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A few of the poems included in this volume have 
appeared in The Dial, The Freeman, The Nation, and 
Poetry. The excerpt from " The Twelve " was taken 
from The Twelve, by Alexander Blok, translated from 
the Russian by Babette Deutsch and Avrahm Yarmolin- 
sky (New York, Huebsch, 1920). 


This volume heaps the anthological Pelion upon the 
Ossa of translation. It aims to present the lyrical poetry 
of Russia for the last hundred years by a selection of 
poems translated by the editors. Within the fences thus 
set up lay a wide foreign field to pick from: the old- 
fashioned garden overrun by the rank growth of exotic 
flowers, beautiful weeds outflanking the hothouse plants. 
The principle of selection was, so far as might be, aesthetic. 
Poems were chosen less for their representative quality 
than for their immediate worth and, of course, their 
ability to stand the test of translation. In view of the 
pioneer character of this work, however, some conces- 
sion was made to historical considerations, and, there- 
fore, part of the material included may appear rather 
jejune and vieux jeu. The effort was to give a brief 
general glimpse of the classic poets and to treat in greater 
detail the moderns and contemporaries who are, to the 
translators, as to the readers, more of a living actuality. 

The difficulties of selection are obvious. You may 
add, you may alter the choice how you will, but the 
sin of omission will cling round it still. In this case 
the problem was sharpened by the rigors of translation. 
These were not mere flowers for the plucking. They 
had to be transplanted into strange soil, which was not 
hospitable to them all. Translation has been likened to 
" the wrong side of a Turkey carpet." The question was 

vi Foreword 

how best to carry over, unbroken and undiminished, the 
colors and contours of the right side. We are attached 
to the idea that we have given as much to the originals 
as we took from them. Adherence to metrical and 
rhythmical structure was possible, owing to the essential 
likeness between the two languages with regard to versifi- 
cation. In matters of imagery and the finer aspects of 
technique there was also an attempt to be as faithful as 
the linguistic media allow. But juggling is a fine art, 
not unworthy of the service of Notre Dame, and the 
three bright balls of substance, form, and spirit were 
not always easy to keep in the air at once. What we 
continually sought was to produce, in the end, a poem. 

The personality of each poet is brought out in a note 
preceding the selection from his work, and the filiation 
of poetic movements is briefly indicated in the introduc- 
tory essay. 

And finally a word pro domo nostra. While it may 
be difficult to single out each collaborator's part in the 
work, it is possible, and perhaps interesting, to define 
the attitude of each. The one, native to Russian litera- 
ture, brought to the task all the prejudices and privileges 
of long intimacy. The other, a stranger, saw it with 
the fresh vision and untaught caprice of a foreigner, 
making a less practised and a more personal approach. 
The one was aware, the other persuaded of the gold in 
the Scythian earth. The two labored together to wrest it, 
like the one-eyed Arimaspi, from the guardian gryphons. 

New York, June 28, 1921. 





ALEXANDER PUSHKIN (1799-1837) 3 

A Nereid 5 

"Behold a Sower" 6 

Three Springs 7 

The Prophet- 8 

Verses Written During a Sleepless Night 10 

Work ii 

Madonna 12 

YEVGENY BARATYNSKY (1800-1844) 13 

Prayer 14 

ALEXEY KOLTZOV (1809-1842) 15 

An Old Man's Song 16 

MIKHAIL LERMONTOV (1814-1841) 17 

The Angel 18 

The Cup of Life 19 

Gratitude 20 

From " The Daemon," Part I, xv 21 

Captive Knight 22 

FYODOR TYUTCHEV (1803-1873) 23 

Twilight 24 

"As Ocean's Stream" 25 

Silentium 26 

Autumn Evening 27 

July 14, at Night 28 

" Oh, Thou, My Wizard Soul " 29 

NIKOLAI NEKRASOV (1821-1877) 30 

"The Capitals Are Rocked with Thunder " ... 31 

"My Poems!" 32 

The Salt Song 33 

ALEXEY K. TOLSTOY (1817-1875) 34 

" My Little Almond Tree " 35 

"A Well, and the Cherry Trees Swaying" ... 36 

"Oh, the Ricks" 37 


viii Contents 


APOLLON MAIKOV (1821-1897) 39 

Art 40 

" Upon This Wild Headland " 41 

Summer Rain 42 


" Whispers, Timid Breathing " 44. 

The Aerial City 45 

Swallows 46 

YAKOV POLONSKY (1819-1898) 47 

The Cosmic Fabric 48 

Sorrow's Madness 49 

VLADIMIR SOLOVYOV (1853-1900) 50 

"Below the Sultry Storm" 51 

"With Wavering Feet" 52 

N. MINSKY (b. 1855) 53 

Force 54 

My Temple 55 


A Prayer 57 

The Trumpet Call 58 

- The Curse of Love 60 

FYODOR SOLOGUB (b. 1863) 61 

The Amphora 62 

The Dragon 63 

" When, Heaving on the Stormy Waters " . . . 64 

" Austere the Music of My Songs " 65 

The Devil's Swings 66 

ZINAIDA HIPPIUS (b. 1869) 68 

" I Seek for Rhythmic Whisperings " .... 69 

Psyche 70 

\Creation 71 


" With My Fancy I Grasped " 73 

Centuries of Centuries Will Pass 74 

In the White Land 75 

v Hymn to Fire 76 

VALERY BRUSOV (b. 1873) 81 

The Tryst 82 

"Radiant Ranks of Seraphim" 83 

Benediction 84 

Inevitability 85 

The Fierce Birds 86 

Eventide 87 

"Oh, Cover" 88 

Saint Sebastian 89 

The Coming Huns 90 

Contents ix 


IVAN BUNIN (b. 1870) 92 

Russian Spring 93 

A Song 94 

The God of Noon 95 

In an Empty House 96 

v Flax 97 

> VYACHESLAV IVANOV (b. 1866) 98 

The Catch 99 

Autumn 100 

Fountain 101 

The Seeking of Self 102 

Complaint 103 

Narcissus: A Pompeiian Bronze 104 

Funeral . 105 

The Holy Rose 106 

Nomads of Beauty 107 


The Pendulum no 

The Surf 111 


Cimmerian Twilight I-III 113, 114, 115 

Sonnet XV (From the Sonnet-Cycle "Lunaria") . 116 

Stigmata 117 

MIKHAIL KUZMIN (b. 1877) 118 

"Now Dry Thy Eyes" 119 

" Night Was Done " 120 

From Alexandrian Songs 121 

GEORGY CHULKOV (b. 1879) 123 

" Purple Autumn " 124 

^ ALEXANDER BLOK (1880-1921) 126 

" Into Crimson Dark " 127 

1 The Unknown Woman 128 

The Lady Unknown 129 

"A Little Black Man" 131 

Russia 132 

"When Mountain-ash" 133 

The Scythians 134 

From "The Twelve "19 137 

ANDREY BELY (b. 1880) 138 

Messengers 139 

Euthanasia 140 

"You Sit on the Bed There" 141 

VICTOR HOFMAN (1882-1911) 142 

"Still Was the Evening" 143 

VASILY BASHKIN (c. 1880-1909) 144 

"Upon the Black Brow of a Cliff" . . . .145 

x Contents 


SERGEY GORODETZKY (1884-1921) 146 

Yarila 147 

The Birch Tree 149 


"Like a White Stone" . 151 

Confession 152 

"Broad Gold, the Evening" 153 

Prayer 154 


And It Passed by the Sea-Shore 156 

A Russian Song 157 

Spring Apple-Tree 158 


A Northern Poem 160 

An Izba Song 161 


A Lenten One 163 


"Upon Green Hills" 165 

" Hopes Painted by the Autumn Cold " . . . . 166 

" In the Clear Cold " 167 

Transfiguration: III 168 


" How Strange, Oh God " 170 


Not by Hands Created 172 


" Savage, Nomad Hordes " 177 

October 178 


Modern Russian literature took its rise in the early 
nineteenth century. This was, more or less, the Rus- 
sian counterpart of the Elizabethan Age. Energizing 
liberal influences were in the air; men's pulses were 
stirred by the Napoleonic drama; a national self-con- 
sciousness came into being; the winds of a new world 
were blowing from widened horizons. And there was 
the same coincidence of favorable environment with the 
accident of genius. Yet if the English Renaissance found 
its expression in drama, it is notable that nascent Russian 
literature blossomed in lyricism. England had her 
Shakespeare, and Russia had her Pushkin, with a dif- 

He is placed in the company of Dante, Shakespeare 
and Goethe by his compatriots, yet even they admit that 
he lacks the universal significance of his elder peers. He 
remains, however, the national poet acknowledged as the 
first and perhaps the greatest literary artist of his coun- 
try, a figure upon whom more admiration and scholarship 
have been lavished than upon any one else. Had he 
been accessible to the outside world, its current concep- 
tions of the mood and manner of Russian literature would 
be different. The Byronism with which he began, early 
gave place to a reconciliation with reality and to a classic 
sobriety which made Merimee declare him " An Athenian 

xii Introduction 

captive among the Scythians." The intensity of his pas- 
sionate nature was governed by a sense of measure and 
harmony. His poetry has that quality of normalcy and 
health which render it educative, and to the foreigner 
uninteresting. The latter may agree with Flaubert that 
the Russian master is " flat," and to suspect that his is 
the unexciting art whose motto is propria communia 

Pushkin was surrounded by a Pleiad of lyricists, whose 
work was of a minor order, but was yet distinguished by 
a measure of originality. Of these the sombre Baratynsky 
is now perhaps best remembered. In a sense Tyutchev 
too belonged to this group. A contemporary of Pushkin, 
he was under his influence. Yet he survived the master 
by many years, and the more significant part of his unique 
contribution to Russian poetry was written much later. 
Of all the classicists, Tyutchev is most likely to find a 
way to the understanding and sympathy of the outside 
world. His is a deep and authentic voice. Through his 
poetry blows the wind of his thought, as a breeze bellies 
a sail to a certain shape. It is a pantheistic philosophy, 
instinct with the profound cosmic sympathies of a Chinese 
sage on his lonely mountain. His universe was the battle- 
ground of light and darkness. Both were native to him. 
He did not dismiss the " ancient chaos " with the facile 
gesture of tender-minded idealism, but rather saw in it 
the dark face of God. 

The mantle of Pushkin fell, not upon Tyutchev, who 
wrote for posterity, but rather upon Lermontov. He was 
an ego-centric creature, with a romantic nostalgia for the 
supersensuous. His lyricism is informed with a grace- 

Introduction xiii 

ful demonism and a proud pessimism which naturally 
endear him to a youthful audience. 

Lermontov revolted not against the Czar of all the 
Russias, but against the God of heaven and earth. Yet 
the growing civic bias made it possible to put a social 
interpretation upon the disquietude which pervades his 
work. Thus the forensic Nekrasov, who in the next 
generation voiced the civic conscience of an epoch of re- 
form, is considered to have issued from Lermontov. 
Nekrasov's troubled and uneven verse dwelt with the 
miseries of the peasant and the proletarian. It cele- 
brated the cause of the masses, and made itself the vehicle 
for the peccavi of the gentry, aware of its outstanding 
debt to the people. The age was also glad to give laurels 
to the folk-poets, such as Koltzov and Nikitin. 

The sixties and seventies the period in which Nekrasov 
flourished harnessed the literary Niagara to political 
action. The age felt that life is real, life is earnest, and 
that art is not its goal. The permanent abolition of serf- 
dom was coincident with the temporary abolition of 
aesthetics. The very existence of a socially indifferent 
poetry was called into question. In this unfriendly atmos- 
phere a group of poets nevertheless carried on the Pushkin 
tradition of self-sufficient lyricism. Maikov, Foeth, Alexey 
Tolstoy and, to a certain extent, Polonsky, all deriving 
from the idealism of the forties, stand out unrelated to 
the period in which they wrote. These shared with the 
French Parnassians an allegiance to the dogma of art 
for art's sake, and Maikov approached their plasticity and 
impassivity. ^Esthetes are inimical to revolution, not 
because they love justice less, but because they love 

xiv Introduction 

beauty more. What defined the isolation of these poets 
was the fact that they belonged to the conservative camp. 

Foeth developed a great lyrical activity toward the 
close of his life, in the eighties. Those were years of 
social stagnation and prolific, pale poetry. It was only 
in the next decade, when the Yellow Book was blooming 
on London bookstalls and the sunflowers on London 
lapels, that the first signs of a literary, and primarily lyric 
revival showed themselves in Russia. It was preceded by 
proclamations, somewhat like a king who is not too sure 
of his welcome. The vanguard of theorists included 
Volynsky, Minsky and Merezhkovsky. Here, reversing 
the natural order, poetics came before poetry. The cham- 
pions of modernism revolted against the traditional sub- 
servience of literature to social progress. They asserted 
the autonomy and primacy of art, and offered the milk 
of mysticism to the soul starved on positivist fare. Above 
all they preached an individualism, whose watchword was 
Fais ce que tu voldras, and which took to its heart Stir- 
ner's anarchy and Nietzsche's a-moralism. 

Balmont, Brusov and Sologub were the leading poets 
who initiated the practice of what Minsky and Merezh- 
kovsky had been preaching, and who founded a school, 
in the loose sense of the term. This was the symbolist, 
or as some prefer to call it, neo-romantic school. They 
were clearly inspired by foreign models, and many de- 
clared the whole new poetry a warmed-over French dish. 
Yet the spontaneous and indigenous character of the 
movement is now beyond question, its studied eccentricity 
notwithstanding. It was only for a short time that it 
showed the earmarks of western decadence, although its 

Introduction XV 

detractors persisted in the term. Anti-social prejudice, a 
toying with satanism, and concentration on sex were but 
a temporary phase. The decadent aspect of Russian 
modernism is best exemplified by Sologub, an exasperated 
solipsist, living in a sick, fantasmal world. 

The heterogeneity and complexity of the movement can 
hardly be exaggerated. Each writer is a law unto him- 
self. Yet all share a fevered intensity and the literary 
method of symbolism. To the true symbolist the measure 
of a verse echoes the song the morning stars sing together. 
He posits a correspondence between sensuous and mystic 
realities, using imagery as the sign of a remote and 
transcendent significance. It remained for the following 
generation thus to develop the religious implications of 
the theory. As for Balmont, with his fluent spontaneity, 
and Brusov, in his more slow and solid achievement, they 
are chiefly concerned with problems of form and with the 
cult of a beauty founded upon a flight from reality. This 
holds good for the sinister magic of Sologub in his early 
work. All three, especially Brusov, are conscious crafts- 
men, with an authentic musical gift. They have greatly 
enriched the medium which they employ. 

While the symbolist school united the best talents, 
there were of course poets who remained extra muros. 
The most important of them is Bunin, a lyricist of rare 
economy and sensitiveness to color. He carries on the 
^'ussic tradition, remote from the violences and vagaries 
f his fellows. 

A curious incident in the history of Russian symbolism 
is the career of Alexander Dobrolubov. One of the 
earliest disciples of the French decadents, he ended as a 

xvi Introduction 

sectarian prophet. He lived in a coffin-shaped room, 
papered in black, where he sought Baudelaire's " paradis 
artifidels" by consuming opium and smoking hashish, 
and whence he issued, clad in black even to his eternal 
gloves, to preach suicide to his fellow-students. He be- 
came in the end a holy vagabond, wearing the coarse 
clothes of the Volga peasant, and leading a large mystic 
sect. Dobrolubov's evolution is to a certain extent typi- 
cal of the development of the symbolist movement. This, 
beginning with a revolt against the tyranny of utilitarian 
morality, ended with the reassertion of the ineluctable 
ethos and a deepened mysticism. 

Synchronously with the revolution of 1905 a group of 
younger men within the fold began to transvalue the 
symbolists' transvaluations, aided and abetted by the older 
symbolists themselves. Chief among the newcomers were 
Ivanov, Bely, Blok and Voloshin. They were impatient 
of the cult of beauty and looked askance at the gambols 
of the free individual. Their poetry is passionate meta- 
physics, groping toward religious ultimates. Spiritually 
deriving from Solovyov and Dostoyevsky, they are en- 
gaged with religion and, to a large extent, with the 
messianic role of the Russian people. In Ivanov and 
professedly in Chulkov, mysticism is wedded to a curious 
collectivism. Ivanov declares his verse to be the carven 
crystal cup for the sacred wine of communal religious 
consciousness. While in France symbolism contented 
itself with the part of a literary method, in Russia it 
tended to become a philosophy and even an ethics. 

Problems of technique as such are no longer in the 
foreground. Symbolism is now considered the charac- 

Introduction xvii 

teristic of all poetry. Substance is what these sophisti- 
cated lyricists are seeking. And so we find them turning 
to the imperishable gods of Hellas, wandering down 
exotic vistas, exploring with Gorodetzky the native folk- 
lore, embracing with Kuzmin the delights of stylization. 
A doctrinaire fury rides all these poets. They are in- 
veterate preface-writers, and, what is worse, do not leave 
their prefaces entirely out of their art, forgetting that 
philosophy, in Symons' words, is the dung which lies at 
the roots of poetry. 

Shortly before the war the symbolist impetus was felt 
to have spent itself. There was a general dissatisfaction 
with the spirit which informed it. The poets, says a 
Russian critic, were tired of plumbing the ultimate depths 
of the soul, and of daily ascending the Golgotha of mys- 
ticism. After the ecstasies came the desire for the ice- 
water of simplicity. No longer expressing mystery in 
music, the poets sought the limited, precise, concrete image. 
This movement manifested itself in the Acmeist secession. 
Grouped around a publishing firm, known as the Guild 
of Poets, which has this year been revived, the Acmeists 
or Adamists, led by Gumilev, Akhmatova and Gorodetzky, 
attacked symbolism, to celebrate raw reality. Proclaim- 
ing the primitive vision of a Gauguin, they insisted on 
immediate contact with the tangible, visible, audible 
world. The coterie did not write much more than its 
manifesto, though its method may be discovered in the 
work of the later " imazhinist " (imagist) group, of 
which Yesenin and Marienhof are representative mem- 
bers. These build their poetics upon the concept of the 
autonomous image, regarded as the end of all poetry. 

xviii Introduction 

One of their number has recently declared that a poem 
must be not an organized entity, but rather a succession 
of such self-sufficient images, moving as in dreams. 

A sensational career awaited the other post-symbolist 
development, futurism. It originated with the cubo- 
futurists in Moscow in 1911 and a year later the Petro- 
grad ego-futurists issued their manifesto. The difference 
between them was rather like that between Tweedledum 
and Tweedledee, the one hitting everything it could see 
when it got' really excited, the other hitting everything 
within reach, whether it could see it or not. They hit 
out less to epater le bourgeois than professedly to discard 
all the canons of art and to destroy toothless Ratio. 
Their proclaimed desire was to raze the past and build 
the present on nothing. Their poetics provide for a 
language consisting of elements having an audible and a 
visual, but no intellectual value. This is merely an 
ideal which, luckily for the rest of us, their poetry does 
not always achieve. 

" Let us gorge ourselves with the void," says one of 
them. The poetic gift can thrive even on this futile diet. 
Through their cacophony is sometimes heard the shrill 
and raucous voice of a machine-made age, their distorted 
language occasionally mirrors a time which is out of 
joint, and their violently eccentric imagery wrests new 
meanings from old commonplaces, as in Mayakovsky's 
line : " A bald lantern voluptuously takes off the blue 
stocking from the street." Naturally, they resist trans- 
lation, except in the case of Severyanin, the early leader 
of the Petrograd group, whose work is, however, not 

Introduction xix 

Futurism showed no great vitality, and would prob- 
ably have shared the fate of a fashion, were it not for 
the revolution. Its unabashed iconoclasm, its plebeian 
exuberance, may account for its recent vogue. Its man- 
nerisms are noticeable in the work of men who do not 
strictly adhere to the coterie, such as Oreshin and 

It is worth noting that the literature of the revolution 
is chiefly verse. The surviving representatives of classi- 
cism and symbolism, with the possible exception of An- 
drey Bely, continue their work without developing it. 
In addition to them and to the irruption of the futurists, 
there are the peasant poets, headed by Kluyev, and a 
large body of workman poets. The revolution has ex- 
tended the class principle to aesthetics and takes special 
pains to promote the literary expression of the masses. 
Yet proletarian verse is by no means a new phenomenon 
in Russia. From 1908 to 1915 fifty volumes of such 
verse found their way to publication. The crudity and 
naivete of the workmen's poetry produced since the revo- 
lution is redeemed by a hard-handed grasp on reality. 
The return to realism is the promise of a new develop- 
ment in Russian poetry. Like all living things, poetry 
endures only through change. 



Alexander Pushkin 


Alexander Pushkin was born the last year of the eighteenth 
century. He died at the age of Byron. Within these thirty- 
seven years he crowded the activity of a great and authentic 
initiator in literature. 

His mother's grandfather was a Negro (or an Arab) who, the 
story goes, was bought for Peter the Great at Constantinople 
for a bottle of rum, and who married a German. His father 
was descended from an ancient Russian family. The poet, 
inheritor of these curious strains, was educated chiefly by 
ineffectual French tutors and an old Russian nurse. At eighteen 
he graduated from an aristocratic school at Tsarskoe Selo, an 
indifferent scholar, but a writer with a reputation for light and 
lewd verse. The next three years he spent at the northern 
capital, where " all the vices dance upon the knees of folly." 
He was nominally attached to the Foreign Office, but was 
chiefly sowing his wild oats. By his liberal velleities and 
merciless epigrams he stung the authorities to the Countercheck 
Quarrelsome, and the enfant terrible was shipped south and 
subsequently to his own estate. During his not too disagree- 
able southern exile he divided his time with persistent unfaith- 
fulness between the maids and the Muse. Back in Petersburg, 
in 1826, he was lionized by the ladies and harassed by the 
censors. At thirty-two he married a girl nearly half his age, 
with the face of a madonna and the soul of a brainless coquette. 
To provide for her needs, the poet worked feverishly, and that 
she might be received at court, he secured a court appointment. 
Financial cares and domestic worries soon saddened and aged 
him. He was destroyed by the aristocratic philistines whose 
good graces he half-unwillingly sought. An intrigue, involving 
Pushkin's wife and her brother-in-law, Baron Dantes 
(D'Anthes), resulted in a duel in which the poet was mortally 
wounded, at the age of thirty-seven. 

Pushkin's share of this volume is no indication of his relative 
significance in the advance of Russian poetry. He is an over- 
shadowing figure, and his work is an essential part of Russia's 


4 Alexander Pushkin 

literary endowment. Yet an anthology which is not primarily 
concerned with historic values, and which is addressed to a 
foreign audience, can present but a few of his facets to the 
reluctant light of a sophisticated intelligence. 

Alexander Pushkin 


Among the glaucous waves that kiss gold Tauris' beaches 
I saw a Nereid, as dawn flushed heaven's reaches. 
I barely dared to breathe, hid in the olive trees, 
While the young demigoddess rose above the seas; 
Her young, her swan-white breast above the waters lifting, 
From her soft hair she wrung the foam in garlands 

Alexander Pushkin 



With freedom's seed the desert sowing, 
I walked before the morning star; 
From pure and guiltless fingers throwing 
Where slavish plows had left a scar 
The fecund seed, the procreator; 
Oh vain and sad disseminator, 
I learned then what lost labors are. . . . 
Graze if you will, you peaceful nations, 
Who never rouse at honor's horn! 
Should flocks heed freedom's invocations? 
Their part is to be slain or shorn, 
Their dower the yoke their sires have worn 
Through snug and sheepish generations. 

Alexander Pushkin 


Three springs in life's unbroken joyless desert 

Mysteriously issue from the sands: 

The spring of youth, uneven and rebellious, 

Bears swift its sparkling stream through sunny lands; 

Life's exiles drink the wave of inspiration 

That swells the limpid fount of Castaly; 

But 'tis the deep, cold wellspring of oblivion 

That slakes most sweetly thirst and ecstasy. 

1 Tr. by Avrahm Yarmolinsky. 

Alexander Pushkin 


I dragged my flesh through desert gloom, 
Tormented by the spirit's yearning, 
And saw a six-winged Seraph loom 
Upon the footpath's barren turning. 
And as a dream in slumber lies 
So light his finger on my eyes, 
My wizard eyes grew wide and wary: 
An eagle's, startled from her eyrie. 
He touched my ears, and lo! a sea 
Of storming voices burst on me. 
I heard the whirling heavens' tremor, 
The angels' flight and soaring sweep, 
The sea-snakes coiling in the deep, 
The sap the vine's green tendrils carry. 
And to my lips the Seraph clung 
And tore from me my sinful tongue, 
My cunning tongue and idle-worded; 
The subtle serpent's sting he set 
Between my lips his hand was wet, 
His bloody hand my mouth begirded. 
And with a sword he cleft my breast 
And took the heart with terror turning, 
And in my gaping bosom pressed 
A coal that throbbed there, black and burning. 
Upon the wastes, a lifeless clod, 
I lay, and heard the voice of God: 

Alexander Pushkin 

" Arise, oh prophet, watch and hearken, 
And with my Will thy soul engird, 
Through lands that dim and seas that darken, 
Burn thou men's hearts with this, my Word." 

IO Alexander Pushkin 


Sleep I cannot find, nor light: 

Everywhere is dark and slumber, 

Only weary tickings number 

The slow hours of the night. 

Parca, jabbering, woman-fashion, 

Sleeping night, without compassion, 

Life, who stirs like rustling mice, 

Why encage me in thy vise? 

Why the whispering insistence, 

Art thou but the pale persistence 

Of a day departed twice? 

What black failures dost thou reckon? 

Dost thou prophesy or beckon? 

I would know whence thou art sprung, 

I would study thy dark tongue . . . 

Alexander Pushkin II 


Here is the long-bided hour: the labor of years is accom- 
Why should this sadness unplumbed secretly weigh on 

my heart? 

Is it, my work being done, I stand like a laborer, useless, 
One who has taken his pay, alien to unwonted tasks ? 
Is it the work I regret, the silent companion of midnight, 
Friend of the golden-haired Dawn, friend of the gods 
of the hearth? 

12 Alexander Pushkin 


Not by old masters, rich on crowded walls, 

My house I ever sought to ornament, 

That gaping guests might marvel while they bent 

To connoisseurs with condescending drawls. 

Amidst slow labors, far from garish halls, 

Before one picture I would fain have spent 

Eternity: where the calm canvas thralls 

As though the Virgin and our Saviour leant 

From regnant clouds, the Glorious and the Wise, 

The meek and hallowed, with unearthly eyes, 

Beneath the palm of Zion, these alone. . . . 

My wish is granted : God has shown thy face 

To me; here, my Madonna, thou shalt throne: 

Most pure exemplar of the purest grace. 

Yevgeny Baratynsky 

" It is a little cup, but it is my own," thus might Baratynsky 
sum up the small perfection of his art. He belonged to Pushkin's 
school, but was not eclipsed by the master. His ceuvre consists 
of one slender volume of lyrics. These are marked by the 
originality of the discriminating eclectic, by a strong conscience 
for form, and by the obtruding intellection of a born pessimist. 

Like most of the Russian litterateurs of the first half of the 
nineteenth century, with which he was born, Baratynsky be- 
longed to the kept classes. An infringement of the eighth com- 
mandment while he was at school (the Corps of Pages) reduced 
this son of a senator to a mere private. The experience may 
have accented his gloomy temperament. Aside from this, the 
outward circumstances of his life, including his marriage, were 
happy, and therefore have no history. His last years, however, 
were saddened by the consciousness of estrangement from the 
rising generation. 

14 Yevgeny Baratynsky 


King of Heavens! Release 

My sick soul to its peace! 

For the errors of earth 

Send oblivion's dearth ; 

To thy stern paradise 

Give my heart strength to rise. 

Alexey Koltzov 

Koltzov might best be described as a tame Burns. The 
adjective applies to the poetry more than to the poet, though 
even here we find a soberer man. He was a cattle-dealer and 
the son of a cattle-dealer: a cross between a trader and a 
cow-puncher. He spent his life in the sordid surroundings of 
his native town, with the exception of a few visits to the two 
capitals. There he met the literati of the day, dinnered wi' 
lairds, and was stared at in fashionable salons. He returned 
with a swollen head, which caused him a great deal of misery 
at home. The effect of his intercourse with the intellectuals was 
seen to be equally lamentable in his attempts at philosophic 
poetry. His last years were embittered by poverty, neglect, and 
a tragic love which ended in a lurid disease. 

His art maintained his umbilical connection with the people. 
He carries on the tradition of the Russian folk-song, whether 
the stuff of his lyrics is the works and days of the peasant, or 
themes of universal emotional appeal. He uses the free rhythms 
of the folk-song and, curiously enough, his favorite metre coin- 
cides with that of the Sophoclean choruses. Of his one hundred 
and twenty-four poems, three-fourths have been set to music 
by some one hundred Russian composers, among whom are 
Glinka and Rimsky-Korsakoff. 

1 6 Alexey Koltzov 


I shall saddle a horse, 
A swift courser, he, 
I shall fly, I shall rush, 
As the hawk is keen, 
Over fields, over seas, 
To a distant land. 
I shall overtake there 
My young youth again. 
I shall make myself spruce 
Be a blade again, 
I shall make a fine show 
For the girls again. 
But alas! no road leads 
To the past we've left, 
And the sun will not rise 
For us in the west. 

Mikhail Lermontov 

Whether or not the semi-legendary Thomas of Erceldoune, 
who received his poetic gift from the fairies, was Lermontov's 
ancestor, it is certain that the Russian poet traced his lineage 
back to George Learmont of Scotland, who settled in Russia in 
the seventeenth century. His grandchildren claimed that they 
were descended from that Learmont who fought with Malcolm 
against Macbeth. 

Lermontov's immediate heredity was rather poor. His hys- 
terical mother died in 1817, when he was three years old, 
and he grew up as the bone of contention between his father 
and his wealthy, overbearing grandmother. On her estate the 
spoiled darling received his early education, of the usual im- 
ported type. He was extraordinarily precocious in both love 
and literature. Between 1828 and 1832 he had written 300 
lyrics, 15 long narrative poems and 3 dramas. He was little 
more than a boy when he graduated from a military college at 
St. Petersburg, having previously spent two years at the Uni- 
versity of Moscow, and plunged into " a life of poetry, drowned 
in champagne." His technique as a heart-breaker was only 
excelled by his power as a poet, and that, in spite of a repellent 
exterior. Upon Pushkin's death Lermontov's obituary poem 
brought him rapid fame and exile to the Caucasus. This 
region was to the poets of Russia what Italy has been to those 
of England. The romantic glamor of the enchanted land suf- 
fused Lermontov's work. One of his flames called him a 
Prometheus chained to the rocks of the Caucasus, but he was 
more like a pendulum swinging between them and the beau 
monde of St. Petersburg. He indulged inordinately in the sad- 
ism of sarcasm, and was as well hated by the men as he was 
loved by the women. Spared by the bullets of the mountaineers, 
Lermontov was killed in a duel with an outraged colleague, 
only a year older at his death than was John Keats. 

Yet this brilliant bully and egotistic rake was, after his own 
fashion, a knight of the Holy Grail and a poetic genius such as 
rarely graces any language. 


1 8 Mikhail Lermontov 


Through the heavens of midnight an angel was sped 

Who lifted his chant as he fled. 
The moon and the clouds and the stars leaned to hear 

The song rising holy and clear. 

He sang of the spirits, the sinless, the blest, 

Who softly in Paradise rest. 
Of the gardens of God, and of God was his song, 

Ringing true as a heavenly gong. 

He bore a young soul to the dark gates of birth, 

Toward the travailing, sorrowful earth. 
And flying, he sang, and the eager soul heard 

The deathless, the unuttered Word. 

And the years in the world could but sadden and tire 

The soul filled with wondrous desire. 
And vainly the dull songs of earth would have stilled 

The song wherewith heaven had thrilled. 

Mikhail Lermontov 19 


We drink life's cup with thirsty lips, 
Our eyes shut fast to fears; 
About the golden rim there drips 
Our staining blood, our tears. 

But when the last swift hour comes on, 
The light long hid is lit, 
From startled eyes the band is gone, 
We suffer and submit. 

It is not our part to possess 
The cup that golden gleamed. 
We see its shallow emptiness: 
We did not drink we dreamed. 

2O Mikhail Lermontov 


For all, I thank Thee, I, the meek remitter: 

For passion's secret torments without end, 

The kiss of venom, and the tears too bitter, 

The vengeful enemy, the slanderous friend, 

The spirit's ardor on the desert squandered, 

For every lash of life's deceiving thong; 

I thank Thee for the wastes where I have wandered : 

But heed Thou, that I need not thank Thee long. 

Mikhail Lermontov 21 

FROM "THE DAEMON" (Part I, xv) 

On the sightless seas of ether, 
Rudderless, without a sail, 
Choirs of stars uplift their voices, 
Where the mist-waves rise and fail. 

Through the hemless fields of heaven 
Wander wide and tracelessly 
Clouds, unshepherded, unnumbered, 
Pale, ephemeral and free. 

Hour of parting, hour of meeting, 
Neither gladden them, nor fret; 
Theirs no yearning toward the future, 
Theirs no haunting of regret. 

On the grim day of disaster 
These remember, worlds away: 
Be beyond earth's reach as these are, 
And indifferent as they. 

22 Mikhail Lermontov 


Silent I sit by the prison's high window, 
Where through the bars the blue heavens are breaking. 
Flecks in the azure, the free birds are playing; 
Watching them fly there, my shamed heart is aching. 

But on my sinful lips never a prayer, 
Never a song in the praise of my charmer; 
All I recall are far fights and old battles, 
My heavy sword and my old iron armor. 

Now in stone armor I hopelessly languish, 

And a stone helmet my hot head encases, 

This shield is proof against arrows and sword-play, 

And without whip, without spur, my horse races. 

Time is my horse, the swift-galloping charger, 
And for a visor this bleak prison grating, 
Walls of my prison are heavy stone armor; 
Shielded by cast-iron doors, I am waiting. 

Hurry, oh fast-flying Time, fly more quickly! 
In my new armor I faint, I am choking. 
I shall alight, with Death holding my stirrup, 
Then my cold face from this visor uncloaking. 

Fyodor Tyutchev 

Tyutchev was rediscovered by the moderns and hailed as 
the great fore-runner. They found in his mentality and sensi- 
bility, as well as in his technique, elements foreign to classic 
normalcy, and akin to their own anguished metaphysics and 
assthetics. The two hundred short lyrics, which are all the 
original poetry he has left us, exhibit the organic coherence 
and ordered beauty which belong to fine lyric art. The origi- 
nality of his poems consists in that both man's routine passions 
and nature's passionless routine are sensed in ultimate, cosmic 

Tyutchev's career could not be inferred from his poetry. 
This was the by-product of a long and largely conventional 
life. He was a sedate bureaucrat in the diplomatic service, a 
position which kept him in Muenchen, the German Athens, dur- 
ing his best years. He proved the happiness of his marriage 
to a Bavarian aristocrat by marrying again shortly after her 
death. When he was on the shady side of fifty his career was 
seriously injured by a liaison with his daughter's teacher. Dur- 
ing the last twenty years of his life he acted as censor, a posi- 
tion for which his political views eminently fitted him. He be- 
lieved in autocracy, and he prophesied that Orthodox Russia, 
at the head of the united Slavs, would be the sacred arc riding 
the waves of the western revolutionary deluge. 

24 Fyodor Tyutchev 


Soft the dove-hued shadows mingle, 
Color fades, sound droops to sleep. 
Life and motion melt to darkness 
Swaying murmurs far and deep. 
But the night moth's languid flitting 
Stirs the air invisibly: 
Oh, the hour of wordless longing; 
I in all, and all in me. 

Twilight tranquil, brooding twilight, 
Course through me, serene and smooth ; 
Quiet, languid, fragrant twilight, 
Flood all depths, all sorrows soothe, 
Every sense in dark and cooling 
Self-forgetfulness immerse, 
Grant that I may taste extinction 
In the dreaming universe. 

1 Tr. by Avrahm Yarmolinsky and Cecil Cowdrey. 

Fyodor Tyutchev 2$ 


As ocean's stream girdles the ball of earth, 
From circling seas of dream man's life emerges, 
And as night moves in silence up the firth 
The secret tide around our mainland surges. 

The voice of urgent waters softly sounds; 
The magic skiff uplifts white wings of wonder. 
The tide swells swiftly and the white sail rounds, 
Where the blind waves in shoreless darkness thunder. 

And the wide heavens, starred and luminous, 
Out of the deep in mystery aspire. 
The strange abyss is burning under us; 
And we sail onward, and our wake is fire. 

