A horse’s head, not a thoroughbred, but an ordinary Russian bay mare. A vulnerable, gentle head.
But it can express despair that is not less than human: What’s happened to me? Where have I got to? How many deaths I have seen!—and here I am now dying myself.
They didn’t remove her collar. Nor did they loosen it.
She is utterly exhausted, her legs barely supporting her. She hasn’t been fed, nor unharnessed, only flogged—’Tull! Save us!’ She broke free, tearing her traces. She twitches her ears, wanders aimlessly, her legs sinking in the squelching
She jerks and with an effort pulls herself out of the Godforsaken place, meanders on again, stumbling on the traces that drag on the ground, her head low, but not looking for grass: there is no grass here. . .
She shies and avoids
the horse corpses. All four legs stiff, pointing up like poles, and bellies swollen.
How swollen they are! How a horse grows larger in death!
While a man—he grows smaller. There he lies face downwards, bent and broken, shrivelled, you would never believe that all this thunder, all this shooting, all these massed movements were his doing;
now they are fallen down and abandoned. A carriage on its side in a ditch, with its upper wheel sticking up like a steering-wheel. . .
A van, as though in horror overturned and lying on its back, with the beam upright .. .
a crazy village cart standing on its hind legs. . .
a horse’s gear all mixed, torn, scattered about. . .
a whip. . .
rifles, with bayonets detached, blown-off rifle stocks.
ambulance packs. . .
officers’ suitcases. . .
caps. belts. . . boots. sabres. . . officers’ field-packs.
soldiers’ haversacks. . .
sometimes—still on the soldiers’ backs.
Barrels—intact and broken, and empty.
full and half-full sacks, tied and untied. . .
a German bicycle that hasn’t reached Russia. . .
discarded newspapers. . . Russkoye slovo. . .
military clerks’ documents, rustling in the gentle breeze. . .
Corpses of these bipeds that harness us, urge us on, lash with the whip. .
and—again our own corpses.
If a dead horse’s stomach is gouged out, then
blowflies, gadflies, gnats
buzz greedily over the festering, rotting extended entrails
raising the camera higher, higher
birds circle, plane down towards the carrion
and cry, agitated, a medley of voices.
= The little mare could never forget this scene.
Change to wide screen
is not alone here! Oh, how very many of them are
wandering here on the battleground
on this low, swampy, cursed place,
where all this has been cast away, discarded, overturned,
among corpses, corpses.
The horses wander in their tens and hundreds,
or in twos and threes,
lost, exhausted, emaciated, still
alive if they have managed to break away from their deadly
but some, like ours, still harnessed
or dragging the poles,
or—two together, dragging a beam they have wrenched out. .
and—there are also wounded horses. . .
undecorated, unknown heroes of this battle, who hauled more than a hundred, two
all this artillery, now silent and sunk in the marshes. . .
all these war supplies, ammunition wagons with chains you try to pull them! .. .
= And those who did not manage to wrench themselves loose—behold their fate:
they lie one on top of the other, two full teams—dead ; three sets of traces and
three. . .
And so they lie there, trampling down, weighing each other down, dead. . .
And, perhaps, they are not all dead, but there is nobody to unharness and save them.
= Or else here is a dead team straddled as it raced up to move the battery from its firing position. The battery fired until the last shot : everywhere you see the smashed
the crew, all dead, scattered around
and—the colonel, broad as a barrel, it would seem he took over from his platoon
commander. . .
But German corpses, too, that perished as they attacked, cover the field before this
= And as for horses they hunt them. They chase them, seize them,
and we, the horses, shy away. . .
and they chase us again, tie us up. . .
These are German soldiers,
such were the unenviable orders to them—to hunt down horses, thousands of trophy
horses are being lost.
= And it is not only horses they are hunting. There, at the edge of the forest, a
column is being formed
of Russian prisoners of war
wounded and unbandaged.
While deeper in the forest,
there are still many lying down, spent, sleeping,
while the Germans—they comb the forest
and find them, hunting them
force them to get up,
and if a man is badly wounded
they finish him off.
= Here stretches a column of prisoners of war, almost without guards.
The faces of the prisoners. Oh, the anguish—those who have experienced it, know it! . • •
The faces of the prisoners. . . . Captivity is not an escape from death, captivity is the beginning of suffering.
Even now they are bent over, stumbling,
and it is particularly bad for those with leg wounds.
Only a true friend, if you place your arm around his neck, will lead you, half-carry
Other captives are even worse off: not allowed just to walk with empty hands
but, harnessed instead of the horses,
they must pull out their own Russian field-guns, now trophies,
must push them out, roll them
onto the main road towards the victors arrogant in their armoured cars, and
and machine-gunners ready to fire.
Here our cannon, howitzers, machine-guns are already lined up, piled up
= And there some huge draught-horses are hauling a large ordinary wagon with
narrow planks of wood placed upright along each side used for carting hay. And on
it they carry
Generals only of them.
Quietly they sit, tucking their legs in,
all heads turned in one direction, all of them looking meekly in our direction,
obedient to their fate. Some are gloomy, but others are even very calm : they have
finished with war, less to worry about now.
= The wagon is stopped by a German general standing beside his car,
he is short, sharp-eyed, rather nervous, perhaps because of his triumph
General Francois victoriously screws up his eyes,
he has no pity for the generals, but—he despises their lowly state. And with a gesture:
`Change over! Why travel in a wagon! We have enough cars for the generals. Four
of them standing over there!’
= Stretching their numbed legs, the generals climb down from the wagon,
shamed, but partly flattered by the respect for their rank,
and settle down in German staff-cars.
While the column marching on foot is taken
to an enclosure surrounded
by a make-shift barbed-wire fence, almost a nominal one,
stretched on temporary posts, right in the open field.
Here the captives spread out over the bare ground
they lie, sit, with their heads between their hands,
or stand and walk,
wretched, with their clothes torn, bandaged and unbandaged, bruised, with open
and for some reason some are clad only in their underclothes,
and of course none of them has been fed.
They gaze at us across the barbed-wire, desolate and grieving.
= Here is something new! How to prevent so many people in an open field from
And where could one put them?
= Here is something new ! A con-cen-tra-tion camp!
= The fate for decades to come!
= Herald of the Twentieth Century!
This extract from August 1914 was Translated by Nina Christesen