And I knew a destructive pleasure
in trampling what's sacred and good,
a delirium exceeding all measure -
this absinthe that poisons my blood!
by Александр Александрович Блок
(Alexander Alexandrovich Blok)
translated by Stephen Capus
Over the empty fields a black kite hovers,
and circle after circle smoothly weaves.
In the poor hut, over her son in a cradle
a mother grieves:
‘There suck my breast: there, grow and take our bread,
and learn to bear your cross and bow your head.’
Time passes. War returns. Rebellion rages.
The farms and villages go up in flame,
and Russia in her ancient tear-stained beauty,
is yet the same,
unchanged through all the ages. How long will
the mother grieve and the kite circle still?
by Александр Александрович Блок (Alexander Alexandrovich Blok)
(22 March 1916)
translated by Frances Cornford and Esther Polianowsky Salaman
Fun fact: As you can tell from the date this was written into the lead up to the Russian Revolution. To be more exact, during the early months of 1916, there were increasing food and fuel shortages and increasingly high prices. Thus the Progressive Bloc was formed. Despite successes in the Brusilov offensive, the Russian war effort was still characterised by shortages, poor command, death and desertion. Away from the front, the conflict caused starvation, inflation and a torrent of refugees. Both soldiers and civilians blamed the incompetence of the Tsar and his government. This lead, later in the year, to increasing strikes which are supported by the military who declare they won’t protect the Tsar from a revolution – which would be successful in October 1917 after many further events and internal conflicts.
A recital of the poem in Russian:
The original Russian text in Cyrillic:
Чертя за кругом плавный круг,
Над сонным лугом коршун кружит
И смотрит на пустынный луг. —
В избушке мать над сыном тужит:
«На́ хлеба, на́, на́ грудь, соси,
Расти, покорствуй, крест неси».
Идут века, шумит война,
Встаёт мятеж, горят деревни,
А ты всё та ж, моя страна,
В красе заплаканной и древней. —
Доколе матери тужить?
Доколе коршуну кружить?