THEM AND US
Anon. (oral tradition)trans. Keith Bosley - from Mari

Jäl nt tlz-sot godm:
tidn-don-ok sar, ja lint,
nna pckem jdn:
tidn-don-ok im, huda linnä.

Jäl nt nemet gum weremät:

tidn-don-ok ku, wck lint,
nna nemet rom weremät:
ridn-don-ok ktk, kg linnä.

Jäl nt lapka ärm weremät:
tidn-don-ok parsn sawct-at ul,
e nna lapka wogm weremät:
tidn-don-ok parsn sawcna uke.

Other folk were born by moonlight -
that is why they are blond and handsome:
we were born on a dark night -
that is why we are black and ugly.

Other folk were born when the young lime tree was
growing -
that is why they are tall and slender:
we were born when the young lime tree was felled -
that is why we are short and fat.

Other folk were born when the shops were open -
that is why they have silk kerchiefs:
we were born when the shops were closed -
that is why we have none.

From The Great Bear, an anthology of Finno-Ugrian oral poetry.
The Mari, aka Cheremis, are spread across E. European Russia between Gorki and Kazan.

Trans. Copyright © Keith Bosley - with acknowledgements to the Finnish Literature Society


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