Vladislav Khodasevich: Gold



Go : now we place gold in your mouth, and we place poppy and honey in your hands. Salve aeternum. — Krasinski
A gold coin in the mouth; hands full of poppy and honey:
these are the final gifts of your earthly businesses.
And don’t let them incinerate me like a Roman:—
I want to taste my sleep in the womb of the earth.
I want to rise again as the spring corn,
circle the ancient track that the stars follow.
In the darkening grave, poppy and honey will rot,
the dead man’s mouth will swallow the gold coin…
But after many, many years of darkness
a stranger will come and dig my skeleton up,
and inside the blackening skull that his spade
smashes, the heavy coin will clang —
and the gold will flash in the midst of bones,
a tiny sun, the imprint of my soul.

Vladislav Khodasevich was born in Moscow in 1886. He wrote this poem in January 1917 when he was working on translations from the Polish, including Krasinski. He left Russia in 1922 and lived with his wife in Berlin but then mostly in Paris. As an émigré he was ignored by the Soviet authorities while he found the Russian expatriate milieu in Paris unsympathetic and often philistine. But he has now become an appreciated poet in Russia. He died in 1939.  

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