18 October 1908
Again, as in the golden age,
three breech-straps flogging at the trot
and the painted spokes of the carriage
bog down in a muddy rut.
Russia, my beggarly Russia,
your grey huts in their clusters,
your songs set to the wind’s measure
touch me like love’s first tears.
I cannot offer you my pity,
I carry my cross as I can . . .
You squander your wild beauty
on your favourite magician.
If he seduces and deceives you,
you’ll not be broken or collapse;
though suffering may overshadow
the beauty of your face perhaps . . .
But what of that? Just one more sorrow,
one more tear added to the Don,
and you unaltered – forests, meadows,
and the patterned scarf pulled well down . . .
And the impossible is possible,
the highroad is light and long,
and the glint of an eye far off
glances from under the scarf
as sotto voce, sorrowful,
begins the troika-driver’s song.
Translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France (1969)