“Caligula”

This one goes out to various Western leaders.

Reading the old chronicles, poems and biographies, Mr. Cogito sometimes experiences the physical presence of long-dead persons

Caligula speaks:

of all the citizens of Rome
I only loved one
Incitatus – the horse

when he entered the senate
the flawless toga of his coat
glistened immaculate among the gutless purple-hemmed cutthroats

Incitatus had many virtues
he never gave speeches
stoic nature
I think that at night in the stables he read the philosophers

I loved him so much that one day I decided to crucify him
but his noble anatomy opposed it

indifferently he accepted the dignity of the consul
he executed his power superlatively
what I mean is, he did not do it at all

he couldn’t be persuaded into a permanent bond of love
with my fourth wife Caesonia
so unfortunately the line of emperor-centaurs was not created

therefore Rome fell

I decided to nominate him god
but on the ninth day before February
Cherea Cornelius Sabinus and other fools obstructed these sacred intentions

he calmly accepted the news of my death

he was banished from the palace and sentenced to exile

he took that blow with dignity

he died without heirs
slaughtered by a thick-skinned butcher from the town of Anzio

on the posthumous fate of his meat
Tacitus is silent

— Zbigniew Herbert (c. 1974) from his volume of poetry “Mr. Cogito”

My translation. The original poem is under Show More in the YouTube video.

Good Friday

What happened to Barabbas? I asked no one knows
Let off his chain he stepped on to the white street
he could turn right go forward turn left
spin in circles crow with joy like a cock
He the Emperor of own arms and head
He the Potentate of his own breath

I ask because I was somewhat involved in the matter
Lured by the crowd in front of the palace of Pilate I shouted
like the others free Barabbas Barabbas
All chanted were I alone to stay silent
all would be exactly as it was to be

Now Barabbas perhaps rejoined his gang
In the hills he kills cleanly robs quickly
Or he set up a pottery shop
and crime-stained hands
he purifies in works of clay
or he’s a water carrier mule driver loan shark
or a ship owner — on one of them sailed Paul to the Corinthians
or — this cannot be ruled out —
he became a valuable spy in the pay of the Romans

Behold and admire the capricious game of fate
of possibility potencies of fortune’s smile

And a Nazarene
was alone
with no options
up a steep
path
of blood

— Zbigniew Herbert (1990)


The above is my translation of Herbert’s “Speculation about Barabbas.” Original title: “Domysły na temat Barabasza.”

“Dispatches from a Besieged City”

Here is a fragment from Zbigniew Herbert’s poem “Dispatches from a Besieged City” (orig. “Raport z oblężonego Miasta”). Herbert wrote this poem during Poland’s 1981-1983 Martial Law as an allegory for that event, using imagery from the 1939 siege of Warsaw and the 1944 Uprising to tell a larger story of nations that are under attack. Do we know of any nations that are under attack today?

Translated excerpts from Herbert’s poem:

Too old to carry a weapon and fight like the others —
I was assigned by their grace the chronicler’s role
I write — do not know for whom — about the siege
I have to be exact but I do not know when the raid precisely began
two hundred years ago last December September maybe yesterday at dawn
all of us here ail of the loss of the sense of time
[…]
I write as well as I can to the rhythm of endless weeks
Monday: the warehouses are empty the rat became a unit of currency
Tuesday: the mayor has been murdered by unknown perpetrators
Wednesday: talks of a ceasefire the enemy interned our emissaries
we don’t know of their whereabouts read: their place of slaughter
Thursday: after a stormy meeting the majority rejected
the spice merchants’ proposal for unconditional surrender
Friday: the beginning of plague Saturday: N.N. the steadfast defender
committed suicide Sunday: no water we repelled an attack at the Eastern Gate
[…]
in the evening I like to wander around the borders of the City
along the borders of our uncertain freedom
I look down at the ant heaps of their troops their lights
I listen to the noise of the drums the barbaric screams

[…]

(The full original poem is HERE. Przemysław Gintrowski interprets the poem musically HERE.)

The selected passages above feature a speaker who reports on the everyday conditions of the siege in a resigned and matter-of-fact way. Herbert then shifts the speaker’s tone, over the course of several additional free-verse stanzas, into bitterness and then anger upon noting the ghastly precociousness of the city’s children.

Herbert’s speaker then reaches an epiphany to resist despite the lack of hope. He gets there by connecting his situation to that of history’s other besieged people who have always been ignored, or at best condescendingly pitied, by the rest of the world. He concludes that defending the real and the metaphoric ruins is all that’s left to do.

