The Nacreous Oughts

23 March 2004

"Only very few of the Russian symbolists had any considerable first-hand acquaintance with the work of their French god fathers, and Edgar Allan Poe had certainly a wider and deeper influence than any single French poet."
D. S. Mirsky in A History of Russian Literature.


Yellow mist of the Petersburg winter,
Yellow snow on the walks and the ground...
I don't know where you are--or where we are;
I just know we're inseperably bound.

Did the Tsar's royal fiat invent us?
Swedes forget to drown us in attacks?
In our past, in the place of pure fables,
There are just stones and terrible facts.

All the things that the sorcerer gave us:
Stones, the Neva--the color of fawn,
And the deserts which are the dumb squares
Where the people were hanged before dawn.

And whatever we had in this region,
What raised our double-eagle and sent
The giant in dark laurels on the rock there...
For our children will be merriment.

How courageous he was! Awe-inspiring!
By his violent horse he was betrayed.
For the Tsar could not trample the serpent.
And the snake was the idol we made.

No shrines, no miracles and no Kremlins,
No mirages, no smiles, tears and ache.
Only stones from frozen, empty spaces
And the knowledge of this cursed mistake.

In the month of May, even when shadows
Of the white nights spread out on the stream,
There's no magic spell spun by the springtime;
There's the poison of each fruitless dream."
I. F. Annensky, as Englished by Markov and Sparks in Modern Russian Poetry.

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