Field with dandelions and blue sky
© Anna Grigorjeva

'On Easter' by August Šenoa, one of Croatia's greatest writers

An English translation of poem 'O Uskrsu' by the legendary August Šenoa

By Lara Rasin
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If you haven't yet heard of August Šenoa - you may already know him better than you think. Maybe you've eaten a summertime ice cream next to his statue on Zagreb's famous Zrinjevac Park. You might have enjoyed a beer in his old stomping ground, pub Pod Starim Krovovima. Or maybe you've meandered down Šenoa's street next to King Tomislav Square, in a post-Advent mulled wine daze. Either way, there's a reason his likeness and impact are so prevalent across Zagreb and beyond.

Zagreb-born August Šenoa (1838-1881) is one of the most iconic and influential literary figures of all time in Croatia. This Easter, we're giving you a special, poetic treat (if you've still got space after all of the lamb, ham and cake). Read on for an exclusive English translation of poem 'O Uskrsu' by August Šenoa.

 

On Easter

August Šenoa

 

On Easter back then, even now I recall,

The morning sun did toward us veer,

Full of life, of youth, I ran to you all,

Toward my village small and so dear.

 

Two tall poplar trees there stood side by side,

Two guardians loyal of home,

Behind the fence, hear the dog bark with pride,

By the house, an old church stood on loam.

 

In the yard are a wooden barn and a shed,

In their midst a wooden well stands still,

Hear the pigeon’s wail, the rooster’s call dread,

A violet wreath on the windowsill.

 

Behind the house, pretty garden rows twine,

Carnations and roses bloom bright,

And even beyond, to a green forest winds,

An endless pathway, narrow and white.

 

‘Twas on Easter back then, when Salvation rose,

And when the plains trembled with gold,

The bells rang out, without repose,

The glory of God’s son behold.

 

All around lurk holy silence and peace.

Suddenly – hamlets glow with light,

From all their streets they broadly release,

Croatian women folk dressed in white.

 

Streets with Croatian commoners abound,

All the while their cheeks rosy joy shrouds,

The air is filled with the village bell sound,

Calling to these pure and joyful crowds.

 

On Easter back then, a garden repose

I sought, where skies were blue and sweet,

My lover beside me – oh, God knows,

With how much happiness my heart beat!

 

She let her golden locks fall on her chest,

A tiny flower in her hair,

While her face, any angel’s shyness could best,

And her eyes had a holy day’s flair.

 

On her lips floated a most lovely smile,

Then, suddenly, flamed our first kiss,

Our two souls became one after a while,

Blood through our beating hearts coursed with bliss.

 

At once life stopped, the bells quiet grew,

Vanished the skies and the green grove nice,

In that moment, we angels were two,

Embracing in God’s own paradise!

 

‘Twas on Easter back then; oh my God,

For that day’s gift, with longing I scream!

God, I beg, let me again be awed,

If only sometimes, in my dreams!

 

Translation by Lara Rasin.

Find the Croatian original here.

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