Anpil bèl bagay fèt nan tout mond lan. Men, nan peyi nou an, kòm tout moun konnen, mèvèy yo pa parèt mèvèy ankò. Nou gen nan mitan nou, sa ki nan pozisyon trè wo, ki pa panse; pou rekonpanse, oubyen pou lòt rezon, yon bèf ki senp, ki pa diferan de lòt bèf Sèb yo, te kòmanse panse. Bondye sèlman ki konnen sa ki te rive pou yon bèt te gen odas angaje nan yon antrepriz konsa! Espesyalman, paske an Sèb bagay konsa ka koz anpil pwoblèm. Ann di li nayiv, li pa konnen nan peyi l pozisyon sa pap ranpòtel anyen; Nou pap di li gen gen kouraj. Sa ap toujou rete yon mistè, poukisa yon bèf ki pa ka vote, ki pa yon majistra, ni pa poze pou kandida, li pa menm yon senatè: Men m si li tap panse vin yon minis nan yon peyi bèf, Lè sa a, li ta dwe konnen li dwe pratike pou l pa panse anpil, pran yon egzanp nan men gouvènman nan lòt nasyon ki pi kontan pase nou yo, menm si peyi nou an pa gen chans sa.
Èske li enpòtan pou nou ke yon bèf, Sèb, te pran angajman yon atizay abandone pa lèzòm? Petèt li panse se yon dispozisyon natirèl’.
Men, ki kalite bèf li ye? Yon bèf ki pi òdinè – tankou zoologis anseye nou – yon tèt, yon kò ak janm, egzakteman tankou lòt yo; li rale yon kabwa, li manje zèb, li niche sèl. Li rele Sivonya; yon bèf gri.
– Men kijan li kòmanse panse. Yon jou mèt li te jouke l ak yon lòt bèf’ Galonya, anpile sou kabwa yon pakèt bagay li te vòlè epi li ale nan vil la pou vann yo. Kou li rive li te vann machandiz yo. Li te jouke Sivonya ak Galonya; li te mare kòd la; li kite yo li ale nan al bwè. Te gen yon festival ki tap fèt nan vil la. Gason, fanm, timoun tap mache tout kote. Galonya, ke tout zanmi l yo te pran’l pou sòt, pa t’ bay anyen atansyon li; Li manje manje li, vant li plen epi li kouche. Foul moun ki tap pase yo pat pwoblèm li. Li tap dòmi trankilman; (malerezman li pa yon imen, ak tout karaktè sa yo, li te ka viv de yo) Sivonya li menm pat menm ka pran yon bouche manje. Li tap reve, figil te gen yon tristès Moun, Sèb, te pase bò kote l’, fyète a parèt nan yo de jan yo mache. Sivonya te obzève tout sa, epi lespril te vin tris, pou enjistis. Li pat ka kenbe ankò, li tonbe kriye, ak doulè nan kè l li te kòmanse panse.
– De kisa mèt mwen ak konpatriyot Sèb yo fyè? Poukisa yo leve tèt yo tèlman wo epi yo gade kalite mwen yo ak anpil mepri? Yo fyè de peyi yo, yo fyè ke yo te fèt isit la nan Sèbi. Men, mwen menm tou mwen te fèt ‘nan Sèbi. Non sèlman se peyi mwen ak papa m, men zansèt mwen yo ak mèt mèt mwen te rete la ansanm apre yo te fin kite zansèt peyi slav la, pa gen okenn nan nou bèf ki janm vante tèt nou; Nou toujou fyè de sa ki rale charj pi lou. Jouk jounen jodi a, okenn nan nou pa janm di yon bèf Alman: “Kiyès ou panse ou ye, mwen se yon bèf Sèb, se la tout zansèt mwen yo te mouri.” se isit la, sou tè sa a, yo jwenn tonm zansèt mwen yo. Nou pa janm vante tèt nou sou sa, Mande Bondye padon, sa pa janm monte nan lespri nou. Moun yo komik!
Pandan lap panse de bagay sa yo, Sivonya souke tèt li, klòch la nan kou li a te tonbe sonnen, Galonya te ouvri je’ l gade zanmi l la epi li te fè mouuu:
– Ou retounen ak tenten w yo ankò! Mange, enbesil, fè yon ti gra, nou ka wè tout zo w; si panse se te yon bon bagay, moun yo pa tap janm kite sa pou nou, pou nou bèf. Nou pa tap gen chans sa!
Sivonya te voye je l gade, li te retounen nan sal tap fè a e rantre nan panse li.
– Yo fyè de pase yo. Yo gen Kosovo, yo te gen batay Kosovo. Kiyès sa regade, paske se ‘zansèt mwen yo ki tap rale kantin lan ak materyèl pou lame yo nan lagè a? San nou, yo ta oblije pran travay sa a pou kont yo. Menm lè yo te revolte kont Tirk yo. Yon gwo bagay, men ki moun ki te nan mitan yo? Moun sòt san sans sa yo, ki pa kapab fè anyen. Jis pran egzanp mèt mwen an. Li twò fyè tèt li sou sak pase an, lap vante byen fò ke granpapa l ’peri kòm yon ewo nan lagè ak nan liberasyon. Èske se li ki jwenn kredi a? Granpapa li te gen dwa fyè, men pa li menm; granpapa li te mouri pou mèt mwen ak desandan li te ka lib. Epi gade sa lap fè ak libète li a? Li vòlè, monte sou kabwa li e se mwen ki pou rale tout chay la, pandan li ap dòmi nan kabwa a. Kounye a ke li te vann bèl machandiz li yo, li al bwè gwòg, li pap fè anyen. Konbyen nan zansèt mwen yo te touye pandan batay sa pou konbatan yo te gen yon bagay pou yo manje? Eske se pat zansèt mwen yo ki te trennen bagay lagè a, kanon yo, kantin yo, ak tout lot bagay? E poutan, nou pa ta janm gen lide dekore tèt nou ak baz byenfonde ki pou yo, paske nou pa chanje, nou toujou fè devwa nou jodi a, menm jan zansèt nou yo te toujou fè pa yo, konsyans, pasyans…
– Yo flate tèt yo ak soufrans zansèt yo, avèk senk san lane esklavaj. Kanmarad mwen yo ak mwen te gen difikilte, e jodia nou toujou travay, nou toujou esklav. Yo di Tirk yo tòtire, masakre, anpale yo. Zansèt mwen yo tou, yo te touye yo, pa Sèb yo kòm byen ke pa Tirk yo yon lòt kote… griye sou krache a… ak sa ki poko te fè yo…
– Yo fyè de relijyon yo, men yo pa kwè nan anyen. Èske se fòt mwen, ak tout zanmi mwen yo, si yo pa asepte nou nan kominote kretyèn nan? Lafwa yo te kòmande yo “Ou pa dwe vòlè” e kisa mèt mwen an fè? Li vòlè, li ale bwè ak lajan li te retire nan sak ki pa pou li a. Lafwa yo kòmande yo “Renmen frè parèy ou” epi ki sa yo ap fè youn ak lòt? Se zak apre zak. Pou yo, yon bon nèg se sa ki pa fè mal. Men pa gen moun ki mande yon lòt pou li fè byen.
Relijyon yo enstwi yo pou yo renmen vwazen yo, poutan yo fè mal youn ak lòt. Pou yo, pi bon moun, se yon moun ki pa fè okenn mal. Yo pa konsidere mande pou moun fè byen apa de pa yo pa dwe fè mal. Se konsa moral yo ba; yo asosye byen a nenpòt sak pa fè mal.
Bèf la fè yon soupi, menm pousyè leve.
Li rekòmanse ak pawòl tris li yo:
– Èske nou pa pi bon pase yo? Mwen pa touye pèsonn, mwen pa vòlè anyen, mwen pa pale mal sou pèsonn, mwen pa vòlè anyen moun, mwen pa koupab de fo fayit, mwen pa janm arete oswa mete nan chenn moun inosan, mwen pa di bagay ki pa sa de kanmarad mwen, ni trayi prensip vyann bèf mwen an, ni pote fo temwen, mwen pa janm fè anyen mal de peyi m, mwen menm fè byen pou moun ki fè mwen mal. Manman m ’te fè m; move moun te pran m retire m nan lèt manmanm. Zèb, Bondye te kreye pou nou, bèf yo, pa pou lèzòm, men menm sa, yo wete l ’nan men nou. Epi nou menm, malgre tout sa yo mete nou ladan, nou kontinye ap rale kabwa pou yo, nou kontinye raboure jaden yo e se gras a nou ke yo gen pen. Sepandan, pèsonn pa rekonèt sèvis nou bay peyi a…
– Ann pran egzanp fè jèn, relijyon mande pou yo respekte jou jèn yo; sepandan, menm ti abstinans sa a, yo pa ka fè, tandiske mwen menm ak tout kalite mwen yo, nou fè karèm tout lavi nou, depi nan moman yo rache nou nan vant manman nou.
Bèf bese tèt li tankou li te enkyete, apre sa a, li leve tèt li. Li fache, e li te sanble ta gen yon bagay enpòtan kap monte nan tèt, ki ap toumante l’;
– Wi, mwen konnen sa l ye – e li te kontinye panse, – se sa li ye; yo fyè de libète yo ak dwa sivil yo. Mwen reflechi sou li oserye.
Apre sa, li tap panse, panse, men li pa t ’kapab konprann.
– Ki dwa yo genyen? Si lapolis bay lòd pou yo vote, vote; nou menm tou nou te kapab fè menm bagay la. Men, si yo pa jwenn lòd, yo pa gen dwa vote oswa patisipe nan politik, menm jan ak nou. Yo kenbe yo bat yo menm si yo inosan, san yo pa te fè anyen ki mal. Omwen nou brav; nou pale. Yo menm yo pa gen kouraj sa yo.
Se konsa, mèt la soti nan lotèl la li tèlman Bwè, li, je l ’twoub, lap begeye mo ke w pa ka konprann. Li mache an zigzag nan direksyon kabwa.
– Sa a se ki jan yon desandan ki fyè ak libète ke zansèt li konkeri pa san yo ki te koule. Oke, oke, mèt mwen se yon tafyatè ak yon vòlè, men lòt moun yo, ki sa yo te itilize nan libète yo? Jist chita fè djòlè sou zansèt yo te fè. Nou menm bèf nou te rete bon travayè, dilijan, itil, otan ke zansèt nou yo te. Nou se bèf, sa se yon reyalite, men nou fyè de travay di nou yo.
Li bay yon kout soupi, lonje kou l poul resevwa jouk bèf la.
Nan Bèlgrad, 1901.
Pou “Radoje Domanović” Pwojè sa te tradui pa Kareen Bijoux Augustin, 2020.
Good deal of wonders occur in this world, and our country is, as many say, overflowing with wonders to such an extent that wonders are no longer wonders. There are people here on very high positions who do not think at all, and as a compensation, or maybe for some other reasons, an ordinary peasant’s ox, which differs not one bit from other Serbian oxen, started thinking. God knows what happened that made this ingenious animal dare to take up such a brash endeavour, especially since it had been proven that in Serbia this unfortunate occupation could only bring you disservice. Let us then say that this poor devil, in all his naïveté, didn’t even know that this endeavour is not profitable in his homeland, so we won’t attribute him with any particular civic courage. But it still remains a mystery why an ox should think since he is not a voter, nor a councillor, nor a magistrate, nor has he been elected a deputy in any bovine assembly, or even (if he has reached a certain age) a senator. And had the poor soul ever dreamt of becoming a minister of state in any bovine country, he should have known that on the contrary, he ought to practice how to think as little as possible, like those excellent ministers in some happier countries, although our country is not so lucky in this respect either. In the end, why should we care about why an ox in Serbia has taken up an endeavour abandoned by the people? Also, it might have happened that he started thinking merely due to some natural instinct of his.
