Janko Polić Kamov – Dan mrtvih

Janko Polić Kamov – Dan mrtvih – Day of the Dead

Janko Polić Kamov had two collections of his poetry published during his short lifetime (1886-1910). ‘Psovka’ (‘The Curse’) in 1907 and ‘Ištipana hartija’ (‘The Pinched Paper’) in 1907.

kamov psvoka cover‘Psovka‘ contains nine pieces of poetic discourse including themes of blasphemy, love and sex, nature, surrealism, the human condition and basic instincts.
These poems have never been fully translated into English.

Here is my translation of one piece from ‘Psovka‘ entitled ‘Dan mrtvih’.

Day of the Dead


I took a pilgrimage, to the dead, to you and look, my soul is not sorrowful;
my thought is not of despair – oh the universe is not cruel.

I would sing psalms and sadden people;
my accusation would be the charge of nature, and the people would be the guilty;
shy as a prayer, distorted as Christ, holy as the air of the church.
Godly is their fear and headless as a flock of sheep;
it is like the mania of the hungry and the dread of slaves;
fear is their crime and misdoing is their child.

Damp earth, the sun’s rays kiss you and heavenly drops caress you:
woman of milky breasts and secrets of love;
woman of fiery verses and love of a heavenly betrothed.
Divine are your children and green is their name;
joyful are your children and birds are their strings;
fragrant are your children and the breeze is their song;
you are just a village girl and you have no city colours;
full is your body and love is its penchant;
your soul is like a body:
you are all harmony, you are all beauty as eternal truth.

But a man lunged:

your body is beaten and a curse is your blessing;
syphilis of bones and rottenness of the lungs is your sustenance;
a dead member is your love and your cross is green;
decay are your strings and grief is your chord –
tolling are tears – oh dead is your betrothed and your children are worms.

A depository of waste and decay, of man’s great crime;
mute is your accusation, whipped flesh;
bitter is your judgement, violated virgin;
devastating is your tragedy like death and your pain has no measure.
The pen is my trumpet:
dark are your acts, oh you dead;
dark as the love of Socrates and repulsive as the body of an ascetic;
mighty are your misdoings and there is no forgiveness for them;
there is no forgiveness for them and your die has been rolled;

dead are your souls – dead is the resurrection!

The pen is my trumpet and the universe its echo;
eternity smiles – the earth has not died;
the crosses break and time destroys the graves –
wanton is my poem: that the living live!


All rights reserved to this translation © Martin Mayhew

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