Offcourse Literary Journal
ISSN 1556-4975 

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


Fyodor 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


The Precursors:



From Michelangelo

Be silent, I beg, don’t dare to wake me.
In this criminal and shameful century
Not to live, not to feel – an enviable fate.
Sleep in joy and with greater joy be stone.





Russia cannot be known by the mind
Nor measured by the common mile:
Her status is unique, without kind –
Russia can only be believed in.

      28 November 1866



It's no use – you will not understand them –
The more liberal the more base and cruel.
Civilization for them is a fetish,
But inaccessible to them is its ideal.
Though you may bow before it, citizens,
You will never win Europe's recognition:
In its eyes you will always be not servants
Of Enlightenment but slaves without rights.

              May 1867



A Theme from Heine

If death is night, if life is day –
Oh, how the motley day drains me!
And shadows grow above me dense,
My head bowing low toward sleep….

Made powerless, I surrender to it....
But through the mute dark flash fantasies –
Somewhere, above, there a clear day sparkles
And an invisible choir clatters about love…




He's taken all from me, executioner God.
Health, strength of will, the air, and sleep.
Only one thing did he leave me, and that
Is you, that I may continue to praise him.

          February 1873


Links To Russian Originals.




IVAN TURGENEV (1818-1883)

Wholeheartedly I accepted new feelings
And became a child, innocent of soul;
I burned all I had previously worshiped,
Praised all that I hitherto condemned.



I stood a long time without moving
And read through the strangest verses
And thought them wild and primitive,
Those lines that Afanasy Fet composed.
I read …. What it was I do not recall,
Some sort of mysterious nonsense;
The book slipped through my hands,
And I have not touched it since.

            1863 (?)




I am moved to laughter … and I wonder at my own self.
My suffering is genuine, it is truly difficult for me to live, my feelings are sorrowful and bleak.  Meanwhile, I make every effort to endow them with polish and beauty, I seek out metaphors and comparisons; I make my speech stately, hewing the consonance of words and the ring of sounds.
            I am like a master craftsman, head goldsmith of a workshop, conscientiously carving and vividly decorating the chalice in which I myself bring poison to my lips.

                                January 1878




Whom to Argue With…

Argue with a person wiser than yourself: he will vanquish you… but from your defeat, you will be able to extract for yourself a benefit.
            Argue with a person equal to you in mind: whoever might prove victorious, you will at least experience the satisfaction of a good fight.
            Argue with a person of inferior mind… argue not for the sake of desire for victory; even so you might be of use to him.
            Argue even with a fool; you will obtain neither benefit nor renown; but why not once in a while be entertained.
            Only do not argue with Vladimir Stasov!

                                      June 1878


Links To Russian Originals.




AFANASY FET (1820-1892)


Ophelia was singing as she perished,
And she sang while plaiting a wreath;
With flowers, the wreaths, and verses
She sunk down to the riverbed.

So much in sad songs that is tempting,
Insinuates my soul toward dark depths.
So many are the feelings and songs,
The lacrimae and desires to me given.



Share with me your dreams of living,
Address yourself directly to my soul;
What cannot be expressed in words alone –
Fan into my soul in the form of sound.




Spring in the Yard

How the chest breathes, fresh, voluminous –
Words are incapable of expressing a thing!
How in the ravines at midday loudly
Into milky froth cascade rivulets!

The ether pulses and melts with song.
In the planted field rye gathers green –
And a gentle voice is heard humming:
“You will outlive yet another spring!”


Aflame with a thirst for light
The dawn is ashamed to arise;
Frigid, clear, and albumine,
A bird's wing sprung up.
The sun is still invisible,
But the soul is alright.

     1 April 1886

In strange greetings
I hear speech's soft tones,
See familiar eyes,
Sense the heart's pulse.—

Common-bond manacles
Are sanded by sounds...
Their silent suffering
Only you will understand!

    31 January 1887


Links To Russian Originals.





Vladimir Solovyov

   Nature does not allow one to
   Remove the veil from her beauty,
And you will not yield from her with machines
   That which your spirit cannot fathom.





In the evening and in the morning, early,
During the day and in the dead of night,
In great heat or freeze, midst hurricane –
I'm always swaying my head side to side,
Now burying my sight deep in the earth,
Now directing my steady gaze at the sky,
Listening intently to the rustle of trees –
As though to read therein my tea-leaved fate.
What way to choose, where leads my path?
Whom should I love and whom pursue?
Walk toward a temple – to pray to God,
Or into the forest  – to murder passersby?