So, what kind of an ox is it? An ordinary ox which has, as zoology teaches us, a head, body, and limbs, like all the other oxen; he pulls a cart, grazes on grass, licks salt, ruminates and brays. His name is Sivonja, the grey ox.
Here is how he started thinking. One day his master yoked him and his buddy, Galonja, loaded some stolen pickets on the cart and took them to the town to sell. Almost immediately upon entering the town, he sold the pickets and then unyoked Sivonja and his comrade, hooked the chain that ties them to the yoke, threw a sheaf of thimbleweed in front of them, and merrily went into a small tavern to refresh with a few drinks. There was a festival ongoing in the town, so there were men, women, and children passing by from all sides. Galonja, otherwise known to other oxen as being somewhat dumb, did not look at anything, instead, he stuck into his lunch in all seriousness, ate a bellyful, brayed a bit out of pure enjoyment, and then lay down, sweetly dozing and ruminating. All those people passing by were no concern of his. He is just dozing and ruminating peacefully (it’s a pity he is not a human, with all these predispositions for a lofty career). But Sivonja could not take a single bite. His dreamy eyes and the sad expression on his face showed at first glance that this was a thinker, and a sweet, impressionable soul. People, Serbs, are passing him by, proud of their glorious past, their name, their nation, and this pride shows in their stern demeanour and pace. Sivonja observed all this, and his soul was all of a sudden consumed by sorrow and pain due to the tremendous injustice, and he couldn’t but succumb to such a strong, sudden and powerful emotion; he brayed sadly, painfully, tears rolling in his eyes. And in his immense pain, Sivonja started to think:
– What are my master and his compatriots, the Serbs, so proud of? Why do they hold their heads so high and look at my people with haughty pride and contempt? They are proud of their motherland, proud that merciful fate has granted them to be born here in Serbia. My mother gave birth to me here in Serbia as well, and Serbia is not only my native land but my father’s also, and my ancestors have, just like theirs, all together, come to these lands from the old Slavic homeland. And yet none of us oxen have felt proud of it, we only took pride in our ability to pull a heavier load uphill; to this day, never has an ox told a German ox: “What do you want with me, I am a Serbian ox, my homeland is the proud country of Serbia, all my ancestors had been calved here, and here, in this land, are the graves of my forefathers. ” God forbid, we never took pride in this, never has it come to our mind, and they are even proud of that. Strange folk!
Taken by these thoughts, the ox sadly shook his head, bell on his neck ringing and yoke crackling. Galonja opened his eyes, looked at his friend, and mooed:
– There you go again with that tomfoolery of yours! Eat, fool, grow some fat, look at your ribs all sticking out; if it were good to think, people would not have left it to us oxen. No way would we’ve been so fortunate!
Sivonja looked at his comrade with pity, turned his head away from him, and immersed back in his thoughts.
– They take pride in their glorious past. They have their Field of Kosovo, Battle of Kosovo. Big deal, haven’t my ancestors pulled carts with food and armaments even back then? If it weren’t for us, people would’ve had to do it themselves. Then there is the uprising against the Turks. A grand, noble endeavour, but who was there at the time? Was it these high-nosed dimwits, strutting proudly before me as if it were their merit, who raised the uprising? Here, take my master as an example. He too is so proud and brags about the uprising, especially with the fact that his great-grandfather perished in the war of liberation as a true hero. And is this my master’s merit? His great-grandfather had the right to be proud, but not him; his great-grandfather died so that my master, his descendant, could be free. So he is free, and how does he use his freedom? He steals other people’s pickets, sits on the cart, and I have to pull both him and the pickets while he’s asleep at the reins. Now he has sold his pickets, he’s drinking liquor, doing nothing and being proud with his glorious past. And just how many of my ancestors had been slaughtered in the uprising to feed the fighters? And did not my ancestors at the time pull the armaments, cannons, food, ammunition? And yet we don’t take pride in their merits because we haven’t changed; we still do our duty today, just as our ancestors did, patiently and conscientiously.
