Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Prophet

My lonely heart athirst, I trod
A barren waste when, so t'was fated,
a winged serapy 'fore me stood:
Where crossed the desert roads he waited.

Upon my orbs of sightless clay
His fingers lightly he did lay,
And like a startled eagle round me
I gazed and saw the earth surrounded,
Hemmed by sky . . . He touched my ear,
Then t'other, and most marked and clear,
There came to me the gentle flutter
Of angel's wings, I heard the vine
push through the earth and skyward climb,
the deep-sea monsters in the water,
like tiny fishes glide. . . . And o'er
Me calm he bent and out he tore
my sinful tongue . . . not once withdrawing
His gaze from mine, he pushed, unseen
a serpent's deadly sting between
my ice-cold lips . . . Then swiftly drawing
His shining sword, he clove my breast,
Plucked out my quivering heart, and sombre
And grim of aspect, cooly thrust
Into the gaping hole an ember
That ran with flame . . . I lay there, dead
And God, God, spake, and this He said:

"Arise O sage, and my call hearing,
Do as I bid, be naught deterred.
Stride o'er the earth a prophet searing,
The hearts of men with rightoues word."

Aleksandr Pushkin

(translated by Irina Zheleznova)


Paul Bright and family said...

It is more moving in the Russian. Having lived in Russia for 5 years, I came to appreciate the genius of the great Russian poets, the beauty of their form and mastery of their own language. No wonder Russians who move to the US are appalled that Americans know not the English poets.

Paul Bright
Former Missionary in Samara

TheBlueRaja said...

How nice of you to drop by, Paul. Russian literature is a compelling reason to learn Russian - I adore it.

Paul Bright and family said...

I read your blog regularly, from various locations, since I travel often, but the Nebraska domain, if you keep up on that sort of thing, is most likely ours. I believe we are not far (geographically) from you.


HZ said...

This is beautiful.

It probably sounds better in Russian, too-- Ruben used to take Russian classes and the way the words sounded, like chiselled stones, was very lovely.

Paul Bright and family said...

Irina has tried to capture the classic Pushkin pattern in her translation...which is very difficult to do. But she does succeed to a great extent.

If you want some strange and yet beautiful prose, read "The Cave" (Peshera). "Beliy parus" is sad and forlorn, yet every Russian child must memorize it in grade school. "The Stationmaster" by Pushkin is witty and ironic. "Evgeniy Onegin", also by Pushkin, is classic, elongated poetry. Time would fail to speak of "12 Stools," a great narrative with the antihero Osap Bender, the criminal, who is looking for a cache of diamonds in the bottom of one of 12 stools that were taken away by the communist regime. The historical and cultural analysis of Russia in this time period, is wonderful. Sozhenizhen wrote poetry while in the GULAGs (an acronym for their internment camps in Siberia). "The Idiot" is layered, yet erratic masterpiece by Dostoevsky.

"Umom Rossii ne ponyat. A dushom chuvstvovat'" One does not understand Russia with the mind. Rather, one feels (it) with the soul.

Blessings to all who probe the Russian sages!

Paul Bright
Former Missionary in Samara