Весенний день (Spring Day) by Igor Severyanin

To my dear friend K. M. Fofanov

This day of spring is hot and gold,
The city’s entirely blinded by the sun.
I’m once more me, I’m once more young,
I’m once more happy and deep in love.

My soul sings and yearns for the countryside.
Everyone I address as brother…
What boundless freedom and room to move!
What songs, what flower are blooming now!

I can’t wait to leap into a cart
And jolt into the fresh meadows over ruts,
Look windburned peasants women in the eye
And embrace my enemy as a friend.

Rustle, rustle, you spring oak woods.
Grow, grass! Lilac, flower!
None are guilty, all men are innocent
On such a blessed day.

by Игорь Северянин (Игор Васильевич Лотарёв)
(Igor Severyanin a.ka. Igor Vasilevich Lotaryov)
translated by Bernard Meares

Весенний день

Дорогому К. М. Фофанову

Весенний день горяч и золот, –
Весь город солнцем ослеплен!
Я снова — я: я снова молод!
Я снова весел и влюблен!

Душа поет и рвется в поле,
Я всех чужих зову на «ты»…
Какой простор! Какая воля!
Какие песни и цветы!

Скорей бы — в бричке по ухабам!
Скорей бы — в юные луга!
Смотреть в лицо румяным бабам,
Как друга, целовать врага!

Шумите, вешние дубравы!
Расти, трава! Цвети, сирень!
Виновных нет: все люди правы
В такой благословенный день!

1911 г.

Additional information: Igor Severyanin (И́горь Северя́нин) whose real name was Igor Vasilyevich Lotaryov (И́горь Васи́льевич Лотарёв) (May 16, 1887 – December 20, 1941) was a Russian poet who presided over the circle of the so-called Ego-Futurists.
Konstantin Mikhailovich Fofanov (Константин Михайлович Фофанов) (1862-1911), to who the poem is dedicated, was a Russian poet noted for the transparent purity and musicality of his verse.

Severyanin, whose real surname was Lotaryov, was born into a noble family; his father was an army officer. He had no former higher education and published his first poems when he was only eighteen. In October 1911 Severyin announced the foundation of Egofuturism, which, in addition to the Futurists’ strident rejection of all past culture, placed special emphasis on egoism and individualism as the vital moving force. He was an outstanding reader of poetry and during a poetry evening in Moscow he was elected “King of the Poets” in spite of the presence of Aleksandr Blok and Vladimir Mayakovsky. From 1913 Severyanin’s popularity was beyond description, though not long-lived. His poetry contains an extraordinary mixture of exhibitionism, a flaunting of neologisms, and an extraordinary poetic gift. There is no mistaking the poems of Severyanin for anyone else’s.

In 1918 he emigrated to Estonia where he lived in a fishing village keeping his distance from émigré politics and groups, but managing to publish from time to time in Berlin, Belgrade, Tartu, and Bucharest. He was crossed off the list of poets worthy of attention by the Paris legislators of émigré fashion but not forgotten by Russian readers in the Soviet Union.

Biographical information about Severyanin, p.160-161, ‘Twentieth Century Russian Poetry’ (1993), compiled by Yevgeny Yevtushenko (ed. Albert C. Todd and Max Hayward) , published by Fourth Estate Limited by arrangement with Doubleday of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc. (transcribed as found in the original text).

Compassion by Norma Phillips

Have you heard the word compassion
Said the wise man to the fool
I doubt you know the meaning
If you never went to school.
The fool, he started crying
And the wise man walked away
A simpleton, the fools best friend
Said, come, you’ll be ok.

By Norma Phillips

Ты думаешь в твоё жилище… (You think…) by Georgy Rayevsky

You think: wont fate tap
Like a walking stick at your dwelling?
And what is that beggar to you,
Who’s standing there on the street?
But we’re bound by a dreaful
Collective guarantee, and it’s not for
Some to be tormented with mortal anguish,
Others to drink wine with joy.
We are those who fall and moan
And those whose triumph is now.
We are that ship which is going down,
And the one who sank it.

by Георгий Авдеевич Раевский (Оцуп)
(Georgy Avdeevich Rayevsky) (Otsup)
translated by Albert C. Todd

Ты думаешь в твоё жилище…

Ты думаешь: в твоё жилище
Судьба клюкой не постучит?..
И что тебе до этой нищей,
Что там на улице стоит!

Но грозной круговой порукой
Мы связаны, и не дано
Одним томиться смертной мукой,
Другим пить радости вино.

Мы – те, кто падает и стонет,
И те, чьё нынче торжество;
Мы – тот корабль, который тонет,
И тот, что потопил его.

Additional information: Georgy Avdeevich Raevsky (Георгий Авдеевич Раевский) (real name Otsup; December 29, 1897, Tsarskoye Selo  – February 19, 1963, Stuttgart) was a Russian poet and prose writer and author of articles regarding the theater. He emigrated to Paris in the early 1920s and was a part of the Cross roads group. In order not to be confused with his brother, Nikolai Avdeevich Otsup, he took the name of Pushkin‘s friend Nikolai Raevsky as a pseudonym . He wrote poems, stories, articles about music, parodies and epigrams. On a side note the book I referenced, published in the 1990s, gives his dates as 1897 to 1962 but Wikipedia gives them as 17 December 1897 to 19 February 1963 which I assume to be more accurate.