They are proud of their ancestors’ suffering and of five hundred years of slavery. My kin has suffered throughout our existence, and today still we suffer and are enslaved, and yet we don’t scream about it at the top of our voices. They say that Turks had tortured, slaughtered and impaled them; well, my ancestors were slaughtered by both Serbs and Turks alike, and roasted, and put on all kinds of torture.
They are proud of their religion, and yet they believe in nothing. What is the fault of me and my folk that we cannot be accepted among Christians? Their religion tells them “thou shalt not steal” and there is my master stealing and drinking for the money he got for stealing. Their religion instructs them to love their neighbours, and yet they only do harm to one another. For them, the best of men, an example of virtue, is the one who doesn’t do any harm, and of course, nobody even considers asking anyone to do something good as well, aside from not doing harm. That’s just how low they’ve got that their examples of virtue amount to no more than any useless item that doesn’t do harm.
The ox sighed deeply, and his sigh raised the dust from the road.
– So – the ox continued with his sad thoughts – in this case, aren’t me and my kin better in all that than any of them? I have never murdered anyone, I have never defamed anyone, haven’t stolen anything, haven’t fired an innocent man from public service, haven’t made a deficit in the state treasury, haven’t declared a fake bankruptcy, I have never chained or arrested innocent people, I have never slandered my friends, I have never gone against my ox principles, I haven’t made false testimonies, I was never a minister of state and never did the country any harm, and not only did I not do any harm, I even do good to those who do me harm. My mother gave birth to me, and immediately, evil men even took my mother’s milk from me. God has at least created grass for us oxen, and not for men, and yet they deprive us of it as well. Still, besides all that beating, we pull men’s carts, plough their fields and feed them bread. And yet nobody admits our merits that we do for the motherland…
– Or take fasting as an example; well, to men, religion tells to fast on all feast days, and yet they are not even willing to endure this little fasting, while I and my folk are fasting all our lives, ever since we are first weaned from mother’s breast.
Ox lowered his head as if he were worried, then raised it again, snorted angrily, and it seemed that something important was coming back to him, tormenting him; all of a sudden, he mooed joyously:
– Oh, I know now, it has to be that – and he continued thinking, – that’s what it is; they are proud of their freedom and civil rights. I need to put my mind to it seriously.
And he was thinking, thinking, but couldn’t make it out.
– What are these rights of theirs? If the police order them to vote, they vote, and like that, we could just as easily moo out: “Foo-o-o-or!”And if they are not ordered to, they dare not vote, or even dabble in politics, just like us. They also suffer beatings in prison, even if completely innocent. At least we bray and wave our tails, and they don’t even have that little civic courage.
And at that moment, his master came out of the tavern. Drunken, staggering, eyes blurred, mumbling some incomprehensible words, he meanderingly walked towards the cart.
– Just behold, how is this proud descendant using the freedom that was won with the blood of his ancestors? Right, my master is a drunkard and a thief, but how do the others use this freedom? Just to idle away and take pride in the past and in the merit of their ancestors, in which they have as much contribution as I. And us oxen, we remained as hardworking and useful labourers just as our ancestors had been. We are oxen, but we can still be proud of our arduous work and merits today.
The ox sighed deeply and readied his neck for the yoke.
In Belgrade, 1902.
For the “Radoje Domanović” Project translated by Vladimir Živanović, proofread by Julia Bleck. In Belgrade, 19 August 2019.