I never knew you in the days of your glory,
Your turbulent dawn in all I know;
But perhaps I’m qualified to tell your story
At last of that day from long ago.
The lines of your powerful verse were filled with
Strange new voices we’d never heard . . .
And your youthful hands were never still as
You raised up a terrible scaffold of words.
Whatever you touched was no longer the same as
The thing it had been before that time,
All that you censured and covered in shame was
Condemned to death in your thunderous lines.
So often alone and disaffected,
You impatiently tried to seep up fate,
For already you freely, gladly accepted
That soon you must go and take part in the great
Struggle. And as you read an answer
Of rumbling dissent could be heard all round
And the angry rain eyed you askance as
You debated at length with the outraged town.
And now a name, unknown, obscure,
Was flashing around the stuffy hall,
And all through the land today it endures,
Reverberates still like a warrior’s call.
Translated from Russian by Stephen Capus. From Modern Poetry in Translation, New Series no. 18, 2001
Stephen Capus studied Russian literature at the Universities of Birmingham and London. He has published poems and translations in various magazines, including Acumen and Thumbscrew.