Innokenty Annensky: Petersburg


The yellow steam of Petersburg's winter,
The yellow snow which clings to the flagstones…
I don't know where you are, and where we are,
Only that we are part of each other.
Did the tsar's decree create us?
Did the Swedes forget to drown us?
Instead of a fairy tale our past contains
Only stones and terrible happenings.
The magician gave us only stones
And the brownish-yellow Neva
And deserts of squares that are mute
Where executions were held till dawn.
And what went on in our land,
What raised our two-headed eagle on high,
In dark laurels, the giant on the rock,
Will tomorrow be game for the workers?
Even he who was furious and brave
Was betrayed by his galloping steed,
The tsar could not crush the snake,
Pinned down, it became our idol.
No Kremlins, no miracles, nothing sacred,
Neither mirages, nor tears, nor a smile…
Only stones from the frozen wastes
And the knowledge of an accursed mistake.
Even in May, when the shadows
Of the white night spill over the waves,
It is not the magic of a springtime dream,
But the poison of sterile desires.

[1910] 

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