SONGS OF RUSSIA
N. A. NEKRASOV
Dost thou know, my native country,
Any house or corner lone
Where thy Tiller and thy Sower,
Russia's peasant, does not moan?
In the fields, along the highways,
In the cells and dungeons black,
In the mines in iron fetters,
By the side of barn and stack;
'Neath the carts, his nightly shelter
On the steppes so wide and bare,
All the air is filled with groaning
Every hour and everywhere.
Groans in huts, in town and village —
E'en the sunlight's self he hates—
Groans before the halls of justice,
Buffetings at mansion-gates.
On the Volga, hark, what wailing
O'er the mighty river floats?
'Tis a song, they say—the chanting
Of the men who haul the boats.
Thou dost not in spring, vast Volga,
Flood the fields along thy strand
As our nation's flood of sorrow,
Swelling, overflows the land.
O my heart, what is the meaning
Of this endless anguish deep?
Wilt thou ever, O my country,
Waken, full of strength, from sleep?
Or, by heaven's mystic mandate,
Is thy fate fulfilled to-day,
Singing thus thy dirge, thy death-song,
Falling then asleep for aye?
Again I'm in the country, once again!
I hunt, write verses, and am free from care;
Yesterday, tired with tramping through the swamps,
I strayed into the barn and slumbered there.
When I awakened, through the barn's wide cracks
The beams of a rejoicing sun shone in.
A dove is cooing; flying o'er the roof,
I hear the young rooks caw, with joyous din.
Another bird is flitting through the air;
I know it by its shadow for a crow.
Hark! there is whispering! All along a crack
Attentive eyes are gazing, in a row.
As flowers grow all commingled in the fields,
Were mingled eyes of gray, of brown, of blue.
How full they were of freedom and repose,
Of soft caressing, and of goodness, too!
The look in a child's eyes I always know,
And dearly love.—Thought faded from my brain;
A sense of something holy filled my soul.
Hush, listen! There is whispering again!
As to war's terrors and alarms I list,
When some new victim hath his life-blood shed,
'Tis not his wife I pity, nor his friend,
Nor grieve I for the hero who is dead.
The wife in time will cease to mourn her loss,
The best of friends and comrades will forget;
But there is one who will remember him
Even unto her grave, with eyes still wet.
Amid our trivial, hypocritic lives,
The only tears all holy and sincere
That I have seen, are those by mothers shed,
Who sorrow for their children, ever dear.
Their children on the bloody field who fell
They ne'er forget, but mourn them all their days.
Like are they to the weeping willow tree,
That never can its drooping branches raise.
( Written at the time of the emancipation of the serfs. )
O'er thy plains, my native country,
In the years now past away,
Never did I ride with feelings
Such as fill my soul to-day!
In its mother's arms reposing,
Lo! a peasant's child I see,
And my heart is stirred to gladness
By a thought most dear to me.
You were born in times auspicious,
Child, into this world below;
With God's help, in days before you,
Pain and grief you shall not know.
With the light of youth around you,
Ere you enter on the strife,
Freely and with none to hinder
You shall choose your path in life.
You shall, if you so desire it,
Be a peasant evermore;
If you have the power within you,
Like an eagle you shall soar.
But, it may be, many errors
Lurk in fancies such as these,
For man's intellect is subtle,
Swayed and influenced with ease.
And, beside the snares of old time
Spread the peasants' feet before,
Well I know designing people
Have invented many more.
Yes, but for the folk to break them
It no harder task will be.
Then, O Muse, with hope and gladness
Hail the dawn of liberty!
Armenian Poems translated by Alice Stone Blackwell
Blackwell, Alice Stone. Songs of Russia rendered into English verse
by Alice Stone Blackwell. Chicago, IL: printed under the Supervision
of Charles H. Kerr & Company (Co-operative)