SONGS OF RUSSIA
[ Polivanov was a revolutionist who tried to rescue some of his friends from prison. He was caught, and was imprisoned for twenty years in the fortress of Schlusselbourg. At the end of his term he was released, with shattered nerves, and soon after committed suicide. ]
I long for liberty, I long for light;
I want to draw a full breath, deep and clear;
I want—Well, brother, now the song is sung.
For years, for ages, you are buried here.
By the damp cell's cold wall, the iron bar
Across the heavy doors that will not move,
You are cut off from all the living world
Forever, from life's joys, from those you love.
Take leave forevermore, then, of your dreams,
Your native steppes, and meads, and forests free,
And of the hope with which you used to live,
And the ideal you served so faithfully.
Take leave of all, then, and submit yourself;
Bow to your helpless and depressing fate.
What use to dream of freedom, pine for it,
For life, work, strife, outside the prison gate?
Let fear nor hope nor joy nor sorrow come
Unto your broken heart a throb to lend.
Life's ocean you will never see again;
Your own life's journey, too, will shortly end.
In Death's embrace your respite you will find
From grief and suffering; in oblivion's sea
You will receive your guerdon—the repose
You have desired so long and ardently.
The spring is coming! Nature everywhere
Has wakened from her long and wintry sleep,
And she has shaken off her robe of snow,
And broken up the ice, so thick and deep.
O'er the clear sky the cranes in northward flight
Have passed in bands since early dawn of day;
Wild ducks are rushing by in clanging flocks;
The curlew's whistle sounds from far away.
The noisy sea-gull hovers o'er the lake,
And still to-day, as in the days of yore,
All full of mighty strength, with stormy joy,
The wave is breaking on the sandy shore.
Long since, the joyous sounds of wakening life
Have ceased an echo in our breasts to find;
Deadened the soul has grown through grief and pain,
And over-weary are the heart and mind.
The spring sun gives us but a cheerless light
Through the dull glass that dims its golden ray,
And the heart harbors deep a gloomy thought
That even springtime will not drive away.
A darksome night of winter,
Dead silence without end!
Where are you, my beloved,
My brave and faithful friend?
Your image, pure and lovely,
In spite of bolt and bar,
Before me comes; your fond, clear glance
Shines on me like a star.
The long, long years of parting,
With grief and longing rife,
The hand weighed down by bondage,
Pains of a shattered life—
Not all could dim that image,
Your sweet head, golden bright;
Still o'er my thoughts it reigneth,
Unchanged its magic might.
In this cold grave, I, living,
Am buried from the sun;
The years pass, one by one.
Sometimes in this dead stillness
Is heard a groaning deep;
The heart beats slowly, wearily,
And thought is lost in sleep.
But through the gloom your image
Shines like a magic lamp;
Like a bright beam, it drives away
The dark cell's cold and damp.
For you is all forgotten;
I far away have flown
In dreams—and then my heart, dear love,
Is filled with you alone.
What fate has fallen to you
Of sorrow or delight?
Your path across life's meadow,
Has it been smooth and bright?
Always the same dim, cheerless, dusty vaults,
The same bars darkening, all the window-space!
Long ranks of years, that seem like evil dreams
In broken sleep, stretch out before my face.
If but one distant sound could here be heard
Of life, broad, free, and seething like the main,
It would have stirred me with its mighty strength,
And eased the burden of this torturing pain.
No! all around me reigns a deathly hush,
Heart-crushing, grave-like; in it nothing stirs
Save now and then the buzzing of a fly,
Or in the corridor the clash of spurs.
Bright burden of emotions and of strife,
Time of impassioned hope and fancy high,
Of faith in glad days for posterity—
Where are you now? Vanished as dreams go by!
A mist has settled over all the past,
Enwrapping it forever in its shroud;
And it has thickened to a winding-sheet,
And hangs above me like a boding cloud.
That leaden cloud depresses heavily;
It chills the brain, with long confinement worn,
And pierces deep my soul with poison hot
Of black and heavy thoughts, in prison born.
Year after year monotonously creeps;
Year after weary year more callous grown,
My life in semi-stupor drags along
Behind the prison's gloomy wall of stone.
The mind, depressed by long imprisonment,
Has grown inert, and sleeps in idleness;
The heart is numbed and irresponsive now;
Feeling is dulled, grown wonted to distress.
Indifferent, without anger, without pain,
Into the viewless future now I gaze;
My hands hang down in utter apathy;
Nor grief nor passion stirs me in these days.
'Tis dull to live thus idly; 'tis a shame
Beneath an ignominious yoke to dwell—
To vegetate in body and in soul,
In stupor dumb, within a prison cell.
My over-burdened heart has no desire,
No strength in it, to linger longer here.
Eternal darkness, oh, enwrap me soon!
Vaults of my grave, draw nearer and more near!
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)