    Count AE. Heliotropov, 1886




   Vladimir Solovyov
   Lies in this sepulcher.
   Once a philosopher
   And now a skeleton.
   To some he was kind,
   To many an enemy;
   But, having loved madly,
   He plunged into a ravine
   And lost his mortal soul,
   Not to mention body:
   The devil ransomed it,
   The dogs ransacked him.
Passerby!  Learn from this example,
How malignant love and beneficial faith.

            15 June 1892



To refuse wine’s sacrament
In this consists a terrible sin;
Drink up bravely, peasants,
Do not believe some old ape.




From Acrostics: First Cycle: “Sappho”

Something magical flutters again....
Angel or demon knocks at my heart?
Feelings that fear to assume my form…
Oh, how impotent is the frigid word!

      3 January 1892

Strange whispers of alien words,
Aroma of Japanese rose gardens…
Fantastical and mist-ridden
Oracles of ethereal daydreams.

      Early January 1892

Scorching alcohol I first burned with,
Agonies of hell’s tormenting flames....
Flaming torch, fat-fed and joyful,
Over you I blaze brightly.

      15 March 1892

Shapely like a seraphim's harp,
Aurora's softest soothing pinks,
Fountain of pleasure inexhaustible:
Offer me water quick to drink!

  Between 11 and 21 of May 1892

Saintly, before he met you,
Anthony, just one example,
Fatally fell into sin, his soul
Oppressed – faith didn't save him.

       16 June 1892

Such cold dreary northern wind,
Asters alone in the flowerbed.
Face of my dearest puss-filled
Owing to gargling with river water.

       26 June 1892

Sight of heavenly powers,
Aroma of earthly flowers,
Focus of all my efforts,
Ocean of blessed words.

    8 June1892

So dear, more than spring lilacs,
Acacias’ white is not so soft,
Flower perfume but more subtle.
Of whom do I speak?  Of her!

    26 August 1894


Links To Russian Originals.




Notturno To my friend, S. K. Bulich

Select a dark night and in a field, unpeopled, naked,
dip into gray twilight.... May the air, having fanned, becalm,
May the stars, winking, in the cold sky slumber on....
Tell the heart not to count its thumps....
Stop in mid-step and listen!  You're not alone...  The wings
of a bird, heavy, sodden, drift through the fog.
Listen…. it's the flight of a predator, a sovereign avian,
They call that bird T i m e, and on its wings is your will,
A passing dream of happiness, hopes' golden rags …

                  26 February 1890



Sad country

Sad and made of copper
The symbol we are wed,
Even our comedies
End a little sadly….
Our joyful neighbors
Wear their infernal
Hirsute fur coats….
And that only… banal
Are our mangy bears
With prey trembling
In blood-covered lips.



For what purpose, when dreams betray,
That words brim over with delusions?
For what purpose, on a forgotten grave,
Grass grows greener and emits a noise?

For what purpose these lunar heights,
If my garden is silent and dark?
And the tails of her plaits are untied,
And I hear their breath...  for what?




Among the Worlds

Among worlds shone, amid glimmers,
A single star whose name I repeat....
Not so that I may come to love it,
But because I am weary of the rest.

And if I find doubt a burden,
I seek only from her an answer,
Not because she shines brightly
But because with her I need no light.

  3 April 1909, Tsarskoe Selo


Links To Russian Originals.




FYODOR SOLOGUB (1863-1927)

Bloom you who are blooming,
Droop and fade you who fade,
Turn to ash embraced by flame –
We're not desirous but calm,
Not expecting better days ahead,
Accepting equally life and death,
With our faces clear of the fog.




My tiresome lamp is lit up;
Again it torches my eyes.

      Dear God, if I'm a slave,
      If I am weak and I lack,

If I am to be tormented forever
Laboring at this table for a song,

      Let me just for one night
      My weakness overcome

And with one completed creation,
Purified for centuries, on fire catch.

        26 August 1898




Defeat your joy,
Deaden laughter.
What's all sweetness
Is vice and sin.
Deaden your joy,
Defeat laughter.

Who laughs most? Gods,
Children and damn fools.
People, you must be strict,
Be prescient and wise.
Let the Gods laugh,
Children and damn fools.

        27 January 1897; not later than 1903


  Links To Russian Originals.


To next section: Valery Bryusov  Sasha Chorny  Andrey Bely  David Burlyuk  Vasily Kamensky  Velimir Khlebnikov

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