26 Fyodor Tyutchev 


Be silent, hidden, and conceal 
Whate'er you dream, whate'er you feel. 
Oh, let your visions rise and die 
Within your heart's unfathomed sky, 
Like stars that take night's darkened route. 
Admire and scan them and be mute. 

The heart was born dumb; who can sense 
Its tremors, recondite and tense? 
And who can hear its silent cry? 
A thought when spoken is a lie. 
Uncovered springs men will pollute, 
Drink hidden waters, and be mute. 

Your art shall inner living be. 
The world within your fantasy 
A kingdom is that waits its Saul. 
The outer din shall still its call, 
Day's glare its secret suns confute. 
Oh, quaff its singing, and be mute. 

x Tr. by Avrahm Yarmolinsky. 

Fyodor Tyutchev 27 


The light of autumn evenings seems a screen, 
Some mystery with tender glamor muffling. . . . 
The trees in motley, cloaked in eerie sheen, 
The scarlet leaves that languid airs are ruffling, 
The still and misty azure, vaguely far, 
Above the earth that waits her orphan sorrow, 
And bitter winds in gusty vagrance are 
Forerunners of a bleak, storm-driven morrow. 
The woods are waning; withered is the sun; 
Earth shows the smile of fading, meekly tender 
As the high shyness of a suffering one, 
In noble reticence of sad surrender. 

28 Fyodor Tyutchev 


Not yet cooled, the windless night 
Of July shone strangely still. 
Earth lay dim, and fitful light 
In the skyey, storm-filled height 
Trembled over field and hill. 

So might lidded eyes unclose, 
And between vast lashes burn 
Glances flaming and morose, 
Over earth's remote repose, 
Mute as lightning, swift and stern. 

Fyodor Tyutchev 29 


Oh, thou, my wizard soul, oh, heart 
That whelming agony immerses, 
The threshold of two universes 
In cleaving these, tears thee apart. 

And so two alien worlds are thine: 
Thy day of morbid passionate living, 
Thy sleep, vague revelations giving 
Of spirits secret and divine. 

Then let the tortured bosom beat 
With fatal passion and vagary; 
The soul is fain, even as Mary, 
To cling forever to Christ's feet. 

Nikolai Nekrasov 

Nekrasov's literary career began with a series of prose pot- 
boilers, written while he was starving in St. Petersburg. He 
had come to this city as a boy of seventeen in 1838, to follow 
the military profession. Against the will of his father, a brute 
of an hobereau, the young man preferred the university to the 
army, and was forthwith thrown on his own resources. A 
penniless hack, he became before long a popular poet and the 
thriving publisher of the two greatest radical monthlies in 

As a child he had heard the bitter songs of the Volga barge- 
towers. In the capital he had lived with filth and famine. 
He introduced these elements into his work. Yet though he 
suffered with the people in his poems, he enjoyed his prosperity, 
in spite of ethical scruples. 

His work is marked by a strong social and civic preoccupa- 
tion. He declared that this interest interfered with his poetry. 
As a matter of fact, his " Muse of Vengeance and Wrath " was 
an uncertain creature. He threw untransmuted into his poetry 
the raw stuff of satire and feuilleton, of parody and pamphlet. 
At his best he can move the reader with his stinging pity 
and his passionate self-scorn. He is perhaps chiefly remembered 
by his epic: "Who Lives Happily in Russia?", which holds 
in its vast frame the very essence of the misery and the thwarted 
vigor of the Russian peasant. 

Nikolai Nekrasov 31 


The capitals are rocked with thunder 
Of orators in wordy feuds. 
But in the depths of Russia, yonder, 
An age-old awful silence broods. 
Only the wind in wayside willows, 
Coming and going, does not cease; 
And corn-stalks touch in curving billows 
The earth that cherishes and pillows, 
Through endless fields of changeless peace. 

32 Nikolai Nekrasov 


My poems! Witnesses of unavailing 

Tears for the sad earth shed! 
Born in the moment when the soul is failing, 

And by the storm-winds bred ; 
Against men's hearts you beat with wistful wailing 

Like waves on cliffs as dead. 

Nikolai Nekrasov 33 

(From " Who Can Live Happily in Russia? ") 

God's will be done! 
No food he'll try, 
The youngest son 
Look, he will die. 

A crust I got, 
Another bit 
He touched it not: 
"Put salt on it!" 

Of salt no shred, 
No pinch I see! 
" Take flour, instead," 
God whispered me. 

Two bites, or one 
His mouth he pouts, 
The little son. 
" More salt !" he shouts. 

The bit appears 
Again all floured, 
And wet with tears 
It was devoured. 

The mother said 
She'd saved her dear. . . . 
Salt was the bread 
How salt the tear! 

Alexey K. Tolstoy 

Alexey Tolstoy was a playmate of Alexander II and sat on 
the knees of Goethe. Like Ruskin, he made a cult of beauty, 
humanitarianism and Italy. In this second fatherland of his, 
he began to travel early in life. This courtier-aesthete was a 
mystic, with a leaning toward the occult. He regarded the 
doctrine of equality as " the foolish invention of 1793," and was 
wholly out of sympathy with the materialistic iconoclasts of 
his time. Yet he was too much of an aristocrat not to despise 

His literary activity began in his middle years. His romantic 
interest in the Russian past produced a novel and a dramatic 
trilogy. The past is also the playground of Tolstoy's poetry. 
This frequently degenerates into pastiche. Nevertheless he was 
a major poet among the minor poets, at his best achieving a 
neat and graceful lyricism. His technique is unusual in Rus- 
sian poetry for its prosodic freedom. 


Alexey K. Tolstoy 35 


My little almond tree 

Is gay with gleaming bloom, 

My heart unwillingly 

Puts forth its buds of gloom. 

The bloom will leave the tree, 
The fruit, unbidden, grow. 
And the green boughs will be 
By bitter loads brought low. 

36 Alexey K. Tolstoy 

A well, and the cherry trees swaying 
Where bare girlish feet trod the fruit; 
Nearby the damp imprint betraying 
The stamp of a heavy nailed boot. 

Stilled now is the place of their meeting, 
But nothing the silence avails: 
In my brain passion's echo repeating 
Their whispers the splash of the pails. 

Alexey K. Tolstoy 37 


Oh, the ricks, the ricks, 
In the meadows lying, 
The eye cannot count 
You, for all its trying. 

Oh, the ricks, the ricks, 
In the green morasses, 
What do you guard: 
You heaped, heavy masses? 

Pray, behold us, good sir: 
We were once bright flowers; 
But the sharp scythe falls 
And the whole field cowers. 

We were littered here, 

All mown down and shattered, 

On the meadowland 

From each other scattered. 

We have no defense: 

Evil guests come clawing 

And upon our crests 

Perch the black crows, cawing. 

On our heads they perch, 
The starred heavens dimming. 
Here the jackdaws flock, 
Their foul hutches trimming. 

38 Alexey K. Tolstoy 

Oh, thou eagle, hail! 
Our far father flying, 
Oh, thou fire-eyed, come, 
Our bleak foes defying. 

Oh, thou eagle, hail! 

Lo, our groans grow stronger. 

Let the evil crows 

Blacken us no longer. 

Oh, avenge us swift, 

From the heavens swooping; 

Punish their vile pride 

Till their wings fall drooping; 

Till the feathers fly; 
Come, a bolt of thunder, 
That the steppe's wild wind 
Tear them all asunder. 

Apollon Maikov 

Born of a mother with a literary leaning and an aristocratic 
father, who gave up the military career for that of a painter, 
Maikov himself was a sculptor who lost his way in literature. 
He studied painting in his youth, and indeed his poems show 
a clear sense of line and color, but his best work is marked 
by a truly sculptural quality. He received a thorough classical 
education and in his early work he imitated the Greek and 
Roman masters. Generally speaking, he yields all too easily 
to the indirections of erudition and to the Protean pleasures of 
promiscuous translation. It is in the classical genre that he 
achieves a small excellence. His finest craftsmanship is shown 
in enamels and cameos, and in clay medallions, but he has 
neither the paganism of Gautier nor the sensitive sophistication 
of Regnier. Maikov's is a baptized Pan and a feigning Bacchus. 

His later work was dominated by a nationalistic bias which 
opposed the chosen Russian people to " the rotten West." A 
typical aesthete, Maikov found himself in the conservative camp. 
For nearly half a century he served his monarch as a censor. 
The antinomy of east and west, of Christianity and paganism, 
viewed with a cold objectivity, superseded his interest in the 
antique world. This is the pivotal idea of his greatest narra- 
tive poem, the tragedy of " The Two Worlds." 


40 Apollon Maikov 


Idly I cut me a reed by the shore where the sea heaves 

and thunders, 
Dumb and forgotten it lay in my simple, my wind-beaten 

Once an old traveler passed who remained for the night 

in our dwelling, 
(Foreign his dress and his tongue, an old man who was 

strange to our region.) 
Seeing the reed, he retrieved it, and lopping and piercing 

the nodules, 
Sweetly his lips he applied to the holes that he fashioned : 

Swiftly the reed-voice awoke, till the noise of the sea 

breathed within it; 
Thus would wild Zephyros blow, were he suddenly 

ruffling the waters, 
Fingering lightly the reed-stems and flooding the banks 

with the sea-sound. 

Apollon Maikov 41 


Upon this wild headland, crowned meanly with indigent 

And withering bush and the pitiful green of the pine- 

The aged Meniskos, a sorrowful fisherman laid 

His son who had perished. His youth the sea, motherwise, 

That sea whose wide lap took him back, who resistlessly 
bore him 

In death, and who carefully carried the young body shore- 

Then mourning Meniskos went forth, and beneath the 
great willow 

He dug him a grave, a plain stone he set for a mark on 
the cliff-side, 

And hung overhead a coarse net he had woven of 

A fisherman's wreath to be poverty's bitter memento. 

42 A poll on Maikov 


" Golden rain ! Golden rain ! out of the sky !" 
Children sing out and run after the rain. 

" Quiet, my children, we'll reap it again, 
Only we'll gather the gold in the grain 
In the full granaries fragrant with rye." 

Afanasy Shenshin-Foeth 

It is said that Foeth, like the nightingale, sang only at dawn 
and at sunset. Between 1840 and 1856 he published three 
volumes of poetry. The following two decades he devoted to 
the pleasures and profits of a gentleman farmer. He waxed 
fat and prosperous. His famous apple-cakes were sent to no 
less a friend than Alexander III. On the road to the ripe old 
age of three score and ten, the poet superseded the pomeshchik 
and paid court to the Muse with four volumes of verse. 

Although an admirer and translator of Schopenhauer, Foeth 
enjoyed the distinction of being one of the few men who were 
actually happy in Russia. He had an Horatian serenity, and 
the aesthete's indifference to society's ills. These elements in 
his character alone are reflected in his poetry, which is written 
in major, yet has withal the ethereal, insubstantial quality of 
dream experience. His lyrics are invested with a rarefied sen- 
suousness, a keen feeling for life's cosmic context, and a domi- 
nating interest in melody. Tchaikovsky, who set many of his 
poems to music, likened Foeth to Beethoven. 


44 Afanasy Shenshin-Foeth 


Whispers. Timid breathing. Trilling 

Of a nightingale. 
Heaving silver waters rilling 

In the quiet vale. 

Night's dim light and shadows dreaming 
Through the haze of space. 

Moods like faery lanterns gleaming 
On the dearest face. 

Smoky clouds show roses sleeping, 

Amber lights and fawn. 
Kisses soft, and softer weeping. 

And the dawn, the dawn! 

Afanasy Shenshin-Foedh 45 


At daybreak there spread through the heavens 

Pale clouds like a turreted town: 

The cupolas golden, fantastic, 

White roofs and white walls shining down. 


This citadel is my white city, 
My city familiar and dear, 
Above the dark earth as it slumbers, 
Upon the pink sky builded clear. 

And all that aerial city 
Sails northward, sails softly, sails high; 
And there on the height, some one beckons, 
But proffers no pinions to fly. 

46 Afanasy $henshin-Foeth 


Calm Nature's idle spy, I follow 

In joy her pathways; free and fond, 

I watch the arrow-winged swift swallow 

Who curves above the dusking pond. 

It dashes forward, lightly skimming 
The glassy surface, half in fear 
Of alien clutching waters dimming 
The lightning wings before they veer. 

And once again the same quick daring, 
And once again the same dark stream. . . . 
Is not this flight our human faring? 
Is not this urge our human dream? 

Thus I, frail vessel, am forbidden 
To take the foreign road, and dip 
To scoop a drop ; the ways are hidden 
Of alien streams I may not sip. 

Yakov Polonsky 

The routine of Polonsky's uneventful life was compounded 
of teaching, editorial work and long years of service in the 
censorship department. It is true that he traveled abroad and 
spent some years in the Caucasus, but this did not interrupt the 
even tenor of his ways. 

He was a prolific fiction writer, yet it is as a poet that he 
lives in the memory of his compatriots. His poetry itself has 
been charged with being " lukewarm and neither cold nor hot." 
It lacks, it has been said, that cosmic nostalgia and civic con- 
sciousness which belong to Russian poetry. Indeed Polonsky's 
poetic effigy is rather unheroic and indistinct in outline. Yet 
he has the virtues of his defects. His work is distinguished by 
its homeliness. It keeps to the lighted circle of our familiar 
and familial life, and foregoes power and passion for intimacy 
and charm. 


.8 Yakov Polonsky 


This vast web, of Nature's weaving, 
Is God's garment, so 'tis said. 
In that fabric I a living, 
I a still unbroken thread. 
And the threads run swiftly, never 
Halting, yet if once they sever, 
Seer or sage shall not suffice 
Then the parted strands to splice. 
For the Weaver so will veil them 
That (let him who may bewail them) 
None the ends shall ever find, 
Nor one broken thread rebind. 
Ceaselessly the threads are breaking, 
Short, ah short will be my span! 
Meanwhile, at His fabric's making 
Toils the cosmic Artisan, 
Curious patterns still designing, 
Wave and crested hill defining, 
Steppe and pasture, cloud and sky, 
Wood and field of golden rye. 
Though with care the wise may scan it, 
Flawless since that Hand began it, 
Smooth and fine with fair accord 
Shines the garment of the Lord! 

1 Tr. by Avrahm Yarmolinsky and Cecil Cowdrey. 

Yakov Polonsky 49 


When, clinging to your lidded coffin, 

I saw you, love, on your last journey go, 

No sobs my maddened heart could soften, 

And I seemed dead, like you, below. 

Yours was the grave men see so often: 

Your small frame fitted snugly, so ; 

With leaden stupor blinded, I beheld it 

Vanish, I heard the clods' soft blow. 

My coffin was not thus but spacious, 

And gay with leaves and a blue pall in state. 

And fastened to it glared the sun of mid-day: 

A gilded, gawdy coffin-plate. 

Your coffin disappeared beneath wet earth and gravel, 

But mine alas! still glittered mockingly. . . . 

An orphaned soul and widowed, I let my sad eyes travel 

About me, my heart's heart, and I could see 

How, buried deep in my resplendent coffin, 

And bearing death within me, I would sue 

For happiness now lost forever; 

I knew my nothingness, my thirst for you. 

I longed to break the spell of numbness 

Lay waste my living tomb, wrench back its bars, 

To tear aside the graveclothes of the heavens, 

To stamp upon the sun and scatter wide the stars, 

And dash across this endless graveyard 

Where dead worlds fill the graves, 

To find your dwelling where no memories languish, 

To Death's void galley chained like sullen slaves. 

. Vladimir Solovyov 

Coming from a family of scholars and churchmen, Solovyov 
was himself a mystic and visionary: an alien seed in an exor- 
cised age. He was a cross between a Bohemian and a lay 
monk, whose asceticism only emphasized his powerfully erotic 
nature. A spirit dedicated to the creation of the greatest philo- 
sophical system which Russia has given to the world was fain 
to express itself also in poetry. His one slender volume of 
lyrics has the quality of soaring spirituality, and is generally 
engaged with a supersensuous reality, occasionally broken by 
irruptions of spasmodic comedy. It is largely centered about 
the concept of the Eternal Feminine, which also plays an im- 
portant part in his grandiose religious system. He conceives 
it not as Aphrodite, but rather as Sophia: Divine Wisdom. 

This feminine principle materialized itself for the mystic 
in a Dantesque experience. In a reminiscential poem written 
eight years before his death, he relates how, as a boy of nine, 
he first glimpsed his Eternal Mate. This was in Moscow; he 
next sees her in the reading-room of the British Museum thir- 
teen years later, as he bends over volumes of abstruse mystical 
literature. She bids him follow her to Egypt. It is a bio- 
graphic fact that the young Dozent traveled across the con- 
tinent to Cairo, and went afoot into the desert, where he beheld 
his beatific vision for the last time. 


Vladimir Solovyov 


Below the sultry storm that seemed to lower, 
An alien force, again I heard the call 
Of my mysterious mate: the prisoned power 
Of old dreams flared and flickered in its fall. 

And with a cry of horror and of dolor 
As of an eagle in an iron vise 
My spirit shook its cage in quivering choler, 
And tore the net, and issued to the skies. 

And up behind the clouds, unswerving, bearing,- 
Before the miracles a flaming sea 
Within the shining sanctum briefly flaring, 
It vanished into white infinity. 

52 Vladimir Solovyov 


With wavering feet I walked where dawn-lit mists were 


To find the shores of wonder and of mystery. 
Dawn struggled with the final stars, frail dreams were 


While unto unknown gods my morning lips were crying 
The prayers that my dream-imprisoned soul had whispered 


The noon is cold and candid, the road winds on severely, 
And through an unknown land once more my journey lies. 
The mist has lifted now, and the stark eye sees clearly 
How hard the mountain-road that rises upward sheerly, 
How distant looms the dream the prescient heart de- 
scries ! 

Yet onward with unfaltering feet I shall be going 
Toward midnight, onward toward the shore of my desires, 
Where on a mountain-height, new stars its glory showing, 
My promised temple waits, with plinth and pillar glow- 
Beaten about with flame of white, triumphal fires. 

