Sergey Yesenin: Russia


In deep ruts the village is floundering,
Poor homes huddle under the trees.
From dips and on high ground all round you
The blue vault of heaven is seen.
At dusk in the long winter twilight
Wolves fearsomely howl in bare fields
And horses are snorting in farmyards
Where frost is aglow on the eaves.
And will-'o-the-wisps, like bright owl-eyes,
Peer into the flurrying snow,
And tree-stumps, like spirits of foulness,
Through oak groves their ugliness show.
The forces of ill we find scaring,
In thickets woodgoblins are found.
Birch-trees are their silver braid wearing
When bitter frost shrivels the ground.


But, meek and mild country, I love you!
Though what for—I hardly can say.
How gaily your meadows with laughter
In spring time reecho all day.
I love in the field of an evening
To hear midges' loud-humming choirs,
When fellows get out concertinas
And girls start to dance round the fires.
Like live coals the dark eyes are glowing
From under the horse-shoe-arched brows,
O Russia, my dearly loved homeland,
On your silken grass let me drowse.


The crows long enough have been croaking,
Foretelling misfortune aloud.
A gale through the forest is blowing,
The lake has donned foam like a shroud.
The sky-cup by thunder is shattered,
Cloud-tatters the forest enfold.
The censers in heaven suspended
Are swaying on chains of light gold.
Rural constables came with instructions
To raise recruits for the war.
The sobbing of wives and of mothers
To shreds all tranquillity tore.
The peaceloving ploughmen then gathered,
No tears, grief or anger they showed,
With sugar buns stuffing their bags full
They loaded up carts for the road.
All turned out to wave and on parting,
The whole village wished them "God bless!"
There, Russia, your lads with stout hearts are,
Your stand-by in years of distress.


Without news the village was pining.
How were the lads faring faraway?
Why were there no letters arriving,
Perhaps they'd been killed in some fray?
They fancied the woods smelted of incense,
The breeze bore the rattling of bones.
Then one day from far-off came letters
From their men, from their very own.
The ploughmen their kin had remembered,
Painstakingly each penned a note.
Their families snatched up the letters
But few could make out what they wrote.
Round Lusha they crowded (she read well)
To know what their dear ones had said
And, squatting, heard of the successes
Of their home-grown champions—and wept.


Dear furrows and fields, in your sorrow
As noble and fine as before!
I love too these tumbledown cottages
Where grey mothers wait by the door.
To bast shoes I bow in deep homage.
Peace to you, plough, harrow and scythe!
What fate has befallen their soldier men
I guess from the look of their wives.
To thoughts of my weakness I'm reconciled—
To be a plain shrub is no bar.
I share the hope women have, lighting
The candle of the evening star.
Their thoughts I divined—they are boundless,
They do not fear thunder or hail.
They follow the plough singing plaintively,
Not dreaming of death or of jail.



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