The Blue Sepulcher

The Blue Sepulcher

(Note: The Blue Sepulcher is a poem dedicated to over 5,000 Serbian soldiers in World War I who, after their retreat from Serbia across Albania, due to exhaustion, fatigue, famine or illness, perished far away from their fatherland and were buried in the Ionian Sea because there was no room for their graves on the islet of Vido near the island of Corfu, Greece. Their remains were disposed of in the sea, without a grave, without a cross, without a tomb for their descendants to mourn or lay wreaths on)

By Milutin Bojić

Hail, O imperial galleys! Curb the sterns of might!
Do glide quietly!
A service I proudly hold in the chill of the night
Over these holy waters of the sea.

Here at the bottom where drowsy shells rest
And heaps of peat on the dead algae fall,
Lie the graves of the brave, lie brothers blest,
Prometheuses of hope, of misery apostles all.

Do you not feel the sea moving softly on its way,
Lest it disturb the peace of the fallen men there?
From a deep abyss quiet slumber ebbs away,
And a moonray roams aweary through the air.

It is a temple of mystery and a tomb of woe
For the colossal defunct, as our mind infinite.
Quiet as midnight over a southern archipelago,
Dark as conscience, cold and desperate.

Do you not feel how from the depths of the sea
Piety strewn over its waters swells like foam
And the air is filled with some gentleness eerie?
“Tis the great soul of the dead that does roam.

Hail, O imperial galleys! On the grave of my
Brothers your trumpets in black now veil.
May the solemn guards their dirge now cry
Here where the waves embrace in a gale!

For many a century will fade like foam
Leaving no trace as borne by the waves,
A new grand generation will build a home
Of glory and splendour on a pile of graves.

This cemetery where buried is the divine
And terrible secret of an epopee unique,
Will be the cradle of a fairy-tale for the time
When the spirit its coryphaei out shall seek.

The past wreaths are buried in these graves
As is the transient joy of a nation whole,
So the sepulchre lies in the shade of waves
‘Twixt the earth’s bosom and the sky’s soul.

Hail, O imperial galleys! Let wane the light,
May the loud plash of the oars silent go,
But upon my service do glide into the night,
Devoutly and softly so.

“Cos I wish for an eternal silence to reign,
And the dead to hear the roar of combat gory
And the steaming of their blood in many a vein
Of the children that cheer in glory.

For, far away, the battlefield is soaked again
With the same blood that here to rest is laid:
Here o’er the father divine peace does reign,
There o’er the son glorious history is made.

Hence, I want my service peacefully to end
With no words, no tears, no sighing hums,
The scent of incense and gasp of dust to blend
To the sepulchral echo of the faraway drums.

Hail, O imperial galleys! Out of solemn respect
Do glide quietly.
This unique service I now hold for all to recollect
Over these holy waters of the sea!

Translation from the Serbian by:
Ljiljana Parović

Plava grobnica

Stojte, galije carske! Sputajte krme moćne!
Gazite tihim hodom!
Opelo gordo držim u doba jeze noćne
Nad ovom svetom vodom.

Tu na dnu, gde školjke san umoran hvata
I na mrtve alge tresetnica pada,
Leži groblje hrabrih, leži brat do brata,
Prometeji nade, apostoli jada.

Zar ne osećate kako more mili,
Da ne ruši večni pokoj palih četa?
Iz dubokog jaza mirni dremež čili,
A umornim letom zrak meseca šeta.

To je hram tajanstva i grobnica tužna
Za ogromnog mrca, k’o naš um beskrajna.
Tiha kao ponoć vrh ostrvlja južna,
Mračna kao savest, hladna i očajna.

Zar ne osećate iz modrih dubina
Da pobožnost raste vrh voda prosuta
I vazduhom igra čudna pitomina?
To velika duša pokojnika luta

Stojte, galije carske! Na grobu braće moje
Zavite crnim trube.
Stražari u svečanom opelo nek otpoje
Tu, gde se vali ljube!

Jer proći će mnoga stoleća, k’o pena
Što prolazi morem i umre bez znaka,
I doći će nova i velika smena,
Da dom sjaja stvara na gomili raka.

Ali ovo groblje, gde je pogrebena
ogromna i strašna tajna epopeje,
Kolevka će biti bajke za vremena,
Gde će duh da traži svoje korifeje.

Sahranjeni tu su nekadašnji venci
I prolazna radost celog jednog roda,
Zato grob taj leži u talasa senci
Izmeđ nedra zemlje i nebesnog svoda.

Stojte, galije carske! Buktinje nek utrnu,
Veslanje umre hujno,
A kad opelo svršim, klizite u noć crnu
pobožno i nečujno.

Jer hoću da vlada beskrajna tišina
I da mrtvi čuju huk borbene lave,
Kako vrućim ključem krv penuša njina
U deci što klikću pod okriljem slave.

Jer, tamo daleko, poprište se zari
Ovom istom krvlju što ovde počiva:
Ovde iznad oca pokoj gospodari,
Tamo iznad sina povesnica biva.

Zato hoću mira, da opelo služim
bez reči, bez suza i uzdaha mekih,
Da miris tamjana i dah praha združim
Uz tutnjavu muklu doboša dalekih.

Stojte, galije carske! U ime svesne pošte
Klizite tihim hodom.
Opelo držim, kakvo ne vide nebo jošte
Nad ovom svetom vodom!

vido-1

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