Beyond the chimneys and steeples,
baptized by smoke and flame,
down the decades I call your name!
Rock-steady or change-at-a-whim!
Coachman and stallion in one!
He snorts and spits into his palm –
chariot of glory, hold on!
Singer of city-square wonders,
I salute that arrogant tone
that rejected the brilliant diamond
for the sake of the ponderous stone.
I salute you, cobblestone-thunderer!
– see, he yawns, gives a wave, then he swings
himself back into harness, back under
the shafts, his archangelic wings.
by Марина Ивановна Цветаева (Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva)
(18 September 1921)
translated by Peter Oram
Fun facts: This poem is dedicated to Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky (Владимир Владимирович Маяковский) who was a Russian Soviet poet, playwright, artist, and actor.
During his early, pre-Revolution period leading into 1917, Mayakovsky became renowned as a prominent figure of the Russian Futurist movement. Though Mayakovsky’s work regularly demonstrated ideological and patriotic support for the ideology of the Communist Party and a strong admiration of Vladimir Lenin, Mayakovsky’s relationship with the Soviet state was always complex and often tumultuous. Mayakovsky often found himself engaged in confrontation with the increasing involvement of the Soviet State in cultural censorship and the development of the State doctrine of Socialist realism. In 1930 Mayakovsky committed suicide. Even after death his relationship with the Soviet state remained unsteady. Though Mayakovsky had previously been harshly criticized by Soviet governmental bodies like the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers (RAPP), Joseph Stalin posthumously declared Mayakovsky “the best and the most talented poet of our Soviet epoch.”
Original Russian Cyrillic version:
Превыше крестов и труб,
Крещенный в огне и дыме,
Здорово, в веках Владимир!
Он возчик и он же конь,
Он прихоть и он же право.
Вздохнул, поплевал в ладонь:
- Держись, ломовая слава!
Певец площадных чудес -
Здорово, гордец чумазый,
Что камнем — тяжеловес
Избрал, не прельщась алмазом.
Здорово, булыжный гром!
Зевнул, козырнул и снова
Оглоблей гребет — крылом
18 сентября 1921