Too late, Vladislav Khodasevich


Vladislav Felitsianovich Khodasevich (1886-1939) was the protégé of Gorky and friend of Bely. It is said that he was rediscovered when a Red Army officer found a collection of his works in a private library in Bosