Don’t cry, mother, don’t grieve
that I grew up as an outlaw,
an outlaw, mother, a rebel,
and abandoned you to your sorrow,
mourning your first-born son.
But curse, mother, and rage
at this foul Turkish oppression
which has forced us away, so young,
to this hard and alien land –
to roam, to wander about,
forsaken, downtrodden, depressed.
I know, mother, you love me –
and perhaps I’ll die in my youth,
ah, tomorrow, when I go across
the whitened and muffled Danube.
But, tell me, what should I do,
when you, mother, have given me
a heart of man and hero,
and that heart, mother, can’t stand
to see the Turks rampaging
over the hearth of my father:
the place I knew as child,
where I sucked at my first milk,
where the beautiful girl of my heart
looked up with her eyes so black
and smiled gently upon me
and in sorrow gazed into my heart;
the place where father and brothers
sadly are saddened for me…
O mother, heroine mother,
forgive me, and this time farewell.
Now I have taken the rifle
and race to answer the call
against the infidel foe.
And there, for all I hold dearest,
for you, my father, my brothers,
with him I’ll grapple in combat,
and then – my sword shall decide
and a her’s honour, my mother.
And when, dear mother, you hear
bullets sing over the village
and the boys go hurrying by,
go out, mother, and ask them –
what has become of your son?
and if they tell you that I
have fallen, riddled with bullets,
then mother, don’t weep,
don’t pay attention to those
who’ll only say about me:
‘He turned out a good for nothing,’
but go home, mother and tell
my young brothers, straight from the heart,
exactly how it all happened,
and let them know and remember
that they, too, had a brother,
a brother, fallen and gone
because the wretch couldn’t bear
to bow his head to the Turks,
to look on the pain of the poor.
Tell them, mother – remember,
remember and search for me:
my white flesh spread on the crags,
on crags and the eyries of eagles,
my black blood spread on the earth,
on the blackened earth, my mother.
Let’s hope they discover my rifle,
my rifle, my mother, my sword,
then wherever they meet with the foe
they can welcome him with a bullet,
give him a sword’s caresses…
But, mother, if it’s beyond you
to do this, because you are gentle,
then when all the girls come together
to dance in front of your house
and my comrades gather about
and my sad beloved brings friends,
the come out, mother, and listen,
along with my little brothers,
to the heroic song about me –
why and how I have fallen
and what were the words I had spoken
to the others before I died…
You’ll find it sad, my mother,
to watch the reveling dance,
and when you suddenly meet
the eyes of my sweet beloved
two dear hearts will utter
a deep-felt sigh for me –
her heart, mother, and yours.
And then two tears shall fall –
on an old breast and a young.
This my brothers will see,
and, mother, when they grow up
they will be as their brother –
strong in love and in hatred.
But if I return, dear mother,
safe and sound to the village,
safe and sound with the standard,
and the standard flies over heroes,
smart in their soldiery kit,
with golden lions on their forehead,
with bristling guns on their shoulders
and swords, like snakes, at their sides –
O, then, my heroic mother –
O, then my sweet beloved –
gather flowers from the gardens,
pick ivy and geraniums,
weave them in garlands and posies
to deck our heads and our guns.
Then with garlands and posies
come to me, my mother,
mother, come and embrace me
and kiss my forehead made splendid,
by two sacred words made splendid:
freedom or glorious death!
And I shall embrace my beloved,
my bloodstained hand on her shoulder,
so she’ll hear the heart of a hero,
and how it shudders and beats;
with kisses I’ll stop her from weeping
and I’ll drink her tears with my lips…
And then… Mother, farewell.
And don’t forget me, beloved.
My company starts already,
on its frightening, glorious path:
perhaps I’ll die while I’m young.
But I want no other reward
if one day people shall say:
this poor man died to bring justice,
he died for justice and freedom…