When moles still had their annual general meetings
and when they still had better eyesight it befell
that they expressed a wish to discover what
So they elected a commission to ascertain what was above. The commission despatched a sharp-sighted fleet-footed
mole. He, having left his native mother earth,
caught sight of a tree with a bird on it.
Thus a story was put forward that up above
birds grew on trees. However,
some moles thought that this was
too simple. So they dispatched another
mole to ascertain if birds did grow on trees.
By then it was evening and on the tree
some cats were mewing. Mewing cats,
the second mole announced, grew on the tree.
Thus an alternative theory emerged about cats.
The two conflicting theories bothered an elderly
neurotic member of the commission. And he
climbed up to see for himself.
By then it was night and all was pitch-black.
Both schools are mistaken, the venerable mole declared.
birds and cats are optical illusions produced
by the refraction of light. In fact, things above
Were the same as below, only the clay was less dense and
the upper roots of the trees were whispering something,
but only a little.
And that was that.
Ever since then moles have remained below ground:
they do not set up commissions
or presuppose the existence of cats.
Or if so only a little.
In On the Contrary and Other Poems by Miroslav Holub (Newcastle-on-Tyne: Bloodaxe Books, 1984 – translated from Czech by Ewald Osers)