|From the book Elegies|
|For S. Averintsev|
|When in the East the nocturnal deep breaks into flames, |
the Earth begins to gleam, as it returns
the abundance, of the gentle light, freely given, now no
To things that answer to all things – to them there is
And who can answer that in this our vale of tears –
can simple greatness of heart do that? The greatness
which against no raid, and not against the plough
would ever dream of mounting a defence: one after one
they all – who rob that Earth, who trample her, who plunge
their ploughshares deep into her heart – like dream upon
dream they vanish
far, far away, in the sea, where all things look alike.
And Earth, not looking, sees and says: “May God forgive
to them as they leave.
Thus, I recall, the cloistress in the Sacred Caves
hands to all pilgrims a candle as they go down to the Elders,
as for a tiny child as it sets off to that awesome place
where God’s glory reigns – and woe to him whose life
gives him no joy! –
where one can hear the heavens breathe, and fathom why
“May God save you!” she says as they leave, but they
do not hear her.
Perhaps, going down on your knees is dying after all?
And I, who will be earth, gaze at the Earth, amazed:
purity that’s purer than the first purity! From the first
realm of bitterness
I ask about the reasons for protection and forgiveness,
I ask: “Are you, insane one, really content
to swallow insults and share out rewards for time
Why are they dear to you, how did they find favour
“They did, because I am”, she says. “Because all of us
To Sergei Averintsev
When in the east the nocturnal abyss is about to blaze,
the earth begins to shine, returning
the excess of the delicate bestowed light that it no longer needs.
The thing which answers to everything has no answer itself.
Who will answer you in this vale of tears,
the simple greatness of the soul? the greatness of a field
which neither before an onslaught nor before the plow
conceives of defending itself: one after another,
all of them who pillaged her, trampled and plunged
a plowshare into her chest like a dream after the dream disappeared
somewhere into the distance, in the ocean where all, like birds, resemble
And the earth sees them without looking and says: “Lord, forgive them!”
after each one.
This way, I remember, an old woman in the Monastery of the Caves1
fits a candle into the hand of everyone who descends to the elders
as though into the hand of a small child who goes to the fearful place
where God’s glory dwells, and woe to those whose life is not the Bride
where one hears how and why the sky’s breathing.
“God save you”, she says to the ones who do not hear her.
…Perhaps to die is finally to kneel?
And I, who will be earth, look at the earth in amazement.
Purity, you are purer than primordial purity! from the field of bitterness
I ask the reason for forgiveness and refuge,
I ask: can you, raving one, really be happy
for the ages to swallow insults and to bestow rewards?
Why do you like them, in what way do they please you?
“Because I am,” she answers.
“Because we all really were.”
Slava I. Yastremski and Michel Naydan
To Sergei Averintsev
When in the East the nightʼs deep dark begins to burn,
the Earth begins to brighten and to return
the wan, no longer wanted light left over.
Now for what covers us all there is no cover.
And who will cover for you in this vale of sorrow,
soulʼs simple grandeur? The grandeur of the furrow,
which has no thought of defending itself against the plow
or a local raid. One after another now
they who gather, who trample, who with plowshares pierce
its breast disappear like dream after dream
far away, in the ocean where all are alike, like birds.
And the Earth, without looking, sees, says “Forgive him, Lord!”
In The Cave, I remember, the caretaker fitted
a candle into our fingers before we visited
the holy elders, like children going some place terrified,
where Godʼs glory (whatʼs worse, its life) is no bride,
where you can hear the sky breathing, how and why.
“God save you,” says Earth after him who hears no cry.
Maybe dying is in the end kneeling to pray?
I, who will turn to earth, look at the Earth amazed.
A purity purer than Edenʼs! in my bitterness
I ask why is there intercession, forgiveness –
have you, mad Earth, for millennia been glad
to swallow insults and hand out rewards?
What did they do for you? Why care about them?
“Because I am,” the Earth replies,
“because we all have been.”
|1 Monastery of the Caves: one of the oldest monasteries of Russian Christianity, located in Kiev, in the caves underneath a high bank on the river Dniepr.|