Nikolay Gumilev: The Word

In olden days, when above the new world
God inclined his face, then
The sun was halted with a word,
A word could destroy citites.

And the eagle would not flap its wings,
The terrified stars would cling to the moon,
If, like a pink flame,
The word floated in the heavens.

And for lowly life there were numbers,
Like domestic, yoked cattle,
Because an intelligent number expresses
Every shade of meaning.

The graying Patriarch, who bent
Good and evil to his will,
Dared not make use of sound, but drew
A number in the sand with his cane.

But we have forgotten the word alone
Is numinous among earthly struggles,
And in the Gospel According to John
It is said that the word is God.

We have chosen to limit it
To the meager limits of nature,
And, like bees in a deserted hive,
Dead words smell bad.

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