Hristo Botev

Hadji Dimitar

He’s alive! Alive on the Balkan crest
He groans, soaked in blood, full length
A lad with a deep wound in his breast
A lad in all his manly youthful strength.

His musket to one side he’s hurled;
His sabre in two pieces tossed;
His head rocks with eyes in darkness furled
The cosmos on his lips is cursed.

The youth lies prone but up there strong
The sun is fixed; it angry burns
Somewhere below, there’s a reaper’s song
But still the blood unstinted runs!

Harvest time is on!  Sing you slave
Your mournful dirge. Sun shine your fill
On this land enslaved. While this lad so brave
Is sure to perish …Heart fall still!

He who falls in freedom’s fight
He does not die; for him do mourn
All earth and sky, beasts, birds in flight.
And singers chant their songs new born.

By day an eagle keeps him in the shade
A wolf licks his wound with gentle tongue
From high a hawk looks after the lad
As for its kin, hawk, fit for the young.

Evening falls; the moon will rise
The stars fill Heaven’s vault along
The woods rustle; the wind sighs
The mountain sings its brigand song.

And elven-maidens robed in white
Pick up the song in wondrous ruth,
Silently tear green turf this night
And come to sit around this youth.

One binds his wound with aloe compress
A second sprinkles fresh cold water
A third binds his lips with a gentle kiss
And he watches her face – smiling tender!

“Where’s Karadja? –Sister tell me!
My faithful band – tell me where?
Speak ‘fore death can overwhelm me
Sister I want to die right here.

So they clap their hands and they embrace
With songs they fly round Heaven’s bowl
They fly and sing till dawn’s first trace
Looking for Karadja’s soul.

But now dawn lights the highest crest
The youth lies prone; his lifeblood runs
The wolf licks the blood from his wounded chest
And the sun – does it burn? Oh yes it burns!

To my first love

Leave off this plaintive love song
Stop pouring poison in my heart
My youth’s forgot, though I’m still young,
Or if recalled, I’ll not start
To rake up everything I scorned
And crushed before you in the ground.

Forget that time whene’er I wept
For just a sigh or look that’s mild.
Slave was I then – in chains I stepped,
Only for one of your sweet smiles,
I despised the world, lost my wit,
Churned my feelings in the dirt!

Forget this lunatic distress.
There is no love light in this hollow,
You cannot wake her in this breast,
Here where rules the deepest sorrow.
Here where all’s with blisters wrapped
And sickened heart in spite entrapped.

You have a wondrous voice – you’re young.
But do you hear the forest’s dirges?
Or the cries from orphans wrung?
It’s to this sound my spirit surges,
Thither my wounded heart is leading,
There – where all is cloaked with bleeding!

Oh, these poison words, reject them!
Hear how tree and bush cry out,
Hear the ancient beeches howling,
Word by word they spell them out
Stories from a time long gone
And new oppression brings more song .

And you must sing such songs, no other,
Sing me songs of sorrow, maid,
How brother sells out his own brother,
How youth and vigour fade,
How the pauper widow weeps
How the homeless children creep.

Sing or be silent – just be gone
My heart’s a quiver – it will take wing
It will fly flaming – Be warned!
There where the earth is thundering
With cries of horror and fell doom
And songs for deathbed and the tomb.

There – boughs of trees are tempest torn
But a sabre cuts them into wreaths;
Horrific chasms open yawn
And in them seed of lead shrieks,
A kindly smile death bestows,
And a cold grave gives sweet repose.

Ah these songs and that smile!
What voice will call me, burst into song?
Lift a toast of such blood and bile
That even love’s struck dumb,
Thus I alone will sing refrain
To what I love and to what I aim.



He’s a Patriot! He dedicates
A soul to Freedom and to Reason;
Not his personal soul, my mates,
But the soul of the whole nation.
And he fairly weighs up everyone,
Pounds and pence thrown in the scale,
He’s human – why – what’s to be done?
His very soul is up for sale.

And he’s a good Christian chap
He never misses a single mass
But he only climbs the temple step
‘Cos the deals are just too good to miss.
And he fairly weighs up everyone,
Pounds and pence thrown in the scale,
He’s human – why – what’s to be done?
His very wife is up for sale

And he’s got a benevolent heart
To the orphan, he’ll be kind.
But he don’t feed you for his part
You feed him, brothers, with your grind.
And he fairly weighs up everyone,
Pounds and pence thrown in the scale,
He’s human – why – what’s to be done
He’ll guzzle all the goodies without fail.

Down the Pub

Misery, Misery! Pour out the wine!
Get me so pissed, I can just ignore
The point you miss, idiot swine
Shame or glory – what’s it for?

Land of my birth, so soon forgot,
The shelter of my father’s eaves
And those who in my soul begot
A fighting spirit, true belief.

Let’s forget my needy folk,
My father’s grave, my mothers passion,
And those who squeeze us till we choke
And rob us in most noble fashion.

They bleed our hungry people cold
They rob them all so niggardly
Landlords and merchants just sigh for gold
Priests rip them off with liturgy.

Rob them, you unfeeling bastards!
Rob them, so they scarcely stand.
Soon they’ll lie defeated, shattered,
While their sons drink glass in hand

We drink, we sing our rebel yells,
Bite all oppressors in the arses!
Let’s break through these strangling walls!
To arms! Let’s grab the mountain passes

We scream but when we’re sober,
We forget our oaths and declamations
We fall silent and we simper
‘Fore the sacred martyrs of our nation

And the Tyrant’s power increases
Makes our land a filthy joke
Hangs, impales, flogs, fleeces,
Curses our enslavéd folk

Fill up again!  And lift the weight
From my soul. Get me  pissed
Sink all my sober thought
And soften up my manly fist

I want to drink to spite the foe
And to spite you too, you patriots,
I’m not your bosom pal you know,
And you…you are just idiots!

My Prayer

Oh my god, righteous god!
Not you, who art in heaven
but you who art in me, god –
me in my heart and in my soul

Not you, whom monks and priests
bow their heads to
and Orthodox Slav slaves
light candles to;

not you who created
man and woman from mud
and left humankind
to be slaves on the earth;

not you who’s greased up
kings, popes and patriarchs,
and cast off my brothers
as orphans in woe;

not you, you teach slaves
to bear up and to pray
and you feed them blind hope
from cradle to grave;

not you, god of trickery,
of dishonourable tyrants,
not the idol of morons,
and humanity’s foes!

But you, god of reason,
the refuge of slaves,
on whose day the people
will soon be feasting!

Inspire in everyone, oh god!
a vital love of freedom –
to fight, whoever and however,
against the people’s enemies.

Keep my right hand strong,
so when the slave arises,
in the ranks of the battle
I will find my grave!

Don’t leave a rebel heart
to freeze in foreign lands
and my voice to pass on by
hushed as in a desert.