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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What Have We Done To It? by Zinaida Gippius

Our grandad’s outlandish dream,

the prison years of our heroes,

our hope and our heartfelt lament,

our prayer we hardly dared utter –

our dis-membered

dis-constituted,

dis-banded

Constituent Assembly.

 

by Зинаида Николаевна Гиппиус (Zinaida Nikolayevna Gippius)

(12 November 1917)

translated by Robert Chandler

[ Excerpt from] Night In A Trench by Velimir Khlebnikov

We need flowers to lay on coffins,

but coffins tell us we are flowers

and last no longer than a flower.

 

by Велимир Хлебников (Velimir Khlebnikov)

a.k.a. Виктор Владимирович Хлебников

(Viktor Vladimirovich Khlebnikov)

(1920)

translated by Robert Chandler

Do You Forgive Me These November Days? by Anna Akhmatova

Do you forgive me these November days?

In canals around the Neva fires fragment.

Scant is tragic autumn’s finery.

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

November 1913, St Petersburg

from Четки (Rosary, Beads)

translation by D. M. Thomas

8 November 1913 by Anna Akhmatova

The sun fills my room,

Yellow dust drifts aslant.

I wake up and remember:

This is your saint’s day.

 

That’s why even the snow

Outside my window is warm,

Why I, sleepless, have slept

Like a communicant.

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

(8 November 1913)

from Четки (Rosary Beads)

translation by D. M. Thomas

It’s Good That Russia Has No Tsar by Georgy Ivanov

It’s good that Russia has no Tsar,

it’s good that Russia’s just a dream,

it’s good that God has disappeared,

 

that nothing’s real, except the stars

in icy skies, the yellow gleam

of dawn, the unrelenting years.

 

It’s good that people don’t exist,

that nothingness is all there is,

that life’s as dark and cold as this;

 

until we couldn’t be more dead,

nor ever were so dark before,

and no one now can bring us aid,

nor even needs to any more.

 

by Георгий Владимирович Иванов (Georgii Vladimirovich Ivanov)

(1930)

translated by Stephen Capus

He Who Gave The Wind Its Weight by Semyon Lipkin

He who gave the wind its weight,

and gave measure to the water,

pointed lightning on its path,

and showed rain what rules to follow –

he once told me with quiet joy:

‘No one’s ever going to kill you:

How can dust be broken down?

Who has power to ruin beggars?’

 

by Семён Израилевич Липкин (Semyon Izrailevich Lipkin)

(1981)

translated by Robert Chandler


Lipkin is renowned as a literary translator and often worked from the regional languages which Stalin tried to obliterate. Lipkin hid a typescript of his friend Vasily Grossman‘s magnum opus, Life and Fate, from the KGB and initiated the process that brought it to the West.

Lipkin’s importance as a poet was achieved once his work became available to the general reading public after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the many years prior, he was sustained by the support of his wife, poet Inna Lisnianskaya and close friends such as Anna Akhmatova, Joseph Brodsky and Alexander Solzhenitsyn (who thought him a genius and championed his poetry). Lipkin’s verse includes explorations of history and philosophy and exhibits a keen sense of peoples’ diverse destinies. His poems include references to his Jewish heritage and to the Bible. They also draw on a first-hand awareness of the tragedies of Stalin’s Great Purge and World War II. Lipkin’s long-standing inner opposition to the Soviet regime surfaced in 1979-80, when he contributed in the uncensored almanac “Metropol” and then he and Lisnianskaya left the ranks of the official Writer’s Union of the USSR.