When summer in the mountains gains its peak,
When gaily blooming flowers begin to fade,
When nomads from the sunshine refuge seek
Beside a rapid river, in a glade,
Then in the grassy meadows here and there
The salutatory neighing can be heard
Of varicoloured stallion and mare.
Quiet, shoulder-deep in water stands the herd;
The grown-up horses wave their silky tails,
Lazily shooing off some irksome pest,
While frisky colts go frolicking about
Upsetting elder horses, at their rest.
The geese fly, honking through the cloudless skies.
The ducks skim noiselessly across the river,
The girls set up the felt tents, slim and spry,
As coy and full of merriment as ever.
Returning from his flocks, pleased with his ride,
Again in the aul1 appears the bai2.
His horse goes on with an unhurried stride,
He sits and smiles upon it, hat awry.
Surrounding the saba3 in a close ring,
Sipping their heady beverage — kumyss4,
Old men sit by a yurt, gossiping
And chuckling at quips rarely amiss.
Incited by the servants comes a lad
To beg the cook, his mother, for some meat.
Beneath an awning, gay and richly clad
The bias on gorgeous carpets take their seats.
And sip their tea, engaged in leisured talk.
One speaks, while others listen and admire
His eloquence and wit. Towards them walks
A bent old man bereft of strength and fire.
He shouts at shepherds not to raise the dust
Aiming to win the favour of the bias.
And yet in vain he raises such a fuss —
They sit and never even turn their eyes.
There, tucking up the hems of their chapans5,
Leisurely swaying in their saddles as they trot
From nightly grazing come the young chabans6
Whipping their lusty steeds god knows for what.
A long way off from the aul's last tents
With movement and excitement getting warm,
On horseback, too, the bai's son and his friends
Enjoy a falcon hunt. The bird's in splendid form
At one quick spurt such falcons catch and bring
Crashing to earth the great, unwieldy geese.
Meanwhile, that bent old man, unlucky thing,
The toady that had nigh gone hoarse to plea
The haughty bias, unnoticed, watches on,
And sighs for sorrow that his time is gone.
Abay Qunanbayuli (1845 – 1904) Kazakhstan
Translated by Dorian Rottenberg
- aul - a type of fortified village found throughout the Caucasus mountain
- bai - a wealthy Kazakh
- saba - horsehide skin used for fermenting kumiss
- kumyss - (variant of kumiss) a fermented dairy product traditionally made from mare's milk
- chapan - (variant of caftan) is a coat worn over clothes
- chaban - herdsman