Over the kind earth twisted like Christmas-bread
over the white earth inscribed grammatically
in nonpareil, brevier, pica,
over the wise earth resounding
like the skull of St Augustine,
over the earth smooth as satin
shrouding the bosom of mystery,
four riders are galloping
on plump white horses,
four rosy-cheeked riders with forget-me-not eyes,
with velvet hands,
with lyres, sugar-basins,
one of them lectures,
another one makes love,
a third sings praises,
the fourth gazes into the distance.
The earth undulates slightly behind them,
like the skin of a water-snake,
and in the marks of their hooves
grey smallpox erupts.
These will be
the four riders
of the Apocalypse.
Notes on this poem
Please note that these translations were later revised, and can be found in Miroslav Holub: Poems Before and After (Bloodaxe Books, 1990), reproduced here by permission of Bloodaxe Books.