Snow-covered beech trees on Zagreb's Mount Medvednica
© Medvednica Nature Park

'Christmas' by August Šenoa, one of Croatia's greatest writers

An English translation of poem 'Božić' by the legendary August Šenoa

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Written 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 Christmas, we're giving you a special, poetic treat (if you've still got space after all of the turkey, ham and cookies). Read on for an exclusive English translation of poem 'Božić' by August Šenoa.

Christmas

August Šenoa

‘Tis Christmas. Plain and hill
Under dense snowy chill;
This intact vale
Is pale, is pale.

In the village, a light from a pane,
Sweet pastries on table displayed,
Father shots fires, words arcane,
And the children jump gaily and play,
Loudly screaming and running from joy
On the little room’s floor, straw-adorned,
Mother and children singing enjoy:
T o u s t h e k i n g o f H e a v e n i s b o r n.

‘Tis Christmas. Plain and hill
Under dense snowy chill;
This intact vale
Is pale, is pale.

A hut with a woman inside,
In silent affliction is lost,
She sees her dead babe by her side,
Ah, on the straw with tiny hands crossed.
A weak candle flickers with flame
The woman in her pain is torn
And sings as her poor heart is maimed:
T o u s t h e k i n g o f H e a v e n i s b o r n.

‘Tis Christmas. Plain and hill
Under dense snowy chill;
Intact is your vale
And the tomb pale.

Translation by Lara Rasin.

Find the Croatian original here.

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