In Early Autumn Sweetly Wistful by Fyodor Tyutchev

In early autumn sweetly wistful,

there is a short but wonderous interim,

when days seem made as though of crystal,

with evenings luminously dim…

 

Without their tillers, empty fields look wider;

where sickles ravaged in the harvester’s ebb,

a single thread left by a spider

still speaks of the unravelled web.

 

Warblers have gone, afraid of future shadows,

yet far away is winter’s firstborn storm,

and heaven pours its azure, pure and warm,

on quietly resting fields and meadows…

 

by Фёдор Иванович Тютчев (Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev)

(1857)

translated by Anatoly Liberman

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The Beetle by Nikolay Oleynikov

In a beaker sits a beetle,

sits and sucks his tawny leg.

He’s been caught. He has been sentenced,

and for ruth he does not beg.

 

He casts glances at the sofa,

in his sorrow half-alive;

there he sees the vivisectors,

honing axes, whetting knives.

 

An efficient young assistant

boils the scalpel on the heater,

at the same time gently whistling

something from the early Beatles.

 

He can whistle, brainless monkey,

licensed butcher from the dregs!

And the beetle in the beaker

sits and sucks his tawny legs.

 

He observes the surgeons closely,

and his eyes begin to roll…

He would not have been so frightened

had he known there is a soul.

 

But we’ve learned from modern scholars

that the soul is not at issue:

fat and kidneys, blood and choler

are the soul’s immortal tissue.

 

All that makes us hustle-bustle

are some ligaments and muscles.

 

This is science. Facts are stubborn

but are easy to apply.

And he wrings his arms (the beetle),

he is ready, he will die.

 

Now the resident approaches,

the MD who cuts and rips;

on the beetle he discovers

what he needs between the ribs.

 

And he throws and sticks the patient,

as he might have stuck a boar,

then he bares his teeth and, beastlike,

fills the workroom with his roar.

 

Whereupon the vivisectors

grab the beetle’s carcass, and

some explore his chest with pincers,

some dismember him by hand.

 

And they kicked him, flicked him, pricked him,

and they tore to death their victim.

Lacerated by that thug,

dies of injuries the bug.

 

He is cold. His eyes don’t tremble…

Then the brigands stopped their pranks

and retreated, somewhat sobered,

stepping back in serried ranks.

 

Torture, anguish – all is over.

There is nothing more to lose.

The remaining subsoil waters

from his body slowly ooze.

 

In a chink, inside the closet,

waits his son and hums a song –

‘Daddy, Daddy, where’re you, Daddy?

Pauvre garçon!

 

He will never see this father,

who could not have travelled farther.

 

There he stands, his vivisector,

bending over with the lads –

ugly, shaggy, grinning bravely,

with his pincers and his adze.

 

You elitist, sexist mugger,

scoundrel, scholarly and smug!

Read my lips: this little bugger

is a martyr, not a bug.

 

Soon the window will be opened

by the coarse, unfeeling guard,

and he’ll find himself, our darling,

on the driveway in the yard.

 

Near the porch, amid the garbage,

he will not rot (his body hacked,

with his legs all pointed upward)

and await the final act.

 

Neither rain nor sun will quicken

him who thus unburied lies.

And a chicken – yes, a chicken –

will peck out his beady eyes.

 

by Николай Макарович Олейников (Nikolay Makarovich Oleynikov)

a.k.a. Nikolai Makarovich Oleinikov

(1934)

translated by Anatoly Liberman


In ‘The Beetle’ Oleynikov continues a fable begun by Captain Lebyadkin the mad poet from Dostoevsky’s The Demons.