N. Minsky 

(Pseudonym of Nikolai Vilenkin; born 1855) 

The son of poor Jewish villagers, Minsky was, among other 
things, tutor, lawyer, and bank employee, before he emigrated 
to Paris in 1905, at the age of fifty, where he has lived as 
newspaper correspondent and litterateur ever since. He had 
previously lived abroad, and was abreast of European literary 

His ideological and poetic career has been no less kaleido- 
scopic. Beginning as a poet insistent upon civic virtues and art 
as criticism of life, within some ten years Minsky became the 
prophet of a-moralism, decadence, symbolism, and the champion 
of Bacchic beauty. Early in the twentieth century he joined 
with sophisticated Orthodox priests and lay God-seekers in 
founding a society for the promotion of a new religious con- 
sciousness, himself preaching a nebulously negative, mystic 
doctrine of " meonism," affectionately envisaging a new 

The revolution of 1905 inspired his Muse briefly to Marxian 
hymns, and helped him to his Parisian exile. Here, in addition 
to his other work, he wrote a dramatic trilogy. Minsky had a 
weakness for manifestos, of which his poetry was not always 
a successful illustration. It is only his later work, with its in- 
creased technical skill, that achieves the bodying forth of his 
curious intellection. 


54 N. Minsky 


She lies, opening her teats, strong, swollen, wide, 

And at her breasts, their equal gift bestowing, 

Mad Nero and meek Buddha clutch, unknowing, 

As clinging twins who suckle side by side. 

She holds two vessels, whence, forever flowing, 

The streams of Life and Death serenely glide. 

She breathes and wreaths of stars are lit, and bide, 

She breathes anew: they fly like sere leaves blowing. 

She looks ahead with cold unseeing eyes; 
She cares not though she bear or cause to perish; 
The children whom she nurtures she will cherish, 
But when she weans them, every claim denies. 
Evil and Good gather them in thereafter 
And play the cosmic game with idle laughter. 

N. Minsky 


Who rears a temple, rears two monuments: 
His own and the destroyer's. They who build 
Accept Herostratos' arbitraments: 
And to the torch the chisel's work is willed. 
Both will stand firm before posterity, 
And equal glory Fame to each will lend. 
But thou, my air-domed temple, shalt not be 
Mocked by the vengeance of the general end. 

On an abyss of ruin is thy lease, 
Thou'rt in the furnace of negation fired; 
n thee the hymns of solace shall not cease: 
With sorrow winged, by calm despair inspired. 
Thee, ^gioned sufferings guard, in iron mail, 
And in their vanguard Death, who shall prevail. 

Dmitry Merezhkovsky 

(Born 1865) 

Merezhkovsky had every opportunity of study and travel 
afforded the son of a comfortably circumstanced, bureaucratic 
family. He made his pilgrimage to the seats of the antique 
Mediterranean culture, and the Parthenon brought him, like 
Renan, to his knees. Yet this devout and learned Hellenist is 
much of a lay theologian. He has constructed a professedly 
mystical, but actually rationalistic religion, which dominates all 
his work. The synthesis of paganism and Christianity, of flesh 
and spirit, which is his religion of "the Third Testament," is 
the Procrustean bed of both his brilliant criticism and his vast 
historical novels. In the latter his method is chiefly that of an 
historical mosaicist. His trilogy is accessible to the English 
reader, as well as some of his critical work, notably a part of 
his remarkable study on Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. 

His prose forms the bulk of his writings. As a poet, Merezh- 
kovsky was one of the initiators of the modernist movement, 
but he counts mainly as the champion of their poetics. His own 
lyrical work is largely ineffectual and imitative of men as curi- 
ously alien to him as Baudelaire, Poe, and Nietzsche. Against 
a background of melancholy pieces, expressing metaphysical 
ennui and cold intellection, one finds some poems informed with 
spiritual beauty and religious intensity. 

\Dmitry Merezhkovsky 57 


Cast prostrate, in mourning, 
Wingless, self-scorning, 
Grief in a gust 
Flings us, dust upon dust. 
We desire not, we dare not, 
We believe not, we care not, 
No wisdom has worth. 
God, do thou dower us, 
Kindle, empower us, 
Give of thy mirth. 
From the languor that clings 
Give us wings ! Give us wings ! 
Wings of thy Spirit. 

58 Dmitry Merezhkovsky 


Over earth awakes a whirring, 
And a rustling, and a stirring, 
Trumpet-voices fill the skies: 
" Lo, they call us. Brothers, rise!" 
" No. The darkness holds unshaken. 
I will sleep, and not awaken. 
Do not rouse me. Do not call. 
Do not strike the coffin-wall." 

" Now you dare not sleep. Resounding 
Sternly, the last trump is sounding. 
They are rising from the tomb. 
As from the maternal womb 
Of the opened earth forth-flinging, 
From their graves the dead are springing." 

" No, I cannot. All unuttered 
My words died. My eyes are shuttered. 
I shall not believe their lies. 
I shall not, I cannot rise! 
Brother, I am ashamed and shrinking, 
Dust, corruption, rotting, stinking!" 

" Brother, God has seen our prison. 
All shall wake, and all be risen. 
All shall yet be judged by Him. 
Cherubim and seraphim 

Dmitry Merezhkovsky 59 

High the holy Throne are bearing! 
Here our heavenly King is faring. 
Brother, he must live who dies. 
Glad or grieving, thou shalt rise." 

60 Dmitry Merezhkovsky 


With heavy anguish, hopeless straining, 
The bonds of love I would remove. 
Oh, to be loosed from their enchaining! 
Oh, freedom, only not to love! 

The soul that shame and fear are scourging 
Crawls through a mist of dust and blood. 
From dust, great God, my spirit purging, 
Oh, spare me from love's bitter flood! 

Is pity's wall alone unshaken? 
I pray to God, I cry in vain, 
More weary, by all hope forsaken; 
Resistless love grows great again. 

There is no freedom, unforgiven, 
We live as slaves, by life consumed ; 
We perish, tortured, bound and driven, 
Promised to death, and to love doomed. 

Fyodor Sologub 

(Pseudonym of Fyodor Teternikov; born 1863) 

In Sologub the sick fantast thumbed his nose at the respectable 
schoolmaster. One would expect neither in the son of a tailor 
and a peasant woman, who had grown up in the house where 
his widowed mother was a servant. For ten years after his 
graduation from Normal School the young man taught in the 
provinces, learning to know the Main Streets of Russia, which 
were to furnish the stuff of his prose. At the age of twenty- 
nine he transplanted himself to St. Petersburg, where his un- 
canny verse and short stories gave him the entree to the mod- 
ernists' circle. In 1907 he retired from pedagogy, and devoted 
himself entirely to literature. A few years later his com- 
plete works were published in twenty volumes, five of which 
were poetry, the remainder fiction and drama. He is a stay- 
at-home, and has remained one, the revolution notwithstanding. 

If Sologub did not exist, it would be necessary to invent 
him. The decadent gesture, which was a pose or a purpose in 
others, is bis natural attitude. He sees the universe as a 
ghastly menagerie in which the beasts have become wonted to 
their own stench. From this he escapes to a world of impos- 
sible imaginings, and fills his isolation with liturgies to his own 
ego, hymns to the devil, hosannahs to death. His unearthly 
world is fevered with fleshly lusts. In his lucid moments, how- 
ever, he achieves the charm of a Blake-like innocence, and his 
hemlock is mixed with the honey of an enchanting music. His 
poetry is the core of his work. His prose is fantastic and Poe- 
esque, yet in one work at least, notably " The Little Demon," 
he follows the Russian realistic tradition of revealing human 
nature's repugnant depths. 


62 Fyodor Sologub 


In a gay jar upon his shoulder 
The slave morosely carries wine. 
His road is rough with bog and boulder, 
And in the sky no starlights shine. 
Into the dark with stabbing glances 
He peers, his careful steps are slow, 
Lest on his breast as he advances 
The staining wine should overflow. 

I bear my amphora of sorrow, 

Long brimming with the wine it hides; 

There poison for each waiting morrow 

Ferments within the painted sides. 

I follow secret ways and hidden 

To guard the evil vessel, lest 

A careless hand should pour unbidden 

Its bitterness upon my breast. 

Fyodor Sologub 63 


Evil dragon in the zenith fiercely glowing, 
Filaments of flame across the heavens throwing, 
Singeing all the valley with a heat that scorches, 
From the deep, dark quiver I will pluck an arrow 
Tipped with subtle poison that shall find thy marrow: 
All too early flourish thy triumphal torches. 
I shall draw my bow in valiant retribution, 
I, executor of ruthless execution, 
And thy groaning answer my glad ears shall cherish 
As I speed the sudden doom long overhanging, 
And the arrow whizzes with a brazen twanging. 
Thou shalt fade, thou evil dragon, thou shalt perish. 

64 Fyodor Sologub 


When, heaving on the stormy waters, 
I felt my ship begin to sink, 
I prayed, " Oh, Father Satan, save me, 
Forgive me at death's utter brink! 

" If you will save my soul embittered 
From perishing before its hour, 
The days to come, the nights that follow 
I vow to vice, I pledge to power." 

The Devil forthwith snatched and flung me 
Into a boat; the sides were frail, 
But on the bench the oars were lying 
And in the bow an old gray sail. 

And landward once again I carried 
My outcast soul, bereft of kin, 
Upon its sickly vicious sojourn 
My body and its gift of sin. 

And I am faithful, Father Satan, 

Unto my evil hour's vow, 

When from my drowning ship you saved me 

And when I prayed you guide the prow. 

To you descend my praises, Father, 
No day from bitter blame exempt. 
O'er worlds my blasphemy shall tower; 
And I shall tempt and I shall tempt. 

Fyodor Sologub 65 


Austere the music of my songs: 
The echo of sad utterance fills them, 
A bitter breath, far-wafted, chills them ; 
And is my back not bent to thongs? 

The mists of day on darkness fall; 
The vainly promised land I follow 
Upon a road the shadows swallow ; 
The world rears round me like a wall. 

At times from that far land the vain 
Faint voice will sound like distant thunder. 
Can long abeyance of a wonder 
Obliterate the long bleak pain? 

66 Fyodor Sologub 


Below a pine's rough shadow, 
Where loud the river sings, 
The hairy-handed devil 
Pushes his devilish swings. 

He swings, and gives a crow, 
To and fro 
To and fro 

The boards creak, bending low, 
The taut rope rubbing slow 
Against the heavy boughs. 

The board sways back, and bracing, 
With a long creak swings wide, 
The devil, still grimacing, 
Guffaws and holds his side. 

I tremble to let go; 

To and fro 
To and fro 

I sway and cling, but no, 
My languid glances grow 
Fast where the devil tows. 

Above the looming pine 
The blue fiend's sniggers sting: 
" You found the swings so fine, 
Well, devil take you, swing! " 

Fyodor Sologub 67 

Below the shaggy pine 
They squeak and whirl and sling: 
" You found the swings so fine? 
Well, devil take you, swing ! " 

The fiend will not release 
The board that hangs too steep 
Till I am thrust toward peace 
By the dark hand's dread sweep. 

Until the hemp turns round 
Too long, and is worn free, 
Until the broad black ground 
Comes flying up to me. 

Above the pine I'll fling 
And bore into the mire. 
Then swing, devil, swing 
Higher, higher, higher! 

Zinaida Hippius 


(Mme. Dmitry Merezhkovsky; born 1869) 

Poetry is not woman's work in Russia. Zinaida Hippius, the 
wife of Dmitry Merezhkovsky, is one of the few who carry it 
on. She has written a great deal of bad fiction, some partisan 
criticism, rather indifferent dramas, and her poetry is not un- 
exceptionable. Soon after her literary marriage she joined the 
Petersburg symbolists, and with her husband was one of the 
founders of the Religious Philosophical Society. A weakness 
for religious discussion and a theosophic bias have done much 
damage to both her prose and her verse. Her later poetry, 
however, is interesting as the expression of her difficult and 
distinctive personality. She has the quality of burning ice, 
hiding under contemptuous ennui her passion for the impos- 
sible. In any event, she is a virtuoso of verse, whose mastery 
of tone-color and metric pattern is wholly admirable. 

She is at present engaged, together with her husband, in writ- 
ing hymns of hate against the Bolsheviki, from the bitter secu- 
rity of the Diaspora. 


Zinaida Hip plus 69 


I seek for rhythmic whisperings 
Where noises bandy 
For life I listen wistfully 
In footless banter. 

I cast wide nets and tentative 
In lakes of sorrow. 
I go toward final tenderness 
By pathways sordid. 

I look for dewdrops glistering 
In falsehood's gardens. 
I save truth's globules glistening, 
From dust-heaps garnered. 

I fain would fathom fortitude 
Through years of wormwood 
And pierce the mortal fortalice, 
Yet live, a worldling. 

My cup, through ways impassable, 

To bear, untainted; 

By tenebrous bleak passages 

To joy attaining. 

70 Zinaida Hip plus 


A shameless thing, of every vileness capable, 

It is as drab as dust, as earthly dust. 

I perish of a nearness inescapable ; 

Its fatal coils about my limbs are thrust. 

A shaggy poulp, embracing me, and pricking me, 
And as a serpent cold against my heart, 
Its branching scales are poisoned arrows sticking me ; 
Worse than their bite : repulsion's horrid smart. 

Oh, were its sting a veritable knife in me! 
But it is flaccid, clumsy, still and numb. 
Thus sluggishly sucking the very life in me, 
A torpid dragon, dreadful, deaf, and dumb. 

With stubborn rings it winds in mute obscurity 
And clings caressingly, its purpose whole. 
And this dead thing, this loathsome black impurity, 
This horror that I shrink from is my soul. 

Zinaida Hip plus 71 


Thou queen of all serenity, 
Soul of my soul, most chaste, 
I summon thee, divinity, 
I summon thee, make haste! 

But to the tryst thy offering 
Shall not be brought alone. 
My guilt will come, my suffering, 
My sin will lift its moan. 

Before thy heart insulted so, 
In shame my head will sink; 
And I, who once exulted so, 
My humble tears shall drink. 

Forgive me that diurnity 
Is all my love could dower ; 
That not for all eternity, 
I made thee for an hour. 

Alone my will hath kindled here 

Thy being from the void. 

And thou shalt soon have dwindled here, 

By my sole will destroyed. 


As I, thou shalt grow tremulous, 
Till all my strength is gone, 
To fall, of silence emulous, 
Into oblivion. 

Konstantin Balmont 

(Born 1867) 

Balmont revived the tradition of the wandering minstrel. He 
traveled more widely than the old-fashioned troubadour and 
also more comfortably. His journeys carried him to Mexico 
and Egypt, to India and the South Seas, and winds from these 
exotic lands blow through his songs. His stay abroad was 
somewhat of an exile, as certain political poems written in 1906 
barred him from Russia. This was a recrudescence of youth- 
ful political ardor, which, in his student years, sent him to 
prison for a short time, but which burned itself out early. He 
returned home in 1913, where he remained through the war and 
the revolution, till in 1920 he shook the dust of communism from 
his feet. 

Of late years, his reputation, which was enormous about a 
decade ago, has been on the wane. Yet his place as a great 
poet and as the leader of Russian modernism is assured to him 
in the opinion of his compatriots. He brought to Russian liter- 
ature a spontaneous lyricism and a didacticism of joy which, 
while emancipating poetry from its gloom and social bias, failed 
of intensity, imagery, and intellection. What impressed his 
public was his vociferous aestheticism and a prolific versatility 
in subject-matter. He has certainly contributed to the language 
by his rhythmic inventions. His range includes poems about 
the colors, children's verse, abstruse mythology, adaptations of 
Russian folk-songs and spells, hymns to the elements, and, above 
all, pure lyrics. He is a veritable Narcissus of the ink-pot, to 
use a bon-mot of Tyutchev's. The " Hymn to Fire " is given 
here, not for its quality, but solely as a typical example of Bal- 
mont's manner. He has done a rare service to Russian letters 
by translating the poetry of many languages, including the 
Scandinavian. He has practically made an anthology of Eng- 
lish verse, and also gave to Russia a partial Whitman and a 
complete Shelley. Like Ezra Pound, he takes pleasure in 
flaunting an obscure linguistic erudition. His fecundity, one 
fears, has survived most of his other faculties. 


Konstantin Balmont 73 


With my fancy I grasped at the vague shadows straying, 
At the vague shadows straying where the daylight had 


I ascended a tower, and the stairway was swaying, 
And the stairway was swaying underneath my light tread, 

And the higher I climbed, ever clearer were rounded, 
Ever clearer were rounded dreaming hilltops aglow ; 
And from Heaven to Earth twilight voices resounded, 
Twilight voices resounded from above and below. 

And the higher I rose, strange horizons defining, 
Strange horizons defining, did the summits appear; 
And my eyes as I looked were caressed by their shining, 
Were caressed by their shining, their farewell, sad and 

Now the night had appeared; Earth in darkness lay 


Earth in darkness lay dreaming, like a slumbering star, 
While the smoldering sun, his dim embers still gleaming, 
His dim embers still gleaming, shone for me from afar. 

I had learned to ensnare the vague shadows far straying, 
The vague shadows far straying, where the daylight had 


Ever higher I rose, and the stairway was swaying, 
And the stairway was swaying underneath my light tread. 

1 Tr. by Avrahm Yarmolinsky and Cecil Cowdrey. 

74 Konstantin Balmont 


Long centuries of centuries will pass, unsighted 

Millenniums as locusts in deathy clouds descend, 

And in the muttering of centuries affrighted 

The same enduring firmament will watch the end. 

The dumb, dead firmament that God will not 


Who breathes Eternity behind the farther skies, 
Beyond the fading of the last star's last slow ember, 
Beyond the utter threshold words may scrutinize. 
Forever cold, that starry desert, clouds out-topping, 
Is flung forth, alien to the end, on space, 
When tearing comet-fires will crumble with it, dropping 
As dumbly burning tears from a despairing face. 

Konstantin Balmont 


The candid psalm of Silence rises whitely burning, 
The icy wastes are lit with sunset's radiant yearning. 
The drowsy elements in yawning vistas freeze, 
And voiceless are the argent Polar liturgies. 

Above the sea of whiteness, crimson curtains falling; 
No fields or forests here, clear crystal shines appalling. 
White altars stretch beneath the changeless icy skies, 
A prayer, not suppliant, a psalm, not voiced, arise. 

76 Konstantin Balmont 



Oh, fire who purgeth us 
In fate-kindled strife, 
Thy beauty ruleth us, 
Shining with life ! 


