Offcourse Literary Journal
ISSN 1556-4975 

Anthology of Russian Minimalist and Miniature Poems;
Part I, The Silver Age
Translated by Alex Cigale.

Page 6

Fedor Tyutchev Ivan Turgenev Afanasy Fet Vladimir Solovyov Innokenty Annensky  Fyodor Sologub

Valery Bryusov  Sasha Chorny  Andrey Bely  David Burlyuk  Vasily Kamensky  Velimir Khlebnikov

Aleksei Kruchenykh Vladislav Khodasevich  Igor Severyanin  Anna Akhmatova  Vasilisk Gnedov 

Boris Pasternak  Osip Mandelstam  Mikhail Zenkevich  Marina Tsvetayeva  Yevgeny Kropivnitsky 

Vladimir Mayakovsky  Anatoly Mariengof  Nikolai Oleinikov  Daniil Kharms  Semeon Kirsanov Jan Satunovsky

Alexander Blok Nikolay Nekrasov Vyacheslav Ivanov Sergey Gorodetsky Zinaida Gippius Sophia Parnok
Nikolay Aseyev Georgy Ivanov Gavriil Derzhavin Nikolay Karamzin Alexander Pushkin Mikhail Lermontov



ALEXANDER BLOK (1880-1921)

Blok's Death Mask


Night, street and streetlight, drugstore,
The purposeless, half-dim, drab light.
For all the use live on a quarter century –
Nothing will change.  There's no way out.

You'll die – and start all over, live twice,
Everything repeats itself, just as it was:
Night, the canal's rippled icy surface,
The drugstore, the street, and streetlight.

                                             10 October 1912



The city sleeps, wrapped in a haze,
The streetlights that barely glimmer.
Beyond the Neva River's distance
I see dawn's early mirrored light.
And in that far removed reflection,
And in those shimmerings of fire
A dim awareness dawns of hidden,
My dreary days and gloomy nights.

                                             23 August 1899



                              There is a man in flames.

How difficult it is to walk among people
While pretending not to have been killed,
And on the tragic play staged by desires
Lecture those who've yet to begin to live.

And scrutinizing your daily nightmare
Find structure in feelings' confused whirl
So that you may in art's pale glimmer
Decipher this life's devastating fire.

                                             10 May 1910


As from the void – a blue fountain
Of light splashed forth.
Our heads raised up to the mountain –
And it has fled north,
Scattered above the black distance
In golden hues,
And here, again, an arch, a spiral,
A sphere, a swirl,
In green, yellow, fire-red, sky-blue –
Night's lights go on...
And, having stirred for no reason,
Wither from view.

                                             October 1913


Links to Russian Originals.






We went separate ways midway,
We parted long before we parted,
Having thought: no more misery,
In that last and fateful “forgive,”
Even to cry we've no more strength.
Please write – I ask only one thing...
Dear to me will be your letters,
Sacred, like flowers from a grave –
From the sacred grave of my heart!




Humid! No freedom and no luck,
The night interminably goes on.
If only the thunder would clap.
Our cup to the rim is filled up!

Thunder, above the sea's clotting,
In the field and in forest sound,
And the cup of universal sorrow
Please split, scatter, and splash!





She was filled and moved by sadness,
All the time, while her three teenagers
Jumped and played around her loudly,
Her lips whispered, she deep in thought:
 “Miserable dears! why were you born?
You’ll set out on your destined way
And not manage to escape your fate!”
Don't besmirch their pleasure with woe,
Don’t cry over them, mother of sorrows!
We tell them from the earliest days:
There are ages, even entire centuries,
When nothing is preferable, more desired,
More wonderful than a blackthorn wreath...




Oh, Muse!  I am at my coffin's door!
Be as it may, I am much to blame,
And let people's spite one hundred
Times more my sins' scope multiply –
Do not cry!  Our drawn lot enviable,
They will not dispute this nor fight:
Between me and many honest hearts
You will not allow too long a rupture
In our living, breathing, blood union!
Some non-Russian will, without love,
Look upon you, pallid, blood-covered,
Flesh-flayed-by-a-thousand-strokes Muse....



Links to Russian Originals.  



Blok has Died

A collapsed door in the deaf wall,
And the heaps of overturned stones,
And piled upon them scrap metal,
And the depths that unfurl below.
And white ashes fanned by the wind –
That's all: God's voice, “The dead will rise.”

                              10 August 1921



The poet teaches something, though
Not with the wisdom of his words,
A thing considerably more likely to
Either turn people off or to bore.

Whether sweet or bitter, you will have
To test by tasting it on your own.  Life;
We all have our own unkind fates:
He teaches us to keep things in mind.

                              11 February <1944>


Links to Russian Originals.




Mother, blind, stares in the window;
Answering spring her wrinkles laugh.
But her heart is dedicated to ache,
With growing pain it beats in the sun.

We need neither light nor beauty!
We need no blessings from outside!
How my son in his distant exile
Counts the deathly hours in his cell.




The Wanderer

I mouthed to the rain to drizzle.
The dust had wrapped itself up.
I tied on my feet grass sandals,
And hooked on a walking crutch.

And along this stretch of road
I rolled off into the distance,
Crossing my stick-like legs,
Having rescued my sadness.