Rayevsky, whose real surname was Otsup, was the brother of the poet Nikolai Otsup and the son of the photographer of the Imperial Court in St Petersburg. He emigrated to Paris in the early 1920s and joined the Perekriostki (Crossroads) group, which appeared in 1926, together with Yury Terapiano, Vladimir Smolensky, Dovid Knut, and Yury Mandelstam. His poetry regularly appeared in émigré journals and resulted in three collections: Strofy (Strofes) (1928), Novye stikhotvoreniia (New Poems) (1946), and Tret’ ia kniga (Third Book)(1953). In the serious, philosophical aspect of his poetry can be seen Rayevsky’s religious approach to the world and perhaps, as in the poem here, and expression of the tragedy of emigration.

Biographical information about Rayevsky, p.331-332, ‘Twentieth Century Russian Poetry’ (1993), compiled by Yevgeny Yevtushenko (ed. Albert C. Todd and Max Hayward) , published by Fourth Estate Limited by arrangement with Doubleday of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc. (transcribed as found in the original text).

Scything by Gillian Clarke

It is blue May. There is work
to be done. The spring’s eye blind
with algae, the stopped water
silent. The garden fills
with nettle and briar.
Dylan drags branches away.
I wade forward with my scythe.

There is stickiness on the blade.
Yolk on my hands. Albumen and blood.
Fragments of shell are baby-bones,
the scythe a scalpel, bloodied and guilty
with crushed feathers, mosses, the cut cords
of the grass. We shout at each other
each hurting with a separate pain.

From the crown of the hawthorn tree
to the ground the willow warbler
drops. All day in silence she repeats
her question. I too return
to the place holding the pieces,
at first still hot from the knife,
recall how warm birth fluids are.

by Gillian Clarke
from Letter from a Far Country (1982)

Additional information: Gillian Clarke wrote a post discussing the poem for those interested.

Blog note: Annually, I put up a review of Eurovision’s grand finale overnight. Due to a prior engagement on Saturday I was unable to do so this year but will post it prior to next week’s poetry post.

Мы разучились нищим подавать (We Have Forgotten…) by Nikolai Tikhonov

We have forgottten how to offer alms,
And meet the dawn, and breathe the sea’s salt heavens,
And go in shops, and count out from our palms
Our copper trash against the gold of lemons.

The ships that visit us, chance brings them all.
The rails bear freight because they’ve always done so.
And count our people. As each name is called
You’ll see how many dead will stand to answer.

We’ll solemnly ignore the whale parade.
The knife won’t serve for work when once it’s broken,
But even with this blackened, broken blade
Immortal pages can be still cut open.

by Николай Семёнович Тихонов
(Nikolai Semenovich Tikhonov)
(November 1921)
translated by Michael Frayn

Мы разучились нищим подавать

Мы разучились нищим подавать,
Дышать над морем высотой солёной,
Встречать зарю и в лавках покупать
За медный мусор – золото лимонов.

Случайно к нам заходят корабли,
И рельсы груз проносят по привычке;
Пересчитай людей моей земли –
И сколько мёртвых встанет в перекличке.

Но всем торжественно пренебрежём.
Нож сломанный в работе не годится,
Но этим чёрным, сломанным ножом
Разрезаны бессмертные страницы.

Additional information: Никола́й Семёнович Ти́хонов (Nikolai Semenovich Tikhonov) (4 December [O.S. 22 November] 1896 – 8 February 1979) was a Soviet writer and member of the Serapion Brothers literary group. He volunteered for the Imperial Russian Army at the outbreak of World War I and served in a hussar regiment; he entered the Red Army in 1918, fought in the Russian Civil War, and was demobilized in 1922. He served on the Finnish front in the Winter War and was in Leningrad for the Siege. In 1944 he became chair of the Union of Soviet Writers, but was dismissed by Joseph Stalin in 1946 for being too tolerant of Zoshchenko and Akhmatova. However, he remained an important figure in Soviet literary circles, and he was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize in 1957. Tikhonov was the first chairman of the Soviet Peace Committee, serving from 1949 to 1979.

Tikhonov, the son of a barber, graduated in 1911 from the St Petersburg School of Trade. He participated in World War I as a Hussar and then fought in the Civil War in the Red Army. During his army service he began to write poetry and made his entrance into the Russian literary scene firmly and forever with his long narrative poem “Sami” (1920), about an Indian porter or carrier, and his two collections, Orda (Horde) and Braga (Home-Brewed Beer) (both 1922). Also in the early 1920s he joined the group known as the Serapion Brothers, the followers of Yevgeny Zamyatin, united mostly by their desire for greater freedom and variety in literature.

Tikhonov’s poems, especially his ballards, are perhaps more reminiscent of Kipling’s poetry than anything else, though Kipling was not at that time widely translated into Russian and it is not known whether Tikhonov read him in English. Tikhonov’s Russian antecedent was undoubtedly Nikolai Gumilyov. Tikhonov’s particularly spectacular poetic feats include his collection Stikhi of Kakhetii (Poems about Kakhetiya) and his translations of Georgian poets.

After 1934, when he was elected to the presidium of the Writers Union, he committed himself to organisational work as a literary functionary. He was the chairman of the Writers Union during World War II and offered help to many young poets. After the war Tikhonov’s most interesting poetic ventures were in poems about Yugoslavia. However, some of his postwar poetry shows haste; much of his time was taken up by his extensive public commitments. Under pressure from Stalin in 1948 he signed a letter against his Yugoslav friends, betraying not only them but himself too.

Biographical information about Tikhonov, p.326-327, ‘Twentieth Century Russian Poetry’ (1993), compiled by Yevgeny Yevtushenko (ed. Albert C. Todd and Max Hayward) , published by Fourth Estate Limited by arrangement with Doubleday of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc. (transcribed as found in the original text).