Reading: St. Sava’s Journey by Vasko Popa

The following poem by Serbian poet Vasko Popa (1922-1991) in the translation of Anne Paddington, did impress me.

St. Sava’s Journey
He journeys over the dark land
With his staff he cuts
The dark beyond him into four
He flings thick gloves
Changed into immense cats
At the grey army of mice

Amid the storm he releases his chains
And lashes the ancient oaken land
To the fixed stars
He lashes his wolves’ paws
That no trace of the dark land
Should remain on them
He journeys without a path
And the path is born behind him

St. Sava is a major historical figure of Serbia, a prince and an orthodox monk, the first Archbishop of the autocephalous Serbian Church, the founder of Serbian law, and a diplomat, according to Wikipedia. He is also known as the Enlightener and is venerated as a protector of churches, families, schools and artisans. The journey here begins with a powerful metaphor of that activity: He cuts the dark into four. He fights the grey army of mice by throwing at them what they fear most, who are they? Unbelievers?

He takes his task as enlightener of the Serbs very seriously. He releases his chains amid the storm: Does that refer to the relative independence from Constantinople and the foundation of the autocephalous Serbian Church? The metaphor of lashing the ancient oaken land to the stars is wild. And he not only enlightens the people, he must also obliterate every trace of darkness in himself (on his paws). He is what we would call a trail blazer who creates the path behind him. I’m sure this sounds more impressive in the original Serbian: “Путује без пута / И пут се за њим рађа”.

Reading: St. Sava’s Journey by Vasko Popa was originally published on Meandering home

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Published by

Kamiel Choi

Dutch philosopher and poet, sometimes sharing thoughts on the internet.

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