52 SONGS

...the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life...

Monday, March 30, 2015

41b. Zbigniew Herbert


Speculations on the Subject of Barabbas

What became of Barabbas? I ask but no one knows
Let off his chain he went into the brightly lit street
he could turn to the right go straight turn to the left
spin around in a circle crow cheerfully as a rooster
He the Emperor of his own head and hands
He the Governor of his own breath

I ask because in a sense I took part in the whole thing
Swayed by the crowd in front of Pilate's palace I cried
along with all the others free Barabbas free Barabbas
Everyone was shouting and if I alone had been silent
it would all have happened as it was meant to happen

So perhaps Barabbas went back to his gang of thieves
In the mountains he kills swiftly and plunders deftly
Or maybe he set up a pottery workshop
and now cleans his crime-stained hands
in the clay of creation
He's a water carrier a mule driver a moneylender
a shipowner—a ship of his carried Paul to Corinth
or—the possibility cannot be excluded—
he became a valued spy in Roman pay

Behold and marvel at the vertiginous play of fate
with possibilities power and smiles of fortune

But the Nazarene
was left alone
without alternative
with a steep
pathway
of blood 

[trans. by Alissa Valles]

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