Still and meek in the glow of a taper in church, 

But in riot tumultuous-tongued, 

Unmoved by wild prayers, multi-faced, 

Shot with color in walls overthrown, 

Mad with passion, and nimble and gay, 

So triumphantly beautiful 

That my eyes are alight with thy joy 

Though thou feed on my own, 

O fair Fire, all my dreams are devoted to thee! 


Eternally changeful, 

Thou art Protean-faced. 

Thou art smokily crimson 

In the bonfires' roar. 

Thou art as a flower of terror with petals of flame, 

A bright mane of radiant hair. 

In the tremulous flame of a taper thou burn'st 

First in blue, then in shuddering gold. 

In the silence of midsummer lightnings thou wak'st, 

Burning coldly in storm-burdened clouds, 

Eerily livid and dark. 

Konstantin Balmont 77 

In the thunder that crashes, the chanting of rain, 

Thou art writ in the lightning's brief hieroglyphs, 

In a quick broken flash 

Or a long mighty shaft, 

Now a ball with a nimbus of air all aglow 

Where the swift-running gold 

Is with scarlet besprent. 

Thou art in the crystal of stars, in the comets' strong urge. 

Sun-sent, thou dost enter the chambers of plants 

With the gift of a quickening warmth. 

Thou workest, thou wakest the secret of sap : 

Flaming up in a scarlet carnation, 

Pale gold in the whispering corn, 

Or carelessly flung in a lithe drunken vine. 

Thou art lying in wait : 

As a spark in the night 

So thou leapest elate. 

Thou art still in thy flight. 

Soon thy glow shall abate, 

But alive thou art great, 
Than thy beauty is nothing more strange or more bright. 


I shall chant thy high praises forever! 
O sudden, O subtle, O terrible Fire! 
Thy work is the melting of metals ; 
By thy aid are they fashioned and forged: 
The ponderous horse-shoes; 
The resounding and bright-bladed scythes: 
That mow and that reap, 
That mow and that reap; 

78 Konstantin Balmont 

Many circlets for lily-white fingers, 
For ring-bounded lives, 
For ring-fettered years, 
As with lips growing cold the word ' love ' 
We repeat. 

Thou Greatest the tools and machines 
That shake mountains and shatter and smite, 
The tools that find deep-buried gold, the keenness of 
weapons that kill. 

Unto thee, omnipresent and sovereign, my dreaming I 


I am even as thou. 

Thou dost light, thou dost burn, thou dost strive, 
Thou art 'live, thou art 'live ! 
Of old a winged dragon thou wert, to the altar didst 


Thence to ravish the bride. 

And a fiery guest, a consoler who warmed to the bone 
The young wife left alone. 
O brilliant, O burning, O biting, O fierce, 
In thy flame all the colors arise. 

Thou art crimson and yellow, thy gleaming doth pierce 
With the glow of chameleon gold and the scarlet that 

lights autumn skies. 

Thou art as a diamond with facets that shine, 
As the feline caress of soft eyes that are heady as wine, 
As the wave in its ecstasy breaking, an emerald line. 
Like the leaf's iridescence agleam with reiterant Springs 
In the dewdrop that trembles and swings. 

Konstantin Balmont 79 

Like the green dream of fireflies kindled at night, 

Like the will-o'-the-wisp in the haze, 

Like the dark, scalloped clouds the grave evening has 

gilded with light, 
That have spread forth their mourning upon the dim face 

of the smoldering days. 


I remember, O Fire, 

How thy flames once enkindled my flesh, 

Among writhing witches caught close in thy flame-woven 


How, tortured for having beheld what is secret, 
We were flung to the fire for the joy of our sabbath. 
But to those who had seen what we saw 
Yea, Fire was naught. 
Ah, well I remember 
The buildings ablaze where we burned 
In the fires we lit, and smiled to behold the flames wind 
About us, the faithful, among all the faithless and blind. 
To the chanting of prayers, the frenzy of flame, 
We sang thy hosannahs, oh strength-giving Fire: 
I pledged love to thee from the pyre ! 


Oh, Fire, I know 
That thy light with an ultimate splendor our being shall 

It shall flare up before eyes that Death fain would finally 


With swift knowledge it burns, and with joy heaven-high 
At the vastness of vistas unfolding afar. 

80 Konstantln Balmont 

Who has summoned those visions to being? And why? 
Who has rayed them in colors befitting a star? 
Beyond life is the answer. 

Oh thou heavenward heart of the element ever in flight, 
On my twilight horizon, let Death, necromancer, 
Shed perpetvr.l light! 

Valery Brusov 

(Born 1873) 

Brusov's biography coincides with his bibliography. He has 
filled his life with the labors of a curious-minded poet and 
a sensitive erudite. In 1913, at the age of forty, he began 
publishing the complete edition of his works in twenty-five 
volumes. In addition to poetry, original and translated, it in- 
cludes two novels, tales, dramas, and critical work. His tales 
and dramas have a timeless, abstract quality, a curious com- 
bination of the Wellsian and the Poe-esque. His two large 
novels are marvelous studies in the archzeology of the soul, 
restoring as they do the psyche of the Roman decadence and 
of Germany's dying Middle Ages. 

Before he came of age he fell under the spell of the French 
symbolists and his argosy began by sailing under their colors. 
His European years sharpened these sympathies. He tried to 
transplant the French vers libre into Russian soil, and among 
other things, an anthology of French lyrics of the nineteenth 
century bears witness to his Gallic apprenticeship. Indeed, he 
achieved a leading place among the Russian symbolists, becom- 
ing an editor of their Moscow organ (Vesy: The Balance). 
Yet although he adopted all the manners and mannerisms of 
the neo-romantic reaction, such as aversion to reality, violent 
eroticism and extreme individualism, by temperament Brusov is 
more of a Parnassian. His later work shows a gravitation to- 
ward a soberer and more objective conception of art. His 
craftsmanship is careful and conscious, whether he wanders 
down the ages, dedicating a line to every god. or traces the 
pattern of his own moods, or, like his master Verhaeren, finds 
a rhythm for the voices of the city. According to Gautier's 
precept, he works "dans le bloc resistant,'' He has an eye for 
imagery and an ear trained to complex orchestration. 

The revolution has not exiled Brusov, and he is laboring to 
preserve the continuity of Russia's culture. In a literary capac- 
ity he holds an important Government post 


$2 Valery Brusov 


In the land of Ra the flaming, by the shores of Nile's slow 
waters, where the roofs of Thebes were seen, 

In the days of yore you loved me, as dark Isis loved 
Osiris, sister, friend and worshiped queen! 

And the pyramid its shadow on our evening trysts would 

Oh, the mystery remember of our meeting in the temple, 
in the aisle of granite, dim and straight, 

And the hour when, lights extinguished, and the sacred 
dances broken, each to each was sudden mate; 

Our caresses, burning whispers, ardors that we could not 

In the splendor of the ball-room, clinging to me, white 
and tender, through Time's curtain rift in twain, 

Did your ear not catch the anthems, mingling with the 
crash of cymbals, and the people's answering refrain? 

Did you not repeat in rapture that our love awoke again ? 

Once before, we knew existence, this our bliss is a remem- 
brance, and our love a memory; 

Casting off its ancient ashes, flames again our hungry 
passion, flames and kindles you and me, 

As of old, by Nile's slow waters, in the land beyond the 

1 Tr. by Avrahm Yarmolinsky. 

Valery Brusov 83 


Radiant ranks of seraphim 
Stir the air about our bed. 
With their windy wings and dim 
Our hot cheeks are comforted. 

Low the circling seraphs bend, 
And we tremble and rejoice 
At hosannas that ascend, 
Winged with their unearthly voice. 

Cloudy luminous faces hover, 
And the wing-swept candles wane. 
And our fiery breasts they cover 
As with hidden holy rain. 

Valery Brusov 


Que tes mains soient benies, car elles sont impures. 


The shining of your golden eyes I bless ! 
That broke my dark delirium with light. 

The smile that wavers on your lips I bless! 
It kindled me like wine, it rent my night. 

The poison in your kisses hid, I bless! 

All thoughts, all dreams are poisoned by your kiss. 

The scythe that sings in your embrace I bless! 
All my past years you have mown down with this. 

The fire of your awful love I bless! 
I wrapped its flame about me joyfully. 

The darkness of your spirit, lo, I bless ! 

For that its wings were outstretched over me. 

Blessed all you gave, blessed what your soul denies: 
I bless you for the grief, the dread, the pain ; 

That after you I strove toward Paradise; 
That here without its gates, I stand in vain. 

Valery Brusov 85 


If you kept faith, or not, does it avail? 
If I was faithful or unfaithful to you? 
Our eyes that would look elsewhere flinch and fail, 
Yet not my will has power to undo you. 
Once more I tremble, so once more you pale, 
As the forebodings of old pain break through you. 
The moments pour with noise of torrents streaming: 
Above us passion's lifted blade is gleaming. 

Whoever made us, lips and lit eyes drinking 
Of lips and eyes, be it or God or Fate, 
Is it not one ? Within the circle shrinking 
We stand to hear the spell reverberate! 
We bend with happiness and fear, and sinking, 
We fall : two anchors on the sea-floor grate. 
Fancy, nor chance, nor passion overpowers 
Us, whom the ineluctable devours. 

86 Valery Brusov 


Kindling the air, fierce birds with feathers of fire, 
Through the white portals of Paradise flamed like desire. 
Virgin vistas reared, lit with quivering red, 
And beyond seas were the trackless wanderers fled. 

But on the pillars of marble, on the threshold were thrown 
Crimson shadows incredible, sunk in the stone. 
And, under the arch, in eternity's radiance hidden, 
Angels exulted in fruits that are secret and sweet and 

Valery Brusov 87 


The posters shout, their gorgeous motley blares, 

The signboards' groaning fills the street, 

And from the shops a shrill light sharply flares, 

As cries of triumph mock defeat. 

Behind the glimmering panes soft fabrics sleep, 

And diamonds pour their poison daze, 

Above massed coins the lottery numbers leap 

Like northern lights ablaze. 

The burning streets like long canals of light 

Flow on the city is alive. 

It swarms to celebrate the dawn of night 

Like some unloosed and monstrous hive. 

The sky and all its sentient stars are hid 

By scattered arc-lamps beaming blue. 

And harlots jostle sages where they thrid 

The dancers in a rippling queue. 

Between the gay quadrilles that form and break, 

Among the waltzers, clanking slide 

The tramways, with blue lightnings in their wake; 

Like sheaves of fire, the motors glide. 

Shame, like a leader his bright baton wielding 

To the rank music of the wheels, 

Has fused the thousand-throated throng, that yielding 

As one, a holy chorus peals: 

" Dust, we enthrone thee ; brief and radiant Dust, 

Dancing the round, we glorify, 

About electric altars where they thrust 

Their spears into the empty sky." 

Valery Brusov 
Oh, cover thy pale feet! 

Valery Brusov 89 


On slow and smoky fire thou burn'st and art consumed, 

Oh, thou, my soul. 
On slow and smoky fire thou burn'st and art consumed, 

With hidden dole. 

Thou droopest like Sebastian, pierced with pointed arrows, 

Harassed and spent, 
Thou droopest like Sebastian, pierced with pointed arrows, 

Thy flesh all rent. 

Thy foes encircle thee and watch with gleeful laughter 

And bended bow, 
Thy foes encircle thee and watch with gleeful laughter 

Thy torments slow. 

The embers burn, and gentle is the arrow's stinging, 

'Neath the evening sky, 
The embers burn, and gentle is the arrow's stinging, 

When the end draws nigh. 

Why hastens not thy dream unto thy lips, now pallid 

With deadly drouth? 
Why hastens not thy dream unto thy lips, now pallid 

To kiss thy mouth? 

1 Tr. by Avrahm Yarmolinsky. 

90 Valery Erusov 


"Trample their Paradise, Attila! " 


Where do you stray, heavy Huns, 
Who weigh on the world like a cloud? 
Far, under Asian suns, 
Your cast-iron tread is loud. 

Swoop down in a drunken horde 
From your dark encampments, rise 
In a tide of crimson poured 
Over this land that dies. 

O slaves of freedom, pitch 
Your tent by the palace gate. 
Plow deep, dig wide the ditch 
Where the throne shone on your hate. 

Heap books to build a fire! 
Dance in their ruddy light. 
Foul altar steps with mire: 
You are children in our sight. 

And we, the poets, the wise, 

From the onslaught that darkens and raves, 

Defending the torch you despise, 

Shall hold it in deserts and caves. 

Valery Brusov 91 

Under the scattering storm, 
The tempests that raven and tear, 
What will the hazards of harm 
From our long labor spare ? 

All that we only knew 
Shall perish and sink and grow dim. 
But you who shall slay me, you 
I salute with hosanna and hymn. 

Ivan Bunin 

(Born 1870) 

When Bunin came to Petersburg at the age of twenty-five 
he brought with him memories of shabby manorial grandeur, 
of hack work in the provinces, and of a Tolstoyan influence 
that at one time persuaded him to become a cooper. The young 
man, meeting the modernists for the first time, dubbed them 
" sick boys with complete chaos in their heads." Bunin is him- 
self a traditionalist in an age of iconoclasm, a realist in a neo- 
romantic generation, a sober lyricist solitary among his ecstatic 
fellows. His minor music has the simplicity and sincerity of a 
sorrowful Mozart. He celebrates the melancholy charm of 
vanishing things, never foreswearing his classic clarity. Yet 
there is a growing exotic strain in this poet of the Northern 
Russian landscape. He is a less vivid Leconte de Lisle, revivi- 
fying forgotten deities and filling his verse with Oriental color, 
fragrance and warmth. His nostalgia for the distant seems to 
grow by the travel upon which it feeds. Perhaps this intimacy 
with what is foreign gives his translations from Longfellow, 
Byron and Tennyson their remarkably rich quality. 

When in 1909 Bunin was elected to the Academy of Sciences, 
this rare distinction was conferred upon him for his prose as 
much as for his poetry. Indeed the former is the part of his 
work which bulks largest. His prose ceuvre consists of his 
black and bitter sketches of the Russian peasantry, naked studies 
in psychology, and tales in the manner of a diminutive Joseph 
Conrad. " The Gentleman from San Francisco," one of his 
most recent and impressive stories, is the only one available 
in English. 

Bunin was one of the first to flee Soviet rule, eventually 
settling in Paris. 

Ivan Bunin 93 


In the valley the birches are bored. 
On the meadows, fog billows and weighs. 
Sodden, with horse-dung floored, 
The highroad blackens in haze. 

Rich on the steppe's sleepy air, 
The odor of freshly-baked bread. 
Bent to their packs, slowly fare 
Two beggars to look for a bed. 

Round puddles gleam in the streets. 
The fumes of the ovens stun. 
Thawing, the bleak earthen seats 
Smolder and steam in the sun. 

By the corn-bin, dragging his chain, 
The sheep-dog yawns on the sill. 
Walls smoke with the charcoal stain. 
The steppe is foggy and still. 

The carefree cock will perform 
Day-long for the sap-stirred earth. 
In the fields it is drowsy and warm, 
In the heart indolent mirth. 

94 Ivan Bunin 


I'm a plain girl, whose hands are stained with earth. 
He is a fisherman he's gay and keen. 
The far white sail is drowning in the firth. 
Many the seas and rivers he has seen. 

The women of the Bosphorus, they say, 
Are good-looking . . . and I I'm lean and black. 
The white sail drowns far out beyond the bay. 
It may be that he never will come back. 

I shall wait on in good and evil weather. 
If vainly, take my wage, go to the sea 
And cast the ring and hope away together. 
And my black braid will serve to strangle me. 

Ivan Bunin 95 


Black goats I herded with my sister; they 

Grazed by red rocks; the grass rose stiff and stinging. 

Warming their backs, stones to the foot-hills clinging 

Slept dumbly on. And sheer blue shone the bay. 

By the gnarled silver of an olive flinging 

My drowsy limbs, in its dry shade I lay, 

He came like a hot cobweb net, asway, 

Or like a cloud of flies about me singing. 

He bared my knees. Kindled my quiet feet. 

The silver on my shirt his white fire burned. 

His hot embrace is heavy, ah, and sweet. 

He laid me on my back. The whole sky turned. 

He tanned my naked bosom to the teat. 

From him the cammomile's kind use I learned. 

g6 Ivan Bunin 


From the walls the paper's blue is vanished, 
The daguerreotypes, the ikons banished. 
Only there the deepened blue appears 
Where these hid it, hanging through the years. 

From the heart the memory is perished, 
Perished all that long ago it cherished! 
Those remain, of whom death hides the face, 
Leaving their yet unforgotten trace. 

Ivan Bunin 97 


She sits on tumulus Savoor, and stares, 
Old woman Death, upon the crowded road. 
Like a blue flame the small flax-flower flares 
Thick through the meadows sowed. 

And says old woman Death: " Hey, traveler! 
Does any one want linen, linen fit 
For funeral wear ? A shroud, madam or sir, 
I'll take cheap coin for it! " 

And says serene Savoor: " Don't crow so loud! 
Even the winding-sheet is dust, and cracks 
And crumbles into earth, that from the shroud 
May spring the sky-blue flax." 

Vyacheslav Ivanov 

(Born 1866) 

Ivanov's life was not one to " hurry to a sphere, and show, 
and end." Rather, its fruit slower grew, and later hung. He 
began to write at the age of thirty-seven, after having spent 
half as many years abroad as a student, and joined the ranks 
of the symbolists. He learned antiquity from " Mommsen, 
Athens and Rome," and modernity from Nietzsche and Dostoyev- 
sky. A curious feature of Ivanov's thinking is a synthesis of 
Dionysos and Christ, which is characteristic of the Greek re- 
vival in Russia, and which is attested to in his profound treatise 
on " The Hellenic Religion of the Suffering God." His exqui- 
site art feeds on the Dionysian grape, but this has a sacramental 
flavor, and strangely through the features of his Dionyscs shows 
the effigy of a tragic Christ. To him religion is the very stuff 
of culture, and art a myth-making, and eren a theurgic power. 
Unlike his older fellow-symbolists, he builds not upon individ- 
ualism, but upon the principle of sobornost, or communal reli- 
gious expression suggestive of Vachel Lindsay's creed. He has 
the mentality and the manner of a mystagogue and a pontiff. 

