Taras Shevchenko: The civilizing mission…at sword’s point
From The Caucasus (1845)
Translated by John Weir
You love your brother as is writ
Within the Golden Rule?!
O damned by God, O hypocrites,
O sacrilegious ghouls!
Not for your brother’s soul you care,
But for your brother’s hide!
And off your brother’s back you tear:
Rich furs for daughter’s pride,
A dowry for your bastard child,
And slippers for your spouse.
And for yourself, things that your wife
Won’t even know about!
For whom, O Jesus, Son of God,
Then wert Thou crucified?
For us good folks, or for the word
Of truth…Or to provide
A spectacle at which to laugh?
That’s what has come to pass.
Temples and chapels, icons and shrines,
And candlesticks, and myrrh incense,
And genuflexion, countless times
Before thy image, giving thanks
For war and loot and rape and blood, –
To bless the fratricide they beg Thee,
Then gifts of stolen goods they bring Thee,
From gutted homes part of the loot!…
“We’re civilized! And we set forth
To enlighten others,
To make them see the sun of truth…
Our blind, simple brothers!!!
We’ll show you everything! If but
Yourselves to us you’ll yield.
The grimmest prisons how to build,
How shackles forge of steel,
And how to wear them!…How to pleat
The cruelest knouts! – Oh yes, we’ll teach
You everything! If but to us
Your mountains blue you’ll cede.
The last…because your seas and fields
We have already seized.”