Handsby Edvard Kocbek
Translated by Michael Scammell and Veno Taufer
I have lived between my two hands
as between two brigands,
what the other did.
the left hand was foolish because of its heart,
the right hand was clever because of its skill,
one took, the other lost,
they hid from one another
and left everything half-finished.
Today as I ran from death
and fell and rose and fell
and crawl among thorns and rocks
both were bloody.
I spread them like the cruciform branches
of the great temple candlestick,
bearing witness with equal ardor.
Faith and unfaith burned with a single flame,
ascending hotly on high.
Edvard Kocbeck (1904-1981).was the most celebrated Slovenian poet of modern times and one of Europe's most notable post-war poets . As Daniel Weissbort states: "Had Edvard Kocbek not belonged to a small nation and a language of extremely limited diffusion, he would now be numbered among the major poets of the postwar era.”. “His pastoral sensibility and vital intimacy with nature, which at times feels mystical, were always infused with a painful sense of time, an agonized feeling of cosmic sorrow.”, says American poet Edward Hirsch.
Kocbeck was a connoisseur of philosophical paradoxes and impossible moral predicaments. Although he was not a communist, he had fought bravely alongside Communist Partisans resisting Nazism that he found himself made into a General by the end of the Second World War. In Tito’s Marxist Yugolavia, Kocbeck (still a non-Communist) even briefly became an important political figure, an experience (living ‘between two brigands’) that he arguably underlines in this famous poem. Though it starts as a political poem, at the end it takes a spiritual dimension and discloses a Job-like torment.
Source: Nothing is Lost: Selected Poems (Lockert Library of Poetry in Translation) Paperback by Edvard Kocbek (Author), Michael Scammell (Translator), Veno Taufer (Translator)