Ivanov's poetry is caviar to the general. His Pegasus is 
caparisoned with abstruse erudition and weighed down with 
intricate thought. Yet a limpid, golden beauty triumphs over 
the shadows in many lyrics. These are cast in the pure Grecian 
mold, these burn with " JE " 's spiritual flame, and these are the 
ordered ecstasies of a Francis Thompson. His latest poems 
are a cycle of Winter Sonnets written in blockaded Petrograd 
in 1920 filled with the sadness of resignation to loss and 

Vyacheslav Ivanov 99 


Now the golden leafage is beggared. 
Shining through the porches of autumn, 
Shows the cool blue stillness of heaven. 
Lo, the thin-trunked grove is transcended : 
Carved in stone, a columned cathedral. 
Smoke-scrolls wind about the frail friezes; 
Flung above the doors is a curtain 
Open-work: like nets of God's fishers 
That the catch has slipped through and broken, 
Like thy tatters, sacred and lovely, 
At the entrance of a white temple, 
Oh thou golden mendicant music! 

ioo Vyacheslav Ivanov 


The air is sad and still. A bright transparency ! 
Enskied a woman veiled in light invisibly 
Upholds a balance high above the clear sun's pouring, 
The instant's equipoise, serene and frail, adoring. 

But each sere leaf that from the trees falls, separate, 
And lays upon the golden scales its trembling weight 
May force the balance Summer's plenty freighted 
Down to the wintry regions soon to darkness fated. 

Vyacheslav Ivanov 101 


Clear the fountain waters glowing, 
Living streams, the well-springs flowing, 
Cold, in darkling woods, a spring. 
In the shed, cool stillness streaming, 
O'er the well, a candle gleaming 
On Christ's crown its gilding flings. 

In the Eden field a bower, 

And a fountain, and a flower. 

Christ, star-voiced, the spirit stills: 

" Come, before the well-spring stooping, 

Of my quiet waters scooping, 

For the stintless bucket fills." 

IO2 Vyacheslav Ivanov 


Dying, the seed will discover the self it finds in the losing. 
That is, oh, Nature, thy law! That is thy lesson, oh, 

Hearing dark music, the poet knoweth no rest; he 

Purer and purer the sound, clearer the fore-uttered word. 

Vyacheslav Ivanov 103 


Your soul, born deaf and blind, inhabits 
Jungles of sunless reverie, 
Where with the crash of trampled saplings 
Wild droves of dark desires roam free. 

A torch I kindled in the darkness 
To lead you to my starry gate, 
With seeds of light in shining handfuls 
The furrows of your night to sate. 

I stand amid the trackless stretches 
And hail you in the wilderness; 
But lost in dark and dreary caverns 
My cry sinks silent, answerless. 

104 Vyacheslav Ivanov 


Beautiful boy, like a faun here in loneliness roaming, 
who art thou? 

Surely no child of the woods : thine is too pridef ul a face. 

Music that moves in thy gait, the wrought grace of thy 
sumptuous sandal 

Tell thou art son to the gods, or the high offspring of kings. 

Poised, with thy listening limbs, thou hast followed the 
lips of the forest, 

Harkening, bending thy head, fingering softly the sound. 

Was it the piping of Pan or the amorous sighing of Echo ? 

Whisper of dryads, or words fluent-limbed naiads repeat? 

Pressing thy thigh with thy arm, now the light shoulder- 
fleece like a garland 

Thou hast entwined on thy wrist, thou, like Liaeus at rest. 

Wonderful, art thou in truth the gay Bacchus, Nysaean 
nymphs cherished, 

Hunter, whom goddesses loved, naked and idle and 
young ? 

Or art thou haughty Narcissus, whom secret sweet har- 
monies guided, 

Wandering, languid with sleep, drunken, alone with his 

Go, seek the summoning nymph, oh thou blind, not yet 
knowing thy image, 

Go thou, but dare not to bend over the slumbering wave. 

Oh, if thou art not Narcissus, yet seeing thy face in the 

Stranger, I tremble, anew, thou a Narcissus shalt be. 

Vyacheslav Ivanov 105 


Of funerals, the saddest 

Is love's that dies unanswered. 

The soul has two to bury : 

The soul of the beloved 

And its own other selfhood. 

And a third enters, living, 

The funeral flame that wraps them; 

His wings a yoke has weighted: 

Him the wise lips of lovers 

Call in their kisses, Eros, 

And gods: the Resurrector. 

106 Vyacheslav Ivanov 


The h'oly Rose her leaves will soon unfold. 
The tender bud of dawn already lies 
Reddening on the wide, transparent skies. 
Love's star is a white sail the still seas hold. 
Here, in the light-soaked space above the wold, 
Through the descending dew the arches rise 
Of the unseen cathedral, filled with cries 
From the winged weavers threading it with gold. 

Here on the hill, the cypress, in accord 
With me, stands praying : a cowled eremite. 
And on the roses' cheeks the tears fall light. 
Upon my cell the patterned rays are poured. 
And in the East, the purple vines bleed bright, 
And seething, overflow. . . . Hosannah, Lord! 

Vyacheslav Ivanov 107 


" You are artists, Nomads of Beauty." 

" Flamings." 

For you ancestral acres, 
And, choked, the graveyard waits. 
For us, the free forsakers, 
The camp that Beauty fates. 

For us the daily treason, 
The tents we daily flee, 
Mocked by each dawning season 
Of our captivity. 

Believe the dimmer distance, 
All curtains: magic veils, 
All Springtides' green persistence, 
Whole heaven's vasty gales ! 

Oh, vagrant artists, shepherd 
Your droves of dreams unbound ; 
And sow, although you jeopard 
The soon-abandoned ground. 

And from your open spaces 
Rush down, a whirling horde, 
Where slaves tamed to the traces 
Adore their overlord. 

io8 Vyacheslav Ivanov 

Trample their Edens, plow them, 
Oh, Attila, with scars. 
And grow to Beauty vow them- 
Your steppe flowers like stars. 

Yurgis Baltrushaitis 

(Born 1873) 

Born into a peasant family of Lithuanian Catholics, this 
member of the symbolists' younger generation began by herding 
cows in his native village. He tutored his way through high 
school, and reached the University of Moscow, where he soon 
veered from science to letters. He became both a linguist and 
a traveler, going west as far as Chicago. 

Although Baltrushaitis may be claimed by the Lithuanian as 
well as the Russian literature, this reticent poet does not often 
avail himself of either tongue. He carries on the philosophical 
tradition of Russian poetry. His disciplined and concentrated 
art moves on a plane of abstractions. His is a mystical auster- 
ity and a Buddhistic aloofness from things personal. 


IIO Yurgis Baltrushaiiis 


When tne dumb darkness most heavily clings, 
Rhythmic and ruthless my pendulum swings. 
Rustily creaking or whining dismay, 
Urging each tarrying moment away. 

Longing, it seems, for the days that are fled, 
Down ancient stairways resounds someone's tread. 
Heavy the footfall on flagstones unlit, 
Lower and lower and down to the pit. 

Praying, it seems, for a long-vanished shore, 
Dumbly the Helmsman with slow stubborn oar 
Brokenly rows me, morosely alone, 
Into my harbor, afar and unknown. 

Evil the Ferryman, darkly he pounds; 
Farther and farther, more muffled resounds, 
Hostile and hopeless, the long downward climb: 
Cold, ineluctable footsteps of Time. 

Yurgis Baltrushaitis III 


The day's wild ocean sings and thunders, 
And beats against the fatal shore, 
This breaker with dumb sorrow sunders, 
And these like laughing victors roar, 
Their sheen the joy of vernal wonders, 
Their sheen vast winter's shining hoar. 

In wrath triumphant forward-swinging, 
The lifted billow calls, and fails, 
A joyous giant, shouting, singing, 
Its voice the voice of sounding gales, 
Its glory in the sunlight flinging 
Whose noonday glow it holds and hails. 

Across the sea, now lightly foaming, 

Another rears, that stirs the deep, 

And floods the shore with silence, gloaming; 

Morose and slow it seems to creep 

Like one who drops, worn out with roaming, 

From his bent back a fatal heap. 

Each moment new, with changing power, 
The surf is thundering, alone. 
Now idle, now it seems to lower, 
Hymning a Silence all unknown, 
Like a dark heart asleep, for hour 
On hour in restless monotone. 

Maximilian Voloshin 

(Born 1877) 

Of the three confessed elements of Voloshin's life: places, 
books, and men, places came first. Born in Kief, his early 
impressions were associated with the Crimea, the Hellenic 
promontory of the Scythian plain. At twenty-three he glimpsed 
the desert of central Asia. But in his own words he found 
"the fatherland of his spirit" on the Mediterranean littoral. 
And Paris was the peak on which the climbing poet came to 
rest, finding there the lifting consciousness of rhythm and form. 
Books came second: Russian, of course, and later foreign 
books: the sophistry of France and the wisdom of immemorial 
India. Men, Voloshin admits, came last. And so his acid 
bites into the plate most frequently to etch still life, or a 
landscape where the presence of God or man is a thing 

By his own acknowledgment, he learnt the art of verse from 
Ivanov, Balmont and Heredia. Whatever he may have de- 
rived from the Russian poets, it is clear that he shares Heredia's 
precision and plastic perfection, his sonority and color. Volo- 
shin's is a richly visual poetry. Indeed, he has earned his 
bread as a painter. Like Heredia, he is a sonneteer of con- 
summate skill. The sonnet from " Lunaria ", given here, con- 
cludes a cycle of fifteen, which are so written that the last line 
of each forms the first line of the next, the final sonnet being 
composed of the first lines of the preceding fourteen. And 
finally, it may be said of him, as it was of Heredia, that this 
Parnassian is a modernist. Yet he has ever stood aloof from 
coteries, an aristocratic and solitary figure. 

Although seemingly depayse and above the battle, Voloshin 
has quite recently written several poems of exasperated and 
retrograde patriotism, which, irrespective of their politics, are 
magnificent poetry. 


Maximilian Voloshin 113 


The evening light has soaked with ancient gold 

And gall the yellow hills. Like tawny fur 

Grass rises shaggy in a ruddy blur; 

Past fiery bushes metal waves unfold ; 

And enigmatic cliffs and boulders hold 

Worn troughs that are the sea's chronologer. 

In the winged twilight figures seem to stir: 

A heavy paw, a jowl grins stark and bold, 

Like swelling ribs the dubious hillocks show; 

On what bent back, like wool, does savory grow? 

What brute, what titan, to this region cleaves? 

The dark is strange . . . and yonder, space is clean. 

And there the tired ocean, panting, heaves, 

And rotting grasses breathe of iodine. 

114 Maximilian Voloshin 


Here stood a sacred forest. Here the messenger 

Wing-footed went, his touch upon the dumb glades leav- 
ing ... 

Upon the site of cities, nor stones, nor ruins heaving: 

Now on burnt slopes but sheep in scattered patches stir. 

The mountain peaks: cut crowns! Across each bitten 

The clear green twilight flows, mysteriously grieving. 

By whose dim longing stung, what is my soul retrieving? 

Who knows the road of gods ? The dawns and dusks that 

In its sonorous caves the rubble, churned, is sounding; 

Lifting its weighty crests, the troubled sea is pounding 

Upon the sandy dunes, upon the ringing shore. 

The heavy nights pass on in tears through starry 
spaces . . . 

The outcast gods command, whom men invoke no more, 

And ineluctably they show dark, alien faces. 

Maximilian Voloshin 115 


Above dark, rippled waters rises in retreat 
Earth's heavy mass: the spines and rocky crests defying 
The tortured steep in torrents of red rubble lying 
A lifeless land, its mourning reaches at my feet. 
Sad dreams and solemn dreams flow by me, bitter-sweet: 
Earth ancient and obscure, whose echoing bays are sigh- 

Where in late twilight with a sadder beauty dying 
The waves in waste hexameters billow and beat. 
And where no roadways run upon the dark's still rivers, 
Breathing an ancient mystery, the dim sail swells and 


With winds of tossed desire and seas that lift and fall. 
An alien tremor takes my ship upon its going 
Where destined roads of daring and retribution call. 
And lamp-like in the sky the Seven Stars are glowing. 

Ii6 Maximilian Voloshin 

(From the Sonnet-cycle "Lunaria") 

Pure pearl of silence brooding on the sky, 
Presider o'er conception, lamp of dreams, 
Altar of nightly spells, of crystal gleams, 
Queen of the waters where thou lov'st to lie, 
With what desire, where the long waves sigh, 
Through my dark crucifixions, toward thy beams, 
Toward Dian, toward fierce Hecate, there streams 
The vision yet unlived that shall not die. 

How strange thy diamond delirium shines 

In thy fair hollows, in thy joyless lines, 

And in the flashing mica of thy seas. 

In listless ether thou art horror's face, 

Thou, longing's cry, whom icy gaolers freeze, 

Thou, dead world's avid corpse, cast out on space. 

Maximilian Voloshin 117 


Whose the flying hands, about me shedding 

Fire, and leading me on passionate ways? 

No sonorous stones my feet are treading, 

But where vatic waters fill the days. 

Piercing through the spirit, sharp pilasters 

Rise, and candle sting the dark like bees. 

Oh, the hearts that bloom like crimson asters, 

Petalled with gold-bladed ecstasies. 

Now the evening on the temple flinging 

Patterned, carven crimson, shines and mourns. 

Oh, the pale brow to the altar clinging, 

Stung anew with stinging scarlet thorns ! 

The whole soul, high vaults and portals glowing, 

Fear like incense swathes with dim blue bands: 

Ah, I know you, sacred corals, growing 

On the pierced palms of these outstretched hands. 

Mikhail Kuzmin 

(Born 1877) 

This sensitive and precious decadent, who flaunts his descent 
from French emigres and Russian noblemen, delights in literary 
masquerading. He is in turn an eighteenth century dandy, a 
Byzantine romancer, a contemporary of Boccaccio, or a fin de 
siecle Alexandrian. His Alexandrian Songs imprison all the 
exquisite fatigues and refined perversions of a culture cynical 
about its own passing. The texture of his poetry shows the care 
and competence lavished by a belle upon her complexion. His 
lyrics have the perfumed fragility and piquant charm of Somov's 

Mikhail Kuzmin 119 


Now dry thy eyes, and shed no tears. 
In heaven's straw-pale meadows veers 
Aquarius, and earthward peers, 
His emptied vessel overturning. 
No storming snows, no clouds that creep 
Across the sheer pure emerald steep, 
Whence, thinly-drawn, a ray darts deep 
As a keen lance with edges burning. 

I2O Mikhail Kuzmin 


Night was done. We rose and after 
Washing, dressing, kissed with laughter, 
After all the sweet night knows. 
Lilac breakfast cups were clinking 
While we sat like brothers drinking 
Tea, and kept our dominoes. 

And our dominoes smiled greeting, 

And our eyes avoided meeting 

With our dumb lips' secrecy. 

" Faust " we sang, we played, denying 

Night's strange memories, strangely dying, 

As though night's twain were not we. 

Mikhail Kuzmin 1 21 


Dying is sweet 

On the battle-field 

In the hissing of arrows and spears, 

When the trumpet sounds 

And the sun of noon 

Is shining, 

Dying for country's glory 

And hearing around you: 

"Hero, farewell!" 

Dying is sweet 

For an old, venerable man 

In the house 

On the bed 

Where your forebears were born, where they died, 

Surrounded by children 

Grown men, 

And hearing around you: 

"Father, farewell!" 

But sweeter, 


Having spent the last penny, 

Having sold the last mill 

For a woman 

Who the next day is forgotten, 

Having come 

From a gay promenade 

To the sold, dismantled mansion 

To sup, 

122 Mikhail Kuzmin 

And to read the tale of Apuleius: 

The hundred and first reading, 

In the warm, fragrant bath, 

Hearing no farewell, 

To open your veins; 

And through the long skylight 

Must come the scent of stock-gilliflower ; 

Dawn must be glowing, 

And flutes be heard from afar. 

Georgy Chulkov 

(Born 1879) 

Chulkov has versified in the strained mode current ten years 
ago, and has written novels that are diluted Dostoyevsky. He 
shared the latter's Siberian experiences, in fact, being exiled 
for participation in student disturbances. He early began to 
theorize about the necessity for a return to a more sober and 
realistic art enriched by the modernistic adventures. 


124 Georgy Chulkov 


Purple Autumn unloosened her tresses and flung them 

On the heavens and over the dew-heavy fields. 

She came as a guest to the old, silent house, 

Singeing the grasses with red; 

Through the garden she moved, 

Up the balcony; scarcely she touched 

The fragile old rails. 

She pushed the door-panel softly, 

Softly she entered the room, 

Sprinkling the rugs with her sun-yellow dust, 

Dropped a red leaf upon the piano . . . 

Ever after that hour, we heard her unceasing, her tireless 


Rustle and stir and soft whisper. 
And our hands suddenly met 
With no new words, new and forever false. 
As though we had hung a wreath of red roses 
On a black, wrought-iron door 
Leading into a vault 
Where lay the rotting body 
Of a beloved dream. 
Autumnal days were upon us, 
Days of inscrutable longing; 
We were treading the stairs 
Of autumnal passion. 
In my heart a wound, 
Like the lamp of an ikon, 
Burned and would not be quenched. 

Georgy Chulkov 125 

The cup of autumnal poison 

We pressed to our lips. 

By the serpentine garden path Autumn had led us 

To crepuscular lilies 

Upon the pale, sand-humbled pond. 

And over the lilied waters and in the roses of evening, 

We loved, more superstitiously. 

And through the dark night, 

On the languorous bed, 

At the feet of my love, 

I loved death anew. 

The minutes rang tinkling like crystals 

At the brink of an autumn grave : 

Autumn and Death drunkenly clinked their glasses. 

I pressed my thirsty lips 

To the feet the ikon-lamp burnished, 

I drank the cup of love. 

Burned by the fires of sins, 

Stretched on the cross of lusts, 

Shamed, being needlessly faithless, 

I drank the cup of love. 

In the hour of ineffable dalliance 

I sensed the whisper 

Of autumn pain, of autumn passion. 

And kisses like keen needles 

Burned and pierced, 

Weaving a wreath of thorns. 

