My discovery of Vasko Popa led me to a slim book called The Golden Apple, a compilation of Serbo-Croation stories, spells, proverbs curses and riddles. According to the editors Popa was instrumental in popularizing a plain-spoken Serbo-Croatian language that unified the various dialects, and found “great joy in bringing the little-known and under-valued beauties…into the daylight.” Here are a few of my favorites:
May you count your teeth on your hand.
God give you a gold coin weighing a ton, so you can’t carry it or spend it, but have to sit beside it, begging.
Who weeps for the world
Loses his eyes.
A too cunning man jumps over his luck.
You can’t feed the wolves and keep all the sheep.
He gets in your eyes like sweat.
Even his tail is a burden to a tired fox.
A lo of dogs can eat a wolf.
Don’t meddle with muck or the pigs will eat you.
Even crows lay eggs for a lucky man.
And this one, not in the book, certainly seems like it could be:
Busybody: she who would teach the sheep how to eat.
Personally, I wish there had been more curses!