***

In his Harvard lectures that he later compiled and published in a volume titled “The Witness of Poetry,” Czesław Miłosz said that in reading the scribbled notes of concentration camp inmates, he noticed that it was not educated adults, but rather children who most vividly described their conditions.

One of the worst thing a child can feel is a recognition that he is abandoned by trusted adults. And in thinking about cities under siege from a child’s — or in this case a teenage girl’s — point of view, see a German girl’s now-famous YouTube video, which was banned from Facebook. The brave 16-year-old girl, named Bibi Wilhailm, makes a heartfelt appeal for help. She also denounces the adults and authority figures who have abandoned her to the terror of the refugees.

Her video is at the end of this post. Here is a transcript of her words from the English subtitles:

16 y/o German girl talks about muslim immigration, destruction of her own country (Engl. subs)   [title of the YouTube video]

Hello, you can read the newspapers but this video is about the real situation in Germany. I would like to tell everyone about this on Youtube and Facebook. I am almost 16. I would like everyone to know what is going on, what I am authentically feeling at this moment.

And I am so scared everywhere. For example, if my family and I go out together, or if I see a movie with my friends. Usually I stay at home, but sometimes I stay out until 6 pm in winter, and it is so scary. It is just very hard to live day-to-day life as a woman.

I just want to say that I am not a racist. But one day, a terrible thing happened at the supermarket. I ran all the way home. I was so frightened for my life. There’s no other way to describe it.

My aunt and her friend have said you have to grow up. Why should we, children, have to grow up in such fear? It’s not just me, my friends too. You can see on Facebook, a 17 year old attacked, a 15 year old attacked, two 12-year olds attacked, so many. It is really so sad that this is happening … because of YOU PEOPLE.

I cannot understand why they do this. But more importantly, I cannot understand why Germany is doing nothing! Why is Germany standing by, watching, and then doing nothing? Please explain, why. Men of Germany, these people are killing your children, they are killing your women. We need your protection. We are so scared, we don’t want to be frightened to go to the grocery store alone after sunset. The politicians live alone in their villas, drink their cocktails, and do nothing. They do nothing! I do not know what world they live in, but please, people, please help us! Please, do something! I cannot understand why this is happening. One day, my friend and I were walking down the street, and a group of Arabs were protesting and demonstrating. They shouted, “Allah! Allah! Allah is the one God! Kill those infidels! Allah Allah!” What should I do? Should I wear a burka? Why should I have to convert to Islam?

It’s fine if you believe in Allah, but why do you want to make everyone else believe in Allah too? I just think it would be better if there were no religion. Stop trying to make everyone else believe in your God when they do not want to.

Please, people of Germany. Do something!

When I try to tell the authorities about what has happened, they hold their hand up towards me and they say it is a problem and then ignore it. and they laugh. It is unfair. They laugh at us. They say we are dumb. They think this not only of me, but of the entire state of Germany. They don’t care about our fear. Please help us. This is an emergency! There are more and more of them.

One time in summer, the Muslims said we were sluts for walking outside in a t-shirt.

Yes, we were wearing t-shirts. It’s summer!

Another day, I was wearing this. My friend and I purchased it while shopping hehe. If we feel like wearing it, we will wear it! And you Muslims have no right to physically assault or rape us for it! God willing, never in my life. You have no right to attack us because we are wearing t-shirts. You also have no right to rape.

The life of Germany has changed because these people cannot integrate. We give them so much help. We support them financially and they do not have to work. But they only want more babies and more welfare and more money. Men of Germany, please, patrol the streets and protect us. Do this for your women and your children. If you do that, I believe that we will have a chance.

This sort of action would be wonderful. We would be so grateful and thankful. So many thanks, if steadily, more men would come to protect us. We are so scared.

I am so upset about what Merkel has done.

Thank you, Angela Merkel, for killing Germany! I have no more respect for you, Merkel. I do not think you know what you have done. You do not see how our lives have changed. Open your eyes! Is this normal? Should I, a 16-year old who is almost 17, be so scared to walk outside my house? No, it is not normal. You have killed Germany!

This is the truth. We are no longer allowed to walk outside. We are no longer allowed to wear our clothes. We are no longer allowed to live the German life. This is the sad truth.

I think it’s about time to end this video. I believe I have given a full account from a normal person. I hope others can see this and understand.

I only want to end with one message: Men, please, help your women. Help your children. I am so scared. My friends have the same fear. We are shocked that this has happened. I hope this video can convince you, and that this terrible events can stop.