Alexander Blok 

Alexander Blok was educated at the University of St. Peters- 
burg, of which his grandfather was the rector. He belongs to 
the second generation of symbolists, and his first volume, which 
appeared in 1905, savors strongly of Solovyov's spirituality. 
The upheaval which was shaking his country is ignored in this 
book, instinct with vague eschatological expectations and de- 
voted to the Eternal Feminine. Yet here she wears the medieval 
aspect of the Lady Beautiful, and spirit in her is married to 
flesh. These songs, employing an easy symbolic cryptogram, 
mingle the prayers of the postulant with a rarefied sensuousness. 
This asserts itelf in the succeeding volumes. The \vhite melody 
is muffled by the voices of earth. Blok flees monastic walls for 
the confusion of the thoroughfares. The skirts of the Lady 
Beautiful are defiled, and the poet is stretched upon the cross of 
passion, with the bitter conviction that he is " fated to love her 
in Heaven only to betray her on earth." Christ and Russia are 
the other hypostases of Blok's trinity, their Golgotha strangely 
at one with his own. Whether he is a maker of masques for 
monastic harlequins, or another CEdipus before the Russian 
sphinx, whether he writes children's verse, lyrical dramas of an 
elusive symbolism, or poems reminiscent of the earlier Yeats, 
he reveals a keen emotional intensity and an unfailing sensi- 
tiveness of technique. 

It was given to this delicate and remote lyricist to produce 
the most significant poem of the proletarian revolution. This 
is his striking epic, called " The Twelve," which is known far 
beyond the confines of Russia, and is accessible in half a dozen 


Alexander Blok 127 


Into crimson dark thou goest, 
Thy vast orbits mock the eye. 
Small the echo that thou throwest, 
Far, I hear thy footfalls die. 

Art thou near? too far for greeting? 
Lost in topless altitudes? 
Shall I wait a sudden meeting 
Where sonorous stillness broods? 

In the solitude resounding 
Distant footsteps echo free. 
Is it thou who flamest, bounding 
Circles of infinity? 

128 Alexander Blok 


I have foreknown Thee! Oh, I have foreknown Thee. 


The years have shown me Thy premonitory face. 
Intolerably clear, the farthest sky is glowing. 
I wait in silence Thy withheld and worshiped grace. 
The farthest sky is glowing: white for Thy appearing. 
Yet terror clings to me. Thy image will be strange. 

And insolent suspicion will rouse upon Thy nearing. 
The features long foreknown, beheld at last, will change. 
How shall I then be fallen! low, with no defender: 
Dead dreams will conquer me; the glory, glimpsed, will 


The farthest sky is glowing ! Nearer looms the splendor ! 
Yet terror clings to me. Thy image will be strange. 

Alexander Blok 129 


Of evenings hangs above the restaurant 
A humid, wild and heavy air. 
The Springtide spirit, brooding, pestilent, 
Commands the drunken outcries there. 

Far off, above the alley's mustiness, 

Where bored gray summerhouses lie, 

The baker's sign swings gold through dustiness, 

And loud and shrill the children cry. 

Beyond the city stroll the exquisites, 
At every dusk and all the same: 
Their derbies tilted back, the pretty wits 
Are playing at the ancient game. 

Upon the lake but feebly furious 

Soft screams and creaking oar-locks sound. 

And in the sky, blase, incurious, 

The moon beholds the earthly round. 

And every evening, dazed and serious, 
I watch the same procession pass; 
In liquor, raw and yet mysterious, 
One friend is mirrored in my glass. 

Beside the scattered tables, somnolent 
And dreary waiters stick around. 
"In vino veritasf" shout violent 
And red-eyed fools in liquor drowned. 

130 Alexander Blok 

And every evening, strange, immutable, 
(Is it a dream no waking proves?) 
As to a rendezvous inscrutable 
A silken lady darkly moves. 

She slowly passes by the drunken ones 
And lonely by the window sits; 
And from her robes, above the sunken ones, 
A misty fainting perfume flits. 

Her silks' resilience, and the tapering 
Of her ringed fingers, and her plumes, 
Stir vaguely like dim incense vaporing, 
Deep ancient faiths their mystery illumes. 

I try, held in this strange captivity, 
To pierce the veil that darkling falls 
I see enchanted shores' declivity, 
And an enchanted distance calls. 

I guard dark secrets' tortuosities. 
A sun is given me to hold. 
An acrid wine finds out the sinuosities 
That in my soul were locked of old. 

And in my brain the soft slow flittering 
Of ostrich feathers waves once more; 
And fathomless the azure glittering 
Where two eyes blossom on the shore. 

My soul holds fast its treasure renitent, 
The key is safe and solely mine. 
Ah, you are right, drunken impenitent! 
I also know: truth lies in wine. 

Alexander Blok 131 


A little black man ran through the city. 

He extinguished the lanterns, climbing the stairs. 

Slow and white, dawn was approaching, 

With the strange little man climbing the stairs. 

Where quiet, soft shadows brooded over the town, 

Where the yellow strips of the lanterns were sleeping, 

Morning twilight upon the steps lay down, 

Into the curtains, into the door-shadows creeping. 

Oh, how poor is the city with dawn at her windows 

lying ! 
Crouching outside, the little black man is crying. 


Alexander Blok 


To sin, unshamed, to lose, unthinking, 

The count of careless nights and days, 

And then, while the head aches with drinking, 

Steal to God's house, with eyes that glaze ; 

Thrice to bow down to earth, and seven 
Times cross oneself beside the door, 
With the hot brow, in hope of heaven, 
Touching the spittle-covered floor; 

With a brass farthing's gift dismissing 
The offering, the holy Name 
To mutter with loose lips, in kissing 
The ancient, kiss-worn icon-frame; 

And coming home, then, to be tricking 
Some wretch out of the same small coin, 
And with an angry hiccup, kicking 
A lean cur in his trembling groin; 

And where the icon's flame is quaking 
Drink tea, and reckon loss and gain, 
From the fat chest of drawers taking 
The coupons wet with spittle-stain; 

And sunk in feather-beds to smother 
In slumber, such as bears may know, 
Dearer to me than every other 
Are you, my Russia, even so. 

Alexander Blok 133 


When mountain-ash in clusters reddens, 
Its leafage wet and stained with rust, 
When through my palm the nail that deadens 
By bony hands is shrewdly thrust, 

WTien leaden-rippling rivers freeze me, 
As on the wet gray height I toss, 
While my austere-faced country sees me 
Where I am swinging on the cross, 

Then through my bloody agonizing 
My staring eyes, with tears grown stiff, 
Shall see on the broad river rising 
Christ moving toward me in a skiff. 

And in his eyes the same hopes biding, 
And the same rags from him will trail, 
His garment piteously hiding 
The palm pierced with the final nail. 

Christ ! Saddened are the native reaches. 
The cross tugs at my failing might. 
Thy skiff will it achieve these beaches, 
And land here at my cruciate height? 

134 Alexander Blok 


" Pan-Mongolism though the word is strange, 
My ear acclaims its gongs." 


You are the millions, we are multitude 
And multitude and multitude. 
Come, fight! Yea, we are Scythians, 
Yea, Asians, a squint-eyed, greedy brood. 

For you : the centuries ; for us : one hour. 
Like slaves, obeying and abhorred, 
We were the shield between the breeds 
Of Europe and the raging Mongol horde. 

For centuries your ancient hammers forged 
And drowned the thunder of far hates. 
You heard like wild fantastic tales 
Old Lisbon's and Messina's sudden fates. 

Yea, so to love as our hot blood can love 
Long since you ceased to love; the taste 
You have forgotten, of a love 
That burns like fire and like the fire lays waste. 

All things we love: clear numbers' burning chill, 

The ecstasies that secret bloom. 

All things we know : the Gallic light 

And the parturient Germanic gloom. 

Alexander Bfok 135 

And we remember all: Parisian hells, 

The breath of Venice's lagoons, 

Far fragrance of green lemon groves, 

And dim Cologne's cathedral-splintered moons. 

And flesh we love, its color and its taste, 

Its deathy odor, heavy, raw. 

And is it our guilt if your bones 

May crack beneath our powerful supple paw? 

It is our wont to seize wild colts at play : 
They rear and impotently shake 
Wild manes we crush their mighty croups. 
And shrewish women slaves we tame or break. 

Come unto us, from the black ways of war, 

Come to our peaceful arms and rest. 

Comrades, while it is not too late, 

Sheathe the old sword. May brotherhood be blest. 

If not, we have not anything to lose. 
We also know old perfidies. 
By sick descendants you will be 
Accursed for centuries and centuries. 

To welcome pretty Europe, we shall spread 
And scatter in the tangled space 
Of our wide thickets. We shall turn 
To you our alien Asiatic face. 

For centuries your eyes were toward the East. 

Our pearls you hoarded in your chests, 

And mockingly you bode the day 

When you could aim your cannon at our breasts. 

136 Alexander Blok 

The time has come! Disaster beats its wings. 

With every day the insults grow. 

The, hour will strike, and without ruth 

Your proud and powerless Paestums be laid low. 

Oh pause, old world, while life still beats in you. 
Oh weary one, oh worn, oh wise! 
Halt here, as once did CEdipus 
Before the Sphinx's enigmatic eyes. 

Yea, Russia is a Sphinx. Exulting, grieving, 

And sweating blood, she cannot sate 

Her eyes that gaze and gaze and gaze 

At you with stone-lipped love for you, and hate. 

Go, all of you, to Ural fastnesses, 

We clear the battle-ground for war; 

Cold Number shaping guns of steel 

Where the fierce Mongol hordes in frenzy pour. 

But we, we shall no longer be your shield. 
But, careless of the battle-cries, 
Shall watch the deadly duel seethe, 
Aloof, with indurate and narrow eyes. 

We shall not move when the ferocious Hun 
Despoils the corpse and leaves it bare, 
Burns towns, herds cattle in the church, 
And smell of white flesh roasting fills the air. 

For the last time, old world, we bid you come, 
Feast brotherly within our walls. 
To share our peace and glowing toil 
Once only the barbarian lyre calls. 

Alexander Blok 137 



The city's roar is far away, 
Black silence broods on Neva's brink. 
No more police! We can be gay, 
Comrades, without a drop to drink. 

A boorzhooy, a lonely mourner, 
His nose tucked in his ragged fur, 
Stands lost and idle on the corner, 
Tagged by a cringing, mangy cur. 

The boorzhooy like a hungry mongrel: 
A silent question stands and begs; 
The old world like a kinless mongrel 
Stands there, its tail between its legs. 

Andrey Bely 

(Pseudonym of Boris Bugayev; born 1880) 

Reared in a professorial atmosphere, in which science was 
the major element, Boris Bugayev, better known under his 
pseudonym of Andrey Bely, has lived a double life of artist and 
analyst. The artist was engrossed in problems of form. He 
created an interesting, experimental genre which he called 
" symphony," with cadenced prose, verbal instrumentation and 
musical development of themes. The analyst, on his part, used 
mathernatic formulae on the poet's fine frenzy, inaugurating a 
science of rhythmics, at least for the Russians. Yet Bely is no 
aesthete, but a mystic, who gropes toward the light of Christ, 
" the timeless taper," and who lives by the uncertain hope of 
the ineffable coming. The metaphysical conflict is constantly 
invading the field of his poetic endeavor, until his lyrics be- 
come the battle-cries of his spiritual tourneys. He is respon- 
sible for more theorizing about symbolism than any one else, 
but characteristically enough, he erects this nebula into a 
Weltanschauung and almost into an ethics. 

His poetry is rarefied and difficult. Its delicate imagery is 
but an overtone of a resonant spiritual note. His poems have 
an esoteric quality which is also evidenced in his two famous 
novels, "The Silver Dove" and "Petersburg." Through both 
moves a curious counterpoint of the apocalyptic and the homely, 
muffled by theosophic speculation. 

The proletarian revolution elicited from Bely a cycle of 
poems, suggestively entitled "Christ Is Risen!" Herein he 
envisions Russia, of which he once despaired, as the new 
Nazareth. Quite recently he completed the first part of a 
monumental epic planned for ten volumes. 


An drey Bely 139 


In fields hopeless and dumb 
Droops the pale-bladed grain; 
It is dozing and numb 
Amid dreams that are vain. . . , 
With a high sudden hum 
The field tosses its mane: 
" Unto us Christ is come ! " 
The wild news shakes the plain. 
Like a wind-beaten drum 
Shouts the quivering grain. 

The bells ring soft and slow, 
There is clamor and pain 
In the church, and a low 
Voice is lifted again 
Thar reiterates : "Woe!" 
To the poor folk and plain 
Are brought candles aglow: 
" Christ is coming again ! " 
But with voices of woe 
They file doorward, in pain. 

140 Audrey Bely 


The shining and ponderous goblet 
I empty: the earth drops below me, 
All things sink away, I am treading 
Cold space the vast void the dim ether. 
But distant, in ancient space looming, 
My glimmering goblet: the Sun. 

I look far below me are lying 
The rivers, the forests, the valleys, 
Estranged in the vanishing distance. 
A cloud, blowing fog on my eyelids, 
Trails gossamer gold in its going. 

The flickering landscape is burning 

Its last: mid-day stars newly-kindled 

Look into my soul, sparkling : " Welcome," 

With radiance silently streaming: 

" The end of long wanderings, brother, 

Lies here, in your motherland, welcome ! " 

Slow hour upon hour in procession, 
Slow centuries, smiling, pass onward. 
In ancient space proudly I lift it, 
My glimmering goblet : the Sun. 

Audrey Bely 141 

(Opening poem of the "Funeral Mass" cycle) 

" You sit on the bed there 
In the sunset's full crimson, 
Pillows crumpled, 
Looking distracted, what 
Troubles you? " 

" Oh, swept by 
Gold cataracts, 
The fir-tree tops 
Loom athwart the sky's blue." 

" Orphaned, alone, I shall 
Through summery 
Twilights and Winter nights. 
There are new flights, but 
Try them I dare not. 
Oh, do not die!" 

" Oh, above the pines 
I float off into aether seas. 
Who, there, what, there, 
Swathes the sky with whitenesses, 
As with vestments of silver ? " 

Victor Hofman 

Hofman has to his credit some short stories and two books of 
lyrics, the second of which appeared two years before his 
suicide in Paris. 


Victor H of man 143 


Still was the evening of the ball, 
The summer ball, with dancers wending 
Where ancient linden shadows fall 
Upon the river steeply bending; 

Where in the trees the breezes breathe 
And willows droop like drowsy dreamers; 
Where it seemed beautiful to wreathe 
The lanterns and the colored streamers. 

A languorous waltz of slow retreatings, 
A waltz that singing hardly sounded; 
And many faces, many meetings, 
Soft clouds like women's shoulders rounded. 

The river looked a sculptured stream, 
Serenely the whole heaven holding, 
A fluent and enchanted dream 
Of joyous miracles unfolding. 

A crimson mantle, golden-bright, 

Upon the clouds the sun was flinging; 

The dream-swept waltz was drowned in light, 

And calling through the dusk and singing. 

A languorous waltz beside the river, 
And many meetings, many faces, 
And near cheeks' warmth, and lovely quiver 
Where eyelash with curved eyelash laces. 

Vasily Bashkin 

(c. 1880-1909) 

In his pro'se Bashkin chronicled the career of Russia's radical 
intellectuals, and as a poet he acted the part of a tame Tirtaeus 
in the camp of the revolution. He was cut off by tuberculosis 
early in life. 


Vastly Bashkin 145 


Upon the black brow of a cliff where no life ever stirred 
Alighted strong, hoary-winged eagles, grave bird upon 

They whetted their claws on the stones, sitting massive 

and grum, 
And loudly they called on their lately-fledged comrades 

to come. 

Slow-measured and heavy the beat of their wings on the 

Assuageless the rage that tempestuous burned in their eyes. 

And each newly-come they acclaimed with the pride of the 

" Hail, comrade ! Delay not ! The days we have longed 

for are near." 

Sergey Gorodetzky 

This rather uneven and sometimes slovenly poet worshiped 
at many shrines. He was a lyric myth-maker with Ivanov, 
a symbolist with Blok, an advocate of several fashionable 
doctrines, including mystical anarchy and mystical realism. 
At the head of the " Guild of Poets " which was formed shortly 
before the war, Gorodetzky attacked symbolism with Johnsonian 
zeal in the name of the " Acmeist " faith in realities. The 
poet became a jingo patriot when Russia entered the war, and 
later was as vociferously allied to the Bolsheviks as he had 
been to his Czar. His best work is informed with spirited spon- 
taneity. The poetic restoration of the obscure Russian pagan- 
ism, and a few lyrics carrying the dancing lilt of the folk- 
song, form his chief contribution. 


Sergey Gorodetzky 147 


First to sharpen the ax-flint they bent, 
On the green they had gathered, unpent, 
They had gathered beneath the green tent. 
There where whitens a pale tree-trunk, naked, 
There where whitens a pale linden trunk. 
By the linden tree, by the young linden, 
By the linden tree, by the young linden, 
The linden trunk 
White and naked. 

At the fore, shaggy, lean, hoar of head, 

Moves the wizard, as old as his runes; 

He has lived over two thousand moons. 

And the ax he inhumed. 

From the far lakes he loomed 

Long ago. 

It is his: at the trunk 

The first blow. 

And two priestesses in their tenth Spring 

To the old one they bring. 

In their eyes 

Terror lies. 

Like the trunk their young bodies are bright, 

Their wan white 

Hath she only, the tender young linden. 

1 The Russian Dionysos. 

! Sergey Gorodetzky 

One he took, one he led, 

To the trunk roughly wed, 

A white bride. 

And the ax rose and hissed 

And a voice was upraised 

And then died. 

Thus the first blow was dealt to the trunk. 

Others followed him, others upraised 

That age-old bloody ax, 

That keen flint-bladed ax: 

The flesh once, 

The tree twice 

Fiercely cleaving. 

And the trunk reddened fast 

And it took on a face. 

Lo, this notch is a nose, 

This an eye, for the nonce. 

The flesh once, 

The trunk twice 

Till all reddened the rise 

And the grass crimsoned deep. 

On the sod 

In the red stains there lies 

A new god. 

Sergey Gorodetzky 149 


Upon an amber day I loved you first, 

When, summoned by the radiant azure, 
From every grateful twig there burst 
Sweet indolence in dripping measure. 

Your whitely shining body gleamed as white 
As heady foam on lakes unfolding, 
Gay laughing Lei 1 drew out the bright 
Black hair, its beauty lightly holding. 

Himself, the god Yarila 2 crowned your hair 

With garlands green in gorgeous pleasure, 
And flung it, plaited, to the air: 
Green glory tossed upon the azure. 

1 The Russian Pan. 

2 The Russian Dionysos. 

Anna Akhmatova 

Anna Akhmatova was at one time identified with the 
Acmeist group, which represented a reaction against sym- 
bolism. The work of this talented lyricist is notable for its 
classic tendency and an insistence on purely personal themes. 
Her tenuous verse delights in a sophisticated simplicity. The 
first of her four slender volumes appeared in 1912. 

Anna Akhmatova 


Like a white stone deep in a draw-well lying, 
As hard and clear, a memory lies in me. 
I cannot strive nor have I heart for striving: 
It is such pain and yet such ecstasy. 

It seems to me that someone looking closely 

Into my eyes would see it, patent, pale. 

And, seeing, would grow sadder and more thoughtful 

Than one who listens to a bitter tale. 

The ancient gods changed men to things, but left them 
A consciousness that smoldered endlessly, 
That splendid sorrows might endure forever. 
And you are changed into a memory. 

Anna Akhmatova 


From my poor sins I am set free. 
In lilac dusk the taper smolders; 
The dark stole's rigid drapery 
Conceals a massive head and shoulders. 

"Talithakumi": Is it He 

Once more? How fast the heart is beating 

A touch: a hand moves absently 

The customary cross repeating. 

Anna Akhmatova 153 


Broad gold, the evening colors glow, 
The April air is cool and tender. 
You should have come ten years ago, 
And yet in welcome I surrender. 

Come here, sit closer in our nook, 
And turn gay eyes at what my nurses 
Might never glimpse: the blue-bound book 
That holds my awkward childish verses. 

Forgive me that I did not look 
Sunward with joy, but dwelt with sorrow, 
Forgive me all whom I mistook 
For you, oblivious of the morrow. 

154 Anna Akhmatova 


Give me comfortless seasons of sickness, 
Visitations of wrath and of wrong 
On my house ; Lord, take child and companion, 
And destroy the sweet power of song. 

Thus I pray at each matins, each vespers, 
After these many wearying days, 
That the storm-cloud which broods over Russia 
May be changed to a nimbus ablaze. 

Igor Severyanin 

(Pseud, of Igor Lotarev) 

The story goes that at the beginning of his poetic career 
Severyanin took his constitutional on the Nevsky Prospekt wear- 
ing a yellow shirtwaist, with green roses painted on his cheeks. 
He enjoys the distinction of having founded the ego-futurist 
group in Petrograd, which opposed the cubo-futurist group 
in Moscow. He later betrayed the coterie, but remained 
faithful to its canons of sound against sense. His insistence 
on neologisms and words created ex nihilo has produced a 
style which is becoming a poetic idiom. Yet a genuine musical 
quality saves some of his intolerably clownish and vacuous 
verse. His first book, " The Thunder-Seething Cup," was pub- 
lished in 1913 and ran into seven editions in two years, and he 
has now some ten volumes to his credit. His poetry recitals 
have diverted both Czarist and Bolshevist Russia. 


156 Igor Severyanin 

Poeza Mignonette 

And it passed by the sea-shore, where the foam-laces 


Where the city barouches only rarely are seen. . . . 
There the queen played her Chopin in the high palace 

And there, listening to Chopin, the young page loved the 


And what passed there was simple, and what passed there 
was charming: 

The fair page cut the pomegranate as red as her dreams, 

Then the queen gave him half thereof, with graces dis- 

She outwearied and loved him in sonata-sweet themes. 

Then she gave herself stormily, till night shut her lashes. 
Till the sunset the queen lay, there she slept as a 

slave. . . . 
And it passed by the sea-shore where the turquoise wave 

Where sonatas are singing and where foam frets the wave. 

Igor Severyanin 157 


Lace and roses in the forest morning shine, 
Shrewdly the small spider climbs his cobweb line. 

Dews are diamonding and blooming faery-bright. 
What a golden air ! What beauty ! Oh, what light ! 

It is good to wander through the dawn-shot rye, 
Good to see a bird, a toad, a dragon-fly; 

Hear the sleepy crowing of the noisy cock, 
And to laugh at echo, and to hear her mock. 

Ah, I love in vain my morning voice to hurl, 
Ah, off in the birches, but to glimpse a girl, 

Glimpse, and leaning on the tangled fence, to chase 
Dawn's unwilling shadows from her morning face. 

Ah, to wake her from her half-surrendered sleep, 
Tell her of my new-sprung dreams, that lift and leap, 

Hug her trembling breasts that press against my heart, 
Stir the morning in her, hear its pulses start. 

158 Igor S every anin 


An apple-tree in Spring shakes me, to see it grow, 
Its branches whitely weighted with unmelting snow. 
So might a hunch-backed girl stand, beautiful and dumb, 
As trembling, the tree stands, and strikes my genius 

numb. . . . 

It looks into the wide, pale shallows, mirror-clear, 
Seeking to shed the dews that stain it like a tear ; 
And stilled with horror, groans like a rude, rusty cart, 
Seeing the dismal hunch mocked by the pool's bright art. 
When steely sleep alights upon the silent lake 
For the bent apple-tree, as for a sick girl's sake, 
I come to offer tenderness the boughs would miss, 
I press upon the petal-perfumed tree a kiss. 
Then trustingly, with tears, the tree confides her care 
To me, and brushes with a touch my back-blown hair. 
Her boughs encircle me, her little twigs enlace, 
And I lift up my lips to kiss her flowering face. 

Nikolai Kluyev 

This sophisticated folk-poet, a peasant by birth, began to 
write just before the outbreak of the war, when he brought 
out three volumes of verse within two years. His mastery 
of his medium has developed steadily. His imagery, vivid and 
concrete, derives from two sources: the routine of rural life 
and Christian symbolism. Kluyev hailed the social revolution, 
and Russia as its messiah. His most recent work, " The Izba 
Songs ", has a quality of deep and original homeliness. 


160 Nikolai Kluyev 


Sunset dreams on fir-tree cones, 

Green the hedge, and brown the field ; 

Mossy rifts in weathered stones 
Meekly vernal waters yield. 

Oh, look up the wooded steep 
God has touched it with his palm; 

Piously wild berries weep, 
listening to the grassy psalm. 

And I feel no fleshly tie; 

And my heart's a springing mead. 
Come, ye pilgrims white and shy, 

Peck the early wheaten seed. 

Tender evening twilight searches 
Cottage windows, gabled byres, 

And the leaves of slender birches 
Glimmer soft as wedding fires. 

1 Tr. by Avrahm Yarmolinsky. 

Nikolai Kluyev 161 


The stove is orphaned now; the old housewife has died, 
The trivet tells the pot with tears; their talk is harried. 
Behind the pane two trustful magpies, side by side, 
Chirp: " May is near, today the finches will be married, 
Smith Woodpecker with busy knocking has stripped his 

The mole the sullen miner creeps sunward, meekly 


His tunneled, dark estate to bugs without a groat. 
The cranes are homing now, the sparrow, pert and 


Has heard the jackdaw blurt the secret of her egg." 
The tangled mop awaits the bucket, limp and tired. 
She thinks the unwashed porch for spuming suds must beg. 
How gay would be the splash of water, how desired 
A windowful of sunray tow, an endless fairy-tale. . . . 
Behind the stove the house-sprite gabbles, quick and 


Of the new tenant's stillness within the churchyard's pale, 
Of crosses listening to things nameless forever, 
Of how the dark church-entrance lulls the linger dream. 
The house-sprite gabbles on above the bleak hour's stark- 

The peasant-hut is scowling ; pewter eye agleam, 
The lonely window stares out at the thaw and darkness. 

Lubov Stolitza 

This young woman poet exhibits a charm which is insistently 
and delightfully feminine. 


Lubov Stolitza 163 


Noon in golden thaw is garbed with glory, 
Midnight's wrap of silver snows is hoary. 
Pink the buds among the aspen's ashes 
Where the diamond hoar-frost softly flashes. 
My kind cat has furtively departed, 
But the swallow has returned, high-hearted. 
Winter grief no more our dumb lips locking, 
But upon the heart Spring grief is knocking. 
And at noon we weep, our bosoms crossing, 
Midnight sees us in hot slumber tossing: 
Quiet lips, knees pressed as though in prayer, 
But our shadowed eyes are our betrayer. 

Sergei Yesenin 

One of the latest comers, Yesenin is also one of the most 
gifted of the younger Russian poets. His first book was pub- 
lished in 1916. He is a member of a group which has come 
into being during the revolution and which calls itself 
" imazhinisty " (imagists). Like Kluyev, he came from the 
masses, and, like him, operates with the intimate details of the 
peasant's life and faith. Whatever his political and literary 
associations, he is a poet del gratia. 


Sergei Yesenin 165 


Upon green hills wild droves of horses blow 
The golden bloom off of the days that go. 

From the high hillocks to the blue-ing bay 
Falls the sheer pitch of heavy manes that sway. 

They toss their heads above the still lagoon 
Caught with a silver bridle by the moon. 

Snorting in fear of their own shadow, they, 
To screen it with their manes, await the day. 

f l66 Sergei Yesenin 


Hopes, painted by the autumn cold, are shining, 
My steady horse plods on, like quiet fate, 
His moist dun lip is catching at the lining 
When the coat, flapping, flutters and falls straight. 

On a far road the unseen traces, leading 
Neither to rest nor battle, lure and fade; 
The golden heel of day will flash, receding, 
And labors in the chest of years be laid. 

Sergei Yesenin 167 


In the clear cold the dales grow blue and tremble ; 
The iron hoofs beat sharply, knock on knock. 
The faded grasses in wide skirts assemble 
Flung copper where the wind-blown branches rock. 

From empty straths, a slender arch ascending: 
Fog curls upon the air and, moss-wise, grows, 
And evening, low above the wan streams bending, 
In their white waters washes his blue toes. 

1 68 Sergei Yesenin 


Eh, Russians, 

Fowlers of the universe. 

You who trailed heaven with the net of dawn, 

Lift your trumpets ! 

Beneath the plow of storm 
The dumb earth roars. 
Golden-tusked, the colter breaks 
The cliffs. 

A new sower 

Roams the fields. 

New seeds 

He casts into the furrows. 

A guest of light drives toward us 
In a coach. 
Across the clouds 
A mare races. 

The breech-band on the mare: 
The blue; 

The bells on the breech-band: 
The stars. 

Z. Shishova 

This is one of the more gifted of the woman poets in the 
youngest choir. 


170 Z. Shishova 


How strange, oh, God, as in sleep's euthanasia, 
Thy earth today. 

Behind the window, each like an acacia, 
The poplars sway. 

From my small muff my hand withdrawing slightly, 
I find it dry. 

And from my furs, as though May touched them lightly, 
Faint perfumes fly. 

And through the night dark troubled dreams are rearing: 

They choke and cling. 

How shall I then forbear a* last from fearing, 

Oh, God, thy Spring? 

Piotr Oreshin 

Oreshin belongs to the poetic progeny of the Revolution. 


172 Plotr Oreshin 



Fall on your face, 


Mug-forward into the swamps. 

With your old were-wolf's eye, 



What a blade I am ! 



Big-browed dawns, 

And the darkness of forests, 


And the sheaves behind the village,- 

My body. 


Long ears, 

Tufted with red hair, 


Like asses' ears 

Through the heavens! 



Convulsed eyes 
Oceans resting in me, 

Piotr Oreshin 173 

And thick 
Bulbous lashes 
Burning green 
On my cheek-bones. 


My stone mouth 

Is stretched with song 

From east to west. 



And hoofs 

Kicked skyward 


The claw 

On my hairy paw 



And motionless, 

Like a bull, 

I have squatted, rock-fast, 

In a long shirt 

Of sunsets, 

And I sit now 

Sprawled out 

On the fat hill of the universe. 

174 Piotr Oreshin 


Dark forests 

On my hairy belly, 
And in the stony fir-trees 
Gray wolves, 
In cope and coif, 
Having lit a taper, 
The mass. 



Not by hands created, 

I roll my eyes heavily 

As roll the mill-stones 

Of the blue 


Of heaven. 



I chew the cud of gray clouds, 



Of perishing brothers 

With my wise 

Cheerful belly. 

Piotr Oreshin 175 


Through closed lids 

I see 

Between my legs new rivers 


New ground 
Upon golden 


Listening to the earth, 

I spit 

With out-thrust, lower lip, 

And lo! 


Pour with the sound of spears 

And, clinking, 

Pierce the earth. 



Not by hands created, 

With the spirit of Life-giving Spring 

I sweep 

The tilled field, 


On the naked knees of the universe 

I pour 

The blue waters 

Of My Eternal Triumph. 

Hosannah in the highest! 

Anatoly Marienhof 

This young poet belongs to the Imagist coterie. His verse 
is interesting for its sophisticated technique and its angular 
ruggedness. The title of the second poem given here refers 
to the month when the Soviets assumed power. 


Anatoly Marienhof 177 


Savage, nomad hordes 

Of Asia 

Poured fire out of the vats! 

Razin's execution is avenged, 

And Pugachov's pain 

Whose beard was torn away. 


Have broken 

The scruff of the earth, 

Cold with centuries, 

And the supernal sky, like a stocking 

With a hole in its heel 

Has been taken out of the laundry-trough 

Wholly clean. 

178 Anatoly Marienhof 


We trample filial obedience, 

We have gone and sat down saucily, 

Keeping our hats on, 

Our feet on the table. 

You don't like us, since we guffaw with blood, 
Since we don't wash rags washed millions of times, 
Since we suddenly dared, 
Ear-splittingly, to bark: Wow! 

Yes, sir, the spine 

Is as straight as a telephone pole, 

Not my spine only, but the spines of all Russians, 

For centuries hunched. 

Who makes a louder noise on earth now than we ? 

You say: Bedlam 

No milestones no stakes 

Straight to the devil . On the church porch our red 

cancan is glorious. 

What, you don't believe? Here are hordes, 
Droves of clouds at men's beck and call, 
And the sky like a woman's cloak, 
And no eyelash of sun. 

Jesus is on the cross again, and Barabbas 

We escort, mealy-mouthed, down the Tverskoi Pros- 

pekt. . . . 

Who will interrupt, who? The gallop of Scythian horses? 
Violins bowing the Marseillaise ? 

Anatoly Marienhof 179 

Has it ever before been heard of, that the forger 
Of steel bracelets for the globe 
Should smoke his rotten tobacco as importantly 
As the officer used to clink his stirrups? 

You ask And then? 

And then dancing centuries. 

We shall knock at all doors 

And no one will say: Goddamyou, get out! 

We! We! We are everywhere: 

Before the footlights, in the center of the stage, 

Not softy lyricists, 

But flaming buffoons. 

Pile rubbish, all the rubbish in a heap, 

And like Savonarola, to the sound of hymns, 

Into the fire with it. ... Whom should we fear? 

When the mundiculi of puny souls have become worlds. 

Every day of ours is a new chapter in the Bible. 

Every page will be great to thousands of generations. 

We are those about whom they will say: 

The lucky ones lived in 1917. 

And you are still shouting: They perish! 

You are still whimpering lavishly. 


Isn't yesterday crushed, like a dove 

By a motor 

Emerging madly from the garage ? 

Index of Authors 

Akhmatova, Anna, 150-154 

Balmont, Konstantin, 72-80 
Baltrushaitis, Yurgis, 109-111 
Baratynsky, Yevgeny, 13, 14 
Bashkin, Vasily, 144, 145 
Bely, Andrey, 138-141 
Blok, Alexander, 126-137 
Brusov, Valery, 81-91 
Bunin, Ivan, 92-97 

Chulkov, Georgy, 123-125 
Foeth, see Shenshin-Foeth 
Gorodetzky, Sergey, 146-149 

Hippius, Zinaida, 68-71 
Hofman, Victor, 142, 143 

Ivanov, Vyacheslav, 98-108 

Kluyev, Nikolai, 159-161 
Koltzov, Alexey, 15, 1 6 
Kuzmin, Mikhail, 118-128 

Lermontov, Mikhail, 17-22 

Maikov, Apollon, 39-42 
Marienhof, Anatoly, 176-179 
Merezhkovsky, Dmitry, 56-60 
Minsky, N., 53-55 

Nekrasov, Nikolai, 30-33 
Oreshin, Piotr, 171-175 

Polonsky, Yakov, 47-49 
Pushkin, Alexander, 3-12 

Severyanin, Igor, 155-158 
Shenshin-Foeth, Afanasy, 43-46 
Shishova, Z., 169, 170 
Sologub, Fyodor, 61-67 
Solovyov, Vladimir, 50-52 
Stolitza, Lubov, 162, 163 

Tolstoy, Alexey K., 34-38 
Tyutchev, Fyodor, 23-29 

Voloshin, Maximilian, 112-117 
Yesenin, Sergei, 164-168 



Edited by J. L. 5PINGARN 

This series is intended to keep Americans in touch with the 
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to-day, by means of translations that partake in some measure of 
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" The first organized effort to bring into English a series of the 
really significant figures in contemporary European literature. . . . 
An undertaking as creditable and as ambitious as any of its kind on 
the other side of the Atlantic." New York Evening Post. 

Ludwig Lewisohn. Two volumes. 

One of the most remarkable creative works of our time, revolving 
about the experiences of a man who sums up the wealth and culture 
of our age yet finds them wanting. 

PEOPIE. By PIERRE HAMP. Translated by James Whitall. With 
Introduction by Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant. 

Introducing one of the most significant writers of France, himself a 
working man, in whom is incarnated the new self-consciousness of 
the worker's world. 

IDEAS. By REMY DE GOURMONT. Translated by William 
Aspenwall Bradley. 

The critical work of one of the great aesthetic thinkers of France, 
for the first time made accessible in an authorized English version. 

Translated by Douglas Ainslie. 

A new interpretation of the meaning of history, and a survey of the 
great historians, by one of the leaders of European thought. 

Arthur Windham. 

One of Germany's most influential thinkers and men of action pre- 
sents his vision of the new society emerging out of the War. 


A German " Main Street," describing the career of a typical product 
of militarism, in school, university, business, patriotism, and love. 

Babette Deutsch and A. Yarmolinsky. 

Covers the whole field of Russian verse since Pushkin, with the 
emphasis on contemporary poets. 

CHRIST. By GIOVANNI PAPINI. Translated by Dorothy Canfield 
Fisher. In preparation. 

The first biography of Christ by a great man of letters since Renan's. 

Introduction by Benedetto Croce. Translated by Dino 
Bigongiari. In preparation. 

A rfw interpretation of the meaning of education, by one who 
shares with Croce the leadership of Italian thought to-day. 


Publishers New York 

BINDING SECT. N 0V 2 2 1977 



Deutsch, Babette (ed. and tr.)