Рождественская звезда (Star of the Nativity) by Joseph Brodsky

In the cold season, in a locality accustomed to heat more than
to cold, to horizontality more than to a mountain,
a child was born in a cave in order to save the world;
it blew as only in deserts in winter it blows, athwart.

To Him, all things seemed enormous: His mother’s breast, the steam
out of the ox’s nostrils, Caspar, Balthazar, Melchior – the team
of Magi, their presents heaped by the door, ajar.
He was but a dot, and a dot was the star.

Keenly, without blinking, through pallid, stray
clouds, upon the child in the manger, from far away –
from the depth of the universe, from its opposite end – the star
was looking into the cave. And that was the Father’s stare.

By Иосиф Александрович Бродский
(Joseph Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky a.k.a. Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky)
(December 1987)
translated by the author, Brodsky, himself

Brodsky reciting his poem

Рождественская звезда

В холодную пору, в местности, привычной скорей к жаре,
чем к холоду, к плоской поверхности более, чем к горе,
младенец родился в пещере, чтоб мир спасти:
мело, как только в пустыне может зимой мести.

Ему все казалось огромным: грудь матери, желтый пар
из воловьих ноздрей, волхвы — Балтазар, Гаспар,
Мельхиор; их подарки, втащенные сюда.
Он был всего лишь точкой. И точкой была звезда.

Внимательно, не мигая, сквозь редкие облака,
на лежащего в яслях ребенка издалека,
из глубины Вселенной, с другого ее конца,
звезда смотрела в пещеру. И это был взгляд Отца.

The poem recited by the actor Anton Shagin
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Нежность (Gentleness) by Yevgeny Yevtushenko

This can’t go on:
is after all injustice of its kind.
How in what year did this come into fashion?
Deliberate indifference to the living,
deliberate cultivation of the dead.
Their shoulders slump and they get drunk sometimes
and one by one they quit;
orators at the crematorium
speak words of gentleness to history.
What was it took his life from Mayakovsky?
What was it put the gun between his fingers?
If with that voice of his, with that appearance,
if ever they had offered him in life
some crumbs of gentleness.
Men live. Men are trouble-makers.
Gentleness is a posthumous honour.

by Евгений Александрович Евтушенко
(Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Yevtushenko)
(1960)
translation by Robin Milner-Gulland and Peter Levi

Нежность

Разве же можно,
чтоб все это длилось?
Это какая-то несправедливость…
Где и когда это сделалось модным:
«Живым — равнодушье,
внимание — мертвым?»
Люди сутулятся,
выпивают.
Люди один за другим
выбывают,
и произносятся
для истории
нежные речи о них —
в крематории…
Что Маяковского жизни лишило?
Что револьвер ему в руки вложило?
Ему бы —
при всем его голосе,
внешности —
дать бы при жизни
хоть чуточку нежности.
Люди живые —
они утруждают.
Нежностью
только за смерть награждают.

Additional information: This poem’s subject is the suicide of Vladimir Mayakovsky which, for a long time, was speculated to be a government sanctioned assassination though Mayakovsky was prone to suicidal ideation.

Exhausted from depression… by Ilya Krichevsky

Exhausted from depression,
to the gravestone I went,
and beyond the gravestone
I saw not peace,
but an eternal battle
which we only dreamed of in life.

Without hesitation I leaped
into the gulf of greedy fire,
but here I begged the Lord:
“Give back to me, Lord, peace,
why eternal battle for me,
take me, I am yours, I am yours.”

All my life I’ve rushed,
between hell and heaven,
today the devil, and tomorrow God,
today exhausted, and tomorrow empowered,
today proud, and tomorrow I burn…
Stop.

By Илья Маратович Кричевский
(Ilya Maratovich Krichevsky)
(3 February 1963 – 21 August 1991)
translated by Albert C. Todd

Additional information: I believe this is a fragment or shortened version but I was unable to find a copy of the original Russian version online to check against. If anyone knows where to find it please leave a link in the comments or, if you feel like it, copy/paste it. Many thanks.

Знаю, не убьет меня злодей,… (I Know That A Gangster…) by Ivan Elagin

I know that a gangster will not murder me
In some dark alley,
But a bullet shall shatter my skull
In the name of somebody’s ideas.

And some individuals or other will
Administer my trial and verdict:
And they won’t simply seize and kill me, mind you,
They will bump me off for the sake of ideals.

I will yet be lying in a puddle,
Sniffing the stones by the roadside,
When instant beatitude and
Heavenly harmony will descend to earth,

As well as fruitful plenty,
Felicity, and justice for all –
All these things which I hindered
And desperately opposed while alive.

