Над Невой (Over The Neva) by Wilgelm Zorgenfrey

Late night over the Neva.
There, where they are keeping watch,
A siren sends up its vicious howl,
Acetylene flares, a pillar of fire.

It’s quiet again, and dark once more.
The storm has swept the great square clean.

The winged angel on the column
Holds aloft its misty cross and gazes down
On forgotten palaces,
Broken pavements.

The frost bites deeper, the wind grows angry,
Water flows beneath the ice.

Upon the ice bonfires glow.
The sentry goes on duty.
Telegraph wires hum above:
All hail to thee, Petrograd!

In the dark recess of a palace wall
A phantom corpse has taken shape,
And the dead capital
Stares into its ghostly eyes.

Atop the granite by the bonfire
The Specter of the last Peter
Hides its eyes, trembles,
And sobs bitter tears in denial.

Foghorns wail piteously.
Wind whistles along the river.

Darkness melts. Dawn awakes.
Steam rises from the yellow ice floes,
Yellow light glints through the pane.
Citizen calls to
“What’s for dinner, citizen,
Have you registered, citizen,
Or not?”
“Today, citizen. I
Got no sleep:
Swapped my soul for a pint
Of Kerosene”

A sharp squall blows in from the bay
Hurries to build a snowy rampart-
So that all might be quieter still and darker
So that the souls of the dead might rest.

by Вильгельм Александрович Зоргенфрей
(Wilgelm Aleksandrovich Zorgenfrey)
a.k.a. Wilhelm Zorgenfrey
translated by Sophie Lund

Над Невой

Поздней ночью над Невой
В полосе сторожевой
Взвыла злобная сирена,
Вспыхнул сноп ацетилена.

Снова тишь и снова мгла.
Вьюга площадь замела.

Крест вздымая над колонной,
Смотрит ангел окрыленный
На забытые дворцы,
На разбитые торцы.

Стужа крепнет. Ветер злится.
Подо льдом вода струится.

Надо льдом костры горят,
Караул идет в наряд.
Провода вверху гудят:
Славен город Петроград!

В нише темного дворца
Вырос призрак мертвеца,
И погибшая столица
В очи призраку глядится.

А над камнем, у костра,
Тень последнего Петра –
Взоры прячет, содрогаясь,
Горько плачет, отрекаясь.

Ноют жалобно гудки.
Ветер свищет вдоль реки.

Сумрак тает. Рассветает.
Пар встает от желтых льдин,
Желтый свет в окне мелькает.
Гражданина окликает

– Что сегодня, гражданин,
На обед?
Прикреплялись, гражданин,
Или нет?

– Я сегодня, гражданин,
Плохо спал!
Душу я на керосин

От залива налетает резвый шквал,
Торопливо наметает снежный вал
Чтобы глуше еще было и темней,
Чтобы души не щемило у теней.

Additional information: You could more directly transliterate his first name from Cyrillic as Vilgyelm but it’s most likely a case of German to Russian transliteration of the name Wilhelm. When trying to find information about him is it ‘Wilhelm Zorgenfrey‘ which gained a few, rare, results.

Here is an account of his attendance of the funeral of Alexander Blok with his contempories including Bely and Akhmatova.

Zorgenfrey, the son of an army doctor, began to publish his poetry in 1905, but his one and only collection, Strastnaia subbota (Passion Saturday), was not published until 1922. Zorgenfrey had all the markings of a great poet, as the selection here indicates. At one time this poem made an enormous impression on the strict, sometimes implacable Aleksandr Blok, with whom Zorgenfrey developed a personal and professional relationship, and other contemporaries. In general Zorgenfrey’s themes and imagery are close to Blok’s.

Zorgenfrey was a prolific translator of major German writers, including Goethe, Herder, and Heine, and the editor of the translations of Heinrich von Kleist, Novalis, and Thomas Mann. He was arrested during Stalin’s terror and vanished in the gulag. Even just one or two of his remarkable poems are an inalienable part of Russian literature and history.

Biographical information about Zorgenfrey, p.108, ‘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).