The Potter’s Field

or A Wanderer’s Song

Since I am a stranger, since I am a guest,
Bury me in the Potter’s Field, that which is called
The field of blood. Here is calculated
The utility of a kiss on a bearded
Cheek, by night, beneath the olives,
In the smoky light of torch and legend.
He who lies there will lie forever
Between the hanged and the crucified
And moulder in frightful balance.
Bury me in the Potter’s Field,
Because it was bought, in the words of the book,
To bury strangers in. Wayfarers, rovers
Lay claim to it: those who seek
Peace in movement, security in rootlessness,
Are otherwise suspicious, and usually keep
Their silence, if not always about the same;
Their shadows are dusty from the road
And a little denser than most—
So bury me with my shadow:
The weeds will grow blacker in the Potter’s Field.

by Ivan V. Lalic, translated by Francis R. Jones

from The Passionate Measure
Anvil, 1989
Copyright © Ivan V Lalic 1989
Translation copyright © Francis R Jones 1989

Translated poetry is sometimes regarded as a second-hand or inferior form of poetry, but in the hands of an imaginative translator as close to the poet and the poetry as is Francis Jones, one feels that the poems might well have been written originally in English. And Lalic himself, a Serbian with idiomatic English who translated a lot of English poetry into Serbian, thought that Jones’s translations were a perfect mirror of his poems.

This poem is from what is possibly Lalic’s finest collection, published in Jones’s translation in 1989. It needs no comment and is a good example of Lalic’s marvellous work. He was born in 1931 and died in 1996. Anvil hopes to publish his Collected Poems in English in 2008.

Anvil Press Poetry was founded in 1968 and publishes English-language poetry and poetry in translation, both classic and modern.