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E Y E
T H E
Słota (XIV/XV c.)
Słota, Poem on Table Manners
POEM ON TABLE MANNERS
O Lord, grant me an understanding,
So that I could say something important
About the bread-table.
It will bring together fruits of the field,
What is in the barn and the sack,
Whatever will grow in the soil,
All this will lie on the table.
That is why the table is a generous lord:
Beer and water stand on it,
Also meat and bread,
And many other provisions;
According to his station,
Everyone may get something.
No one will be cheerful in the morning,
But once he sits at the table,
He'll forget all worries.
And he should sit in peace,
And he should also eat well.
Many a man who sits at the table,
Will sit down like an ox,
Like a pole stuck in the ground.
He has no plate for his food,
So as to slice a piece for his neighbor,
And he grabs first for the bowl,
Because his mouth waters as if for honey
Let a sore cover his mouth!
If he eats with someone of the fair sex,
And has dirty hands,
She will speak to him insincerely.
And he will stuff the bowl full of food
Like one who works with a hoe.
He reaches for the bowl ahead of the others,
Looking for a favorite morsel,
He is not worthy of anything good.
But they always know where the respectable person sits;
Each servant will come to him,
Provide everything properly for him,
Put better dishes in front of him.
Many a man pays little attention to this;
He will sit where they won't seat him;
He wants to seat himself higher,
Then will sit much lower.
Many a man will still be at the door
When he sits at his place,
And then unwillingly he must stand up;
It would have been better not to do this.
There is many a poor nobleman
Who is known to the princes,
And known as a good man;
He has a right to sit higher.
Everyone should respect him:
He is not just any young man;
Everyone must honor him.
What a person brought up at home does not know,
The well-traveled will tell him.
The meal begins with water
Before they sit down to eat;
They put it on their hands,
That's how the most worthy people meet each other
When they sit themselves at the table.
Maidens, observe the following:
First, cut little pieces,
Cut often but small slices,
And eat only what you need.
Both a maiden and a lady
Should know what is improper,
But a knight or a squire
Worships a lady - this is proper.
Give her the best from the table,
So that she remains with you,
Because whoever wants to win women over
Will be loved by all of them,
And thanked when no one can see;
Because an honest woman is a crown;
Let him perish who speaks ill of her.
They have this power from the Mother of God,
So that the princes stand up to greet them.
And pay them great tribute.
I praise you maidens, ladies,
As there is nothing better than you;
Everyone should pay attention to this,
To take only one's own portion.
Some in turn do not care
What they are told about respect,
And they annoy many:
If one has somebody by his side,
He bothers him with his talk.
He won't care about polite speech,
Nor will he let the other listen.
Whoever respects a woman,
Mother of God, give him these:
Take him as your servant,
Save him from mortal sin
And also from a sudden end.
Because joy comes from ladies.
There is a lot of it in the world,
And all kindness comes from them,
Provided we value it ourselves.
And those who cause them harm are bad,
Because the ladies lead us to respect.
He who does not know this,
I'll tell him, let him be pleased:
Whoever has a virtuous mother,
Will get all his respect because of her;
Because of her, no one will rebuke him;
Each respected lady has such a power.
Therefore it is fitting that we praise them,
Whoever has a good soul.
Accept this tale
In your honor, maidens, ladies!
And also my merciful Lord,
Słota, your sinful servant,
Is asking Your Majesty for this:
Bestow on us all Your happiness.
Translated by Michael J. Mikoś