Poetry - IVAN KRASKO

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    IVAN KRASKO
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    IVAN KRASKO (18761958),  a.k.a. Ján Botto, a poet, prose writer, translator; one of the founders and core representatives of Slovak Modernism and symbolism. He studied chemistry at the Czech Technical University in Prague. Like other Slovak students before him,  he took an active part in Detvan, the Slovak academic association  in Prague, from 1900 til 1903. After graduation, he worked as a chemical engineer in Klobouky and Slané until the outbreak of WWI. In 1914 he commenced his military service. The war brought him to Poland, Russia, and Italy; in 1918, after the end of WWI, Krasko engaged in politics and became a deputee for the National Ensembly. Simultaneously he continued his academic activities in Bratislava and Prague, earning his doctorate. In 1923, he was elected a member of the Academy of Sciences.

                Krasko’s beginnings were influenced by Slovak romantism and also by confrontation with the poetry of Hviezdoslav, Mihail Eminescu (whom he translated), and Paul Verlaine.

                Krasko wrote two collections of poetry: Nox et solitudo (Night and Loneliness, 1909) and Verše (Verses, 1912). His work reveals a sensitive and melancholy soul (the poem „Solitude“), meditating on the mysteries of existence and the place of love in an indifferent world. He pays special attention to the mystery of human psyche, of interpersonal relationships and of human being. In Verses he  intensifies the poetry of night and loneliness and in the end he breaks the circle.  Reader follows his battle between his skeptical view and and his realization of moral imerative in connection to a man.. Often, he uses the form of an interior monologue, an analytical and philosophical examination that is as much a personal catharsis as it is a castigation of the vices of the world.

                Krasko wrote also a novella Our Folks (Naši, 1907), taking place in the circles of the academic association Detvan; two proses with a weakened plot-line titled Sentimental Stories 1, 2 (Sentimentálne príhody 1,2 – 1908) which represent insights into an interior world of an indecisive man. In novella  A Letter to a Dead Man (List mŕtvemu, 1911), we can find Krasko’s characteristic feature of  mystery, growing into fantasy.

                Ivan Krasko also translated Romanian poetry (mainly Eminescu and younger poets) and from German (R. Dehmel).

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    HOW LATE IT IS

    How late it is, do you forget!

    Above the hills there mounts

    the full moon, mute and pale,

    a ghostly countenance;

    cloud-wisps are drawn across the sky,

    hiding the moon with their veil;

    stray shadows roam the dusky fields,

    peace hushes in the dale;

    far, far away a crier calls

    each hour of evening fled,

    the echoes roll on in swollen waves

    until they are silent and dead –

    exactly as it was that time…

    …The moon had traveled its span,

    but you do not return to end

    the conversation we began.

    (Nox et solitudo, 1909)

     

    CRITIQUE

    There were those who in the temples spoke,

    and there were those who in the temples listened.

    Blessed are they who spoke

    and said no more than they could say in the holy days.

    They shall be saved who did not say everything

    they imagined they knew,

    and those shall be lost who said more

    than they should have said on the holy days.

    It will not be forgiven to those

    who were called to speak the sacred Word,

    but kept silence at the time of the Great Festival,

    and woe to all who kept no holy hours

    and went without reverence to speak in the temples of the Word.

    And blessed alone are they

    who in the temples reverently hear the blessed Word

    and see the light of His glory.

    (Verses, 1912)

     

    THE GUESTS

    Courteously, though with a mystic fearfulness,

    I welcomed nonetheless my funeral guests,

    somber, with psalters under their arms, having arrived from distant lands.

    Ceremonially, with chalky, dry and bony hands

    each reverenced the icon of my dusty home,

    and bowing to the waist (to me – if not, to whom?),

    they sat around the table, a solemn, black-swathed ring.

    Searching the psalter for long-lost hymns, they then began to sing

    in deep sepulchral voice – the harshest kind of air –

    of bitter fruit the tree of life was found to bear,

    of Mother Earth’s original condition – as one she was

    before the thrice-cursed lust of slithering Diabolos...

    And then as gloomily they left (under the smiles

    of those who never dared to take from Eve the apple of her wiles),

    and said they would return to us again next year

    to visit those they now considered brothers, or at least, as near.

    ……………………………………………………………………..

    Eunice! Where are you? Look how one by one they disappear.

    (Verses, 1912)

    Translated by Andrew Cincura

     

    TODAY THE TWILIGHT…

    Today the twilight died in a sudden flicker.

    Perhaps a pale moon will light up the skies...

    But what was it we wished to say with sighs

    and voices that were trembling and too bitter?!

    We wished to look full in each other's eyes;

    alas, they were too narrow and too cold...

    What is this grief, that has a tighter hold

    when a crimson moon is gloomily on the rise,

    in the glittering frost?!

    And sparkling was the frost

    when great full stars blazed coldly overhead

    and the moon rose in sorrow, dusky-red.

    Bitterness burning in the heart, unsaid,

    where did we find it, how shall it be lost?!

    So harshly gleams the frost! – – –

     

    Translated by John Minahane