And then my fellow servant of the Muses,
Who likes to worry about Truth and Justice,
Will recall the eggs that have to be broken,
And recall the omlette which has to be made.

By Иван Венедиктович Елагин
(Ukrainian: Іван Венедиктович Єлагін)
Ivan Venediktovich Elagin
(a.k.a. Ivan Matveyev)
translated by Helen Matveyeff

Знаю, не убьет меня злодей,…

Знаю, не убьет меня злодей,
Где-нибудь впотьмах подкарауля,
А во имя чьих-нибудь идей
Мне затылок проломает пуля.

И расправу учинят, и суд
Надо мной какие-нибудь дяди,
И не просто схватят и убьют,
А прикончат идеалов ради.

Еще буду в луже я лежать,
Камни придорожные обнюхав,
А уже наступит благодать –
Благорастворение воздухов,

Изобилье всех плодов земных,
Благоденствие и справедливость,
То, чему я, будучи в живых,
Помешал, отчаянно противясь.

Амнистия (Amnesty) by Ivan Elagin

The man is still alive
Who shot my father
In Kiev in the summer of ’38.

Probably, he’s pensioned now,
Lives quietly,
And has given up his old job.

And if he has died,
Probably that one is still alive
Who just before the shooting
With a stout wire
Bound his arms
Behind his back.

Probably, he too is pensioned off.

And if he is dead,
Then probably
The one who questioned him still lives.
And that one no doubt
Has an extra good pension.

Perhaps the guard
Who took my father to be shot
Is still alive.

If I should want now
I could return to my native land.
For I have been told
That all these people
Have actually pardoned me.

By Иван Венедиктович Елагин
(Ukrainian: Іван Венедиктович Єлагін)
Ivan Venediktovich Elagin
(a.k.a. Ivan Matveyev)
translated by Bertram D. Wolfe

Амнистия

Еще жив человек,
Расстрелявший отца моего
Летом в Киеве, в тридцать восьмом.

Вероятно, на пенсию вышел.
Живет на покое
И дело привычное бросил.

Ну, а если он умер –
Наверное, жив человек,
Что пред самым расстрелом
Толстой
Проволокою
Закручивал
Руки
Отцу моему
За спиной.

Верно, тоже на пенсию вышел.

А если он умер,
То, наверное, жив человек,
Что пытал на допросах отца.

Этот, верно, на очень хорошую пенсию вышел.

Может быть, конвоир еще жив,
Что отца выводил на расстрел.

Если б я захотел,
Я на родину мог бы вернуться.

Я слышал,
Что все эти люди
Простили меня.

Additional information: Ivan Elagin (December 1, 1918 – February 8, 1987); Ukrainian: Іван Єлагін, Russian: Иван Венедиктович Елагин, real name Ivan Matveyev) was a Russian émigré poet born in Vladivostok. He was the husband of poet Olga Anstei (Ukrainian: Ольга Анстей), best remembered for writing about the Holocaust.

Elagin’s real surname was Matveyev; his father was the poet Venedikt Mart of Vladivostok, and he was himself the uncle of the Leningrad poet Novello Matveyeva. He was preparing to be a physician when his medical education was interrupted by World War II, and in 1943 he found himself as a forced labourer in Germany, working as a nurse in a German hospital. Knowing he would be arrested if he returned to the Soviet Union, he remained in Munich after the war and published her first books of poetry, Po doroge ottuda (The Road from There) in 1947 and Ty, moio stoletie (You Are My Century) in 1948.

In 1950 he emigrated to the United States to work as a proofreader for the New York Russian-language newspaper Novoe russkoe slovo. The earned a Ph.D. And taught Russian literature at the University of Pittsburgh, were he was surrounded by a few dedicated students. Elagin reportedly was held for a long time after World War II by American intelligence in a displaced-persons detention camp under the suspicion that he had been planted by Soviet Intelligence. Hence to some people his poetry seemed to have double directions and meaning.

Elagin was the most talented poet of postwar emigration from the Soviet Union. He related with great sympathy to the post-Stalin generation of poets, and his poetry bears a resemblance to the younger generation’s, with its resounding rhythms and alliterations, in spite of the difference in age and experience. Though he wished to visit his country he declined invitations because of the ideological conformity they would have required. He translated American poets into Russian, including a brilliant rendering of Stephen Vincent Benét’s monumental John Brown’s Body. Unfortunately, during his lifetime no American poet chose to translate him, and he remained unknown to Americans. Since 1988 his poetry has been returning to Russia.

Biographical information about Elagin, p.673, ‘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).