head of his warriors,
A terrible haidouk was Chavdar
For the chorbadjis and the Turks;
But for the poor and needy
A shield was Chavdar the chieftain!
Therefore his song is sung widely
By the forests of Strandja mountain,
By the grass upon Irin-Pirin;
The honeyed pipe takes up the burden
From Stambuol to Serbia’s border
And reapers, the sweet-voiced lasses,
From the Aegean to the Danube
Over Roumelia’s wheat-fields…
Alone stood Chavdar the chieftain,
The only son of his parents,
The only chief of his warriors;
As a child from his mother he parted,
Still foolish from father was severed,
No sister had he, no brother,
Nor any kinsman to help him,
Except for a usurer uncle
And a round dozen brave comrades!…
When still an urchin of twelve years
His mother made him a shepherd,
To knock at the doors of strangers,
And eat of their hard bread and butter;
How long did Chavdar stay at it?
Perhaps just from morn until noontide?
And what was the sum that he earned there?
A present he brought to his mother –
Bitter hard words that were stinging;
‘Mother, how could you sell me
A labourer in a strange village:
To herd the sheep and the goats there,
To have all the people scoff at me
And to my face to gird at me,
That I should have for my father
The chief of so many haidouks,
Dreaded by three whole countries,
Who rules over Stara Planina,
And yet should stay with my uncle
Who sucks the blood of poor people!
To care for and nurse his bastard;
Day in and day out to be scolded
That I have grown to be wolfish,
That it’s no good I shall come to,
That I shall rot in a prison
And all my flesh will fall off me
On Kara-Bair when he impale me!…
A wicked man is my uncle,
He’s wicked, Mother, I tell you,
Nor will I stay with his bastard,
And keep his goats from straying –
May curs and choughs tear them to pieces!
I want to go to my father,
To my father in Stara Planina
And there my father will teach me
The trade that he thinks will best fit me.’
His mother burst into tears then,
On her heart lay a stone cold and heavy.
And she looked down into her son’s eyes,
Into his big and dark eyes,
And smoothed the curls on his forehead
Lamenting, poor soul, and wailing.
The Chavdar looked up at her, frightened,
And with his eyes full of tears too.
Hastily asked of his mother:
‘Why do you weep, Mother, tell me?
Have they laid hands on my father,
Have they then caught him and killed him?
So that you’re left now, My Mother,
A widow hungry and thirsty?…’
The his mother took Chavdar and hugged him,
And kissed him on his black eyes,
And with a deep sigh she spoke to him:
‘It is for you I am weeping,
For you, my child Chavdar, so handsome,
For my son so handsome and lovely;
You are my one child, my sole one,
My only child and still little,
Yet angry words you are speaking;
How could your mother allow you
To go, my son, to your father,
Like him to become a haidouk?
‘Twas last night that your father came here
To ask me, my son, about you.
He sharply blamed me and chides me
For that to your uncle I sent you,
To your uncle, my son, not your father –
So he could see that he, too has
A son who is handsome, courageous
And either abroad he could sent him,
To have him become a scholar,
Or have him become a haidouk
To roam the mountain forests.
Three hundred times he repeated
To send you away on Sunday,
Away to haidouk’s rally…
You’ll go there, my son, my Chavdar,
The only son of your mother!
You’ll go tomorrow to him;
Yet I would have you swear something:
If you feel love for your mother,
To cry, my sin, and implore him
Not to take you with his haidouks,
But send away to a far land
To study and gather book-learning –
That you may write to your mother
When you’re abroad on a journey…’
Up jumped our Chavdar rejoicing
That he was to go to his father,
That he would see the fierce haidouks
At the great haidouk rally.
His mother, vexed and despairing,
Embraced her child whom she loved so
And… wept anew and lamented!