Links to Russian Originals.



    ...Great deeds will be recognized...

Poets, don't write before it's time;
Victory is still in God's hands.
Today, wounds are still smoldering.
No, words are not needed tonight.

In the hours of unjust suffering,
Of the yet to be decided fight,
What is needed is wise silence
And, just perhaps, quiet prayers.

                              August 1914


Our fathers’ dreams impossible,
Our heroes’ sacrifices careful,
Our prayers’ lips uncourageous,
Our hopes and aspirations –
     Constituent Assembly

     What have we done with it...?

        12 November 1917



It is so

If the light goes out – I see nothing.
If a human is an animal – I hate him.
Humans worse than animals – I kill.
If Russia is at an end – I will die.

                              February 1918



Today on earth

     That is a difficult,
     Such a shameful,
     Nearly impossible –
     What a difficult task:

Raise eyelashes and look
Into the face of a mother
Whose son has been killed.

It is best not to say a thing.


Links to Russian Originals.



SOPHIA PARNOK (1885-1933

from At Dawn

Upon the voluptuous chestnuts you yet again
Place Sunday’s wedding candles, dear spring.
I construct my soul as in the olden days
And aught to break into song, but only dirges
And lullabies sound – sleep’s sweet gladdeners.


Oh, of these silenced waters,
beyond the lakes of centuries,
their burden insurmountable!

Dear Lord! So it is for me, difficult!
For me with my heart that is overfull
and my muse's words not forthcoming.



from Dreams

Only in dreams, with a broken off moan,
so as not to die in her sleep,
on such a mellifluous wave,
above this sky-blue drowning,
her whole chest heaving freely
with breath, my soul is bobbing.

      May 1924


My cheerless friend,
you too remember me
just once a year,
on St. John’s day when
the parting-grass,
the parting-grass,
the parting-grass

   26 January 1926


To Khodasevich

From childhood I recall: there are such pears –
wrinkled, hardened, and small – such patience
is hidden in them that as soon as you bite
your jaw cramps and clamps shut: just such
to me are the attractions of your verses,
bitter, scathing, curmudgeonly, and mean.

         6 May 1927


Links to Russian Originals.



NIKOLAY ASEYEV (1889-1963)

Northern lights (flight)
            To my friends

Our lyres have rusted
from smoldering blood,
partingly empired
our furrowed brows.

This day with a rusted-through lyre
for my friends who are far I solo:

 “Flight of those

Touch strings'
night's moon,
blues, flows,
blow into day,
distance, haze,
on frozen ice

Laughing and verbose,
laughterer and verbalist,
stands a wordscourer
on the shoulder’s distance.

Threatening friends with a happy grin
I scream to earth’s far-flung colonists:

«Look-a-here resiliently -
The winds’ steely caprice:
Stilled in the flair,
simple and linear,
sing and jitterbug,
our shining,
the North boreal,
the snow silverine,
rainbow’s breasts,
play and jests!

Touch strings'
night's moon,
blues, flows,
blow into day,
distance, haze,
on frozen ice



Links to Russian Originals.



GEORGY IVANOV (1894-1958)


I will gradually become trained,
March with others, day out, day in.
Will not worry about the mundane.
Following regulations feel shame.

They stand – I stand.  They sit – I sit.
Will remember my hundred-digit sign.
Be loyally grateful to hell for bloody
Stars in constellations above my head.


It is well that there’s no Tsar.
It is well that there’s no Russia.
Well, that God does not exist.

Only the yellow sunrise,
Only the stars made of ice,
Only the million centuries.

Well – that there is no one,
Well – that there is nothing,
So black and so lifeless,

That one cannot be deader,
And nothing can be blacker,
That no one is there to help us,
And nothing needs to be done.



Resplendent in their biblical glory
Above the city float the flaming clouds;
The angel that tops Peter and Paul's fortress
Looks through them into centuries massed….

But my vision is clear and it’s uncertain
What lies beyond – what dreams, sunsets, cities
Will replace these – glowing gold, growing pale –
And what night will set for all of eternity!


Links to Russian Originals.





Upon a bird

Having caught a vocal songbird
They balled their fingers in a fist.
Instead of whistling the poor one
Peeps. They insist: Sing birdie, sing.

                              1792 or 1793

Links to Russian Originals.





Tacitus is great; but is Rome, described by him,
             Worthy of his quill?
In that Rome, never for heroism renowned,
Other than murderers and victims I see naught.
             We need not feel pity:
He earned the fierce troubles of his misfortunes,
Having tolerated what can't be in good conscience.



Links to Russian Originals.



Little Bird 

In my exile I observe the sacred,
Congenial custom of antiquity
And release a bird into freedom
On the bright holiday of spring.
I become capable of serenity;
For what reason do I curse God
When just to one of his creatures
I’m empowered freedom to grant!


Links to Russian Originals.



Farewell, dirty, unwashed Russia,
Country of masters, land of slaves,
And you, you sky-blue uniforms,
And you, people by them betrayed.
Perhaps beyond the Caucasus' wall
I'll be hidden from your overlords,
Shielded from their all-seeing eyes,
Screened from their all-hearing ears.


Links to Russian Originals.





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