2 There is a certain hour like a shed burden, When in ourselves we tame our pride. Hour of discipledom – in every lifetime Triumphant, and not to be denied.
A lofty hour when, having laid our weapons At feet shown to us by a pointing Hand, We trade for camel hair our martial porphyry Upon the sea’s expanse of sand.
O this hour, like the Voice that raises Us to greater deeds from the self-will of days! O hour, when our dense volume presses on us We bow to earth like the ripe ears of maize.
The ears have grown, the festive hour is over, The grain is longing for the grinding mill. The Law! The Law! The yoke which in the earth’s womb I lust after still.
Hour of discipledom. But visible’s Another light – yet one more dawn has glowed. Be blessed, and follow in its steps, You, sovereign hour of solitude.
by Марина Ивановна Цветаева (Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva) (15 April 1921) from Ремесло (The Craft) (1923) translated by David McDuff
Information: The cycle is dedicated to Prince Serge Wolkonsky, also referred to as Sergei Mikhailovitch Volkonsky (Серге́й Миха́йлович Волко́нский), who was the grandson of the Decemberist Sergei Volkonsky. Serge was a theatre figure and writer whom Tsvetaeva met in Moscow in 1919, and in 1921 “rewrote him cleanly – out of pure delight and gratitude – his manuscript … and she didn’t write a line of hers, and I didn’t have time, and suddenly she broke through the Apprentice.” Tsvetaeva‘s friendly relationship with Volkonsky continued abroad for many years.
Beneath is the original form of the poem in Cyrillic. It is the second part of the poem series Ученик which can be translated as ‘apprentice’, ‘disciple’, ‘pupil’ or ‘learner’:
Есть некий час…
Есть некий час — как сброшенная клажа: Когда в себе гордыню укротим. Час ученичества, он в жизни каждой Торжественно-неотвратим.
Высокий час, когда, сложив оружье К ногам указанного нам — Перстом, Мы пурпур Воина на мех верблюжий Сменяем на песке морском.
О этот час, на подвиг нас — как Голос Вздымающий из своеволья дней! О этот час, когда как спелый колос Мы клонимся от тяжести своей.
И колос взрос, и час весёлый пробил, И жерновов возжаждало зерно. Закон! Закон! Ещё в земной утробе Мной вожделенное ярмо.
Час ученичества! Но зрим и ведом Другой нам свет, — ещё заря зажглась. Благословен ему грядущий следом Ты — одиночества верховный час!
Interesting addition: Throughout much of 1926 Tsvetaeva kept up and intense correspondence with Rainer Maria Rilke and Boris Pasternak. The above poem was sent to Pasternak while Tsvetaeva was in exile and had moved from Prague to Paris thus increasing her distance from her homeland. She grew increasingly isolated amongst the other emigre community as she had praised the works of Mayakovsky which got her mistakenly branded as endorsing the Soviet system which eventually led the editors of the important journal The Latest News to stop publishing her works which, via her literary earnings, had allowed her to support her family through her contributions.