In any age there is a military commander Whose head sits on a short neck; With the chest that starts under the chin, And the nape of the neck right on the spine. It is simpler for a head to sit snugly On such a short and inconspicuous neck, And to choke it is significantly harder, As the rope has nowhere to go. And yet they crane their necks, And still they stand on tiptoe: For to see farther and better One must look over other heads. There, now you are a dark horse, Even if you have glimpsed the light from afar, Your stance is unsteady and wobbly, And the neck is open to the noose. And any despicable scoundrel Can count the vertebra on it. One sees more, but it is improvident To live among people with an exposed neck.
And yet they crane their necks, And still they stand on tiptoe: For to see farther and better One must look over other heads. Proudly raise your head, like a gander, And for the slaughter you are ready, Whereas a genuine commander On his two feet stands quite steady. In Asia they are trained to ambush, The demi-god would not allow Anyone creeping up behind him To knock him off his feet with a single blow. And yet they crane their necks, And still they stand on tiptoe: For to see farther and better One must look over other heads. If the nerves relax, even a little, If you are ever off your guard, A wicked trip will lay you flat, A hand will close around your neck. One can pull oneís head in sadly Between oneís shoulders - and risk nothing, Only itís most unattractive To keep oneís head in this position.
And yet they crane their necks, And still they stand on tiptoe: For to see farther and better One must look over other heads. This is the Oriental fable An old frontiersman once told me: "Here, even their fairy tales are cruel." I thought, as I kept measuring my neck.
© de Cate + Navrozov. Translation, 1995