From the Seashore

In honor of the Russian holiday, National Day, we present this work by the nation’s first female professional poet.

Anna Bunina
Russian
1774 – 1829

 

The shining sea
Seamless from the sky,
The quiet waves
Splashed upon the shore,
The gentle swells
Shivered just a little.

The sun is extinguished,
There is no moon,
Scarlet blaze
Glints in the west,
Birds in their nests,
Flocks in their roosts.

Everything suddenly shushed,
Everything in its place.

The room is still,
There is no rustling.
The children are cuddled
Modestly in the corners.

Lina touched
The harp strings:
The golden harp
Raised its voice;
Sounds in harmony
Sing with Lina.

Rosy flames
Shine from the fireplace;
The clear bright fire
Skips upon the coals;
The dark-gray smoke
Twists in a column.

The fierce flame
Scorches the soul;
The heart languishes,
Everything is desiccated.
Poison flows
In my veins.

Tears ran dry
In cloudy eyes,
Sighs stopped
The breast from heaving,
Speech freezes
On chilled lips!

Sea rise up!
Be a coffin for me!
Golden harp,
Strike like thunder!
Flame overflow,
Incinerate this poor woman!

I Love

In honor of Victory Day, we present this work by one of modern Russia’s most widely-loved poets.

Andrey Dementyev
Russian
1928 – 2018

 

To river came a woman fair.
A beauty with her auburn tresses.
My flame for her one word expresses –
I wrote it on the parched sand there.

She read it out aloud to me.
“I love you too…” she answered dearly.
Her words came clearly:
“Darling, darling…”
my mind lost then its liberty.

I sat with her upon the sand.
The sun upon our backs was blazing.
Beneath, the rustling pines were gazing.
The rooks’ cry came from distant land.

And for her I some lines composed.
Across our Rapids I was swimming
to fetch a bunch of daisies, brimming,
which I then at her feet disposed.

She laughed and then she read my palm.
She tore the petals from the flowers.
So were my vows possessed of powers,
Or was this superstition’s balm?

And many years have passed since then.
Again, I see – though
eyes are shuttered –
that written word, not even muttered,
is made indelible by pen.

The Gates of Paradise

In honor of Defense of the Fatherland Day, we present this work by one of Russia’s great martyred poets.

Nikolay Gumilyov
Russian
1886 – 1921

 

The eternal entrance into Eden
Is not locked with seven precious seals;
It has no charms nor light of heaven,
And the people don’t know that it is.

It’s a doorway in a wall forgotten —
Stones, moss and nothing more else,
Near stands a beggar; and the rotten,
Keys are hanging at his gaudy waist.

Paladins ride by in agitation,
Trumpets wail, and minted silver chant;
Nobody spares his attention
To the Peter — the Apostle, the saint.

They dream: There, by Sepulchre of Savor,
Paradise will open doors for us;
At the footing of the Mount Thabor
The committed hour will thrust.

So by the armored monster goes;
In the air the trumpets ring and wail;
The Apostle in the tattered cloth,
Like a beggar, looks and poor and pale.

Lot’s Wife

Anna Akhmatova
Russian
1889 – 1966

 

And the just man trailed God’s shining agent,
Over a black mountain, in his giant track,
While a restless voice kept harrying his woman:
“It’s not too late, you can still look back

At the red towers of your native Sodom,
The square where once young sang, the spinning-shed,
At the empty windows set in the tall house
Where sons and daughters blessed your marriage-bed.”

A single glance: a sudden dart of pain
Stitching her eyes before she made a sound…
Her body flaked into transparent salt,
And her swift legs rooted to the ground.

Who will grieve for this woman? Does she not seem
Too insignificant for our concern?
Yet in my heart I never will deny her,
Who suffered death because she chose to turn.

Beatrice

Konstantin Balmont
Russian
1867 – 1942

 

I fell in love with you, just when had seen you, dearest,
I still recall the simplest talk around us,
You were just one the mute, and speech of fire, fierce,
In lost of sounds words, were send me by your eyes.

Days by the days were sunk. The year had passed since then.
And spring is sending us its living rays, once more,
The flowers are set in fairy dress again,
But I’m? I’m still in love with you as was before.

And you’re, as in the past, the silent one and sad;
Only your look sometimes is glowing and speaking,
Not in such way, sometimes, the moon – an empress, great, –

Is hiding her bright face behind a mound, pricking? –
Yet, and behind the rock, with her forehead inclined,
From darkness, narrow, she sheds the gorgeous light.

Unique Days

In honor of the First Day of Chanukah, we present this work by one of Russia’s most famous Jewish poets.

Boris Pasternak
Russian
1890 – 1960

 

How I remember solstice days
Through many winters long completed!
Each unrepeatable, unique,
And each one countless times repeated.

Of all these days, these only days,
When one rejoiced in the impression
That time had stopped, there grew in years
An unforgettable succession.

Each one of them I can evoke.
The year is to midwinter moving,
The roofs are dripping, roads are soaked,
And on the ice the sun is brooding.

Then lovers hastily are drawn
To one another, vague and dreaming,
And in the heat, upon a tree
The sweating nesting-box is steaming.

And sleepy clock-hands laze away
The clock-face wearily ascending.
Eternal, endless is the day,
And the embrace is never-ending.

Flowers of Night

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 150th birthday.

Zinaïda Gippius
Russian
1869 – 1945

 

Oh, do not trust the nighttime hour!
It is filled with evil beauty.
In the nighttime people are close to death,
And flowers alone are strangely alive.

Dark and warm are the quiet walls,
And the hearth is long without fire…
And from the flowers I await betrayals,
For the flowers hate me.

Among them I feel uneasy and hot;
Their aroma is stifling and bold,
But to run away from them is not
Possible—no escape from their arrows.

The evening casts its rays of light
Upon their petals through the blood-stained satin…
The tender body comes to life—
The evil flowers have awoken.

From the toxic arum measured
Droplets fall upon the carpet…
Everything is mysterious and uncertain…
And seems to me a quiet argument.

They rustle; they stir and respire;
Like enemies, they keep their eye on me.
Everything I think—they know, they hear,
And they want to poison me.

Oh, do not trust the nighttime hour!
Beware of evil beauty.
In the nighttime we are all closer to death,
The flowers alone are alive.

I Love You as the Sea Loves the Sunrise

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 150th birthday.

Mirra Lokhvitskaya
Russian
1869 – 1905

 

I love you as the sea loves the sunrise,
As Narcissus loves the glimmer and the coldness of dreamy waters.
I love you as the stars love the crescent moon,
As the poem loves its creator inspired by fancy.
I love you like the flame that attracts the moth to its Death, from exhaustive love and haunted by melancholy.
I love you as the rushes love the eager wind.
I love you with all my will, and all the strings of my soul.
I love you as I love enchanting dreams,
More than the sun itself, more than the happiness itself, more than life or the joy of spring.

The Russian God

Pyotr Vyazemsky
Russian
1792 – 1878

 

Do you need an explanation
what the Russian God can be?
Here’s a rough approximation
as the thing appears to me.

God of snowstorms, God of potholes,
every wretched road you’ve trod,
coach inns, cockroach haunts, and ratholes –
that’s him, that’s your Russian God.

God of frostbite, God of famine,
beggars, cripples by the yard,
farms with no crops to examine –
that’s him, that’s your Russian God.

God of breasts and… all sagging,
swollen legs in bast shoes shod,
curds gone curdled, faces dragging –
that’s him, that’s your Russian God.

God of brandy, pickle vendors,
those who pawn what serfs they’ve got,
of old women of both genders –
that’s him, that’s your Russian God.

God of medals and of millions,
God of yard sweepers unshod,
lords in sleighs with two postilions –
that’s him, that’s your Russian God.

Fools win grace, wise men be wary,
there he never spares the rod,
God of everything contrary –
that’s him, that’s your Russian God.

God of all that gets shipped in here,
unbecoming, senseless, odd,
God of mustard on your dinner –
that’s him, that’s your Russian God.

God of foreigners, whenever
they set foot on Russian sod,
God of Germans, now and ever –
that’s him, that’s your Russian God.

Monument

We present this work in honor of the Russian holiday, National Unity Day.

Garvriil Derzhavin
Russian
1743 – 1816

 

I built myself a monument, eternal and miraculous,
It’s higher than the Pyramids, than metal it is harder;
Swift winds and thunder cannot knock it down
The flight of time cannot demolish it.

Thus I won’t really die! The part of me that’s largest
Will baffle death, and will escape decay,
My fame will grow, and never wither,
As long as Slavs are honored in this world.

And word of me shall spread from the White Sea to the Black,
Where Volga, Don, Neva and Ural rivers flow,
Each member of the countless tribes will know
How from obscurity I found my way to fame,

By daring first in lively Russian speech
To celebrate the virtues of Felitsa,
To talk of God with intimate simplicity,
And with a smile announce the truth to kings.

O Muse! take pride in your well-earned rewards,
Disdain all those who show disdain for you,
And with an easy and unhurried hand,
With dawn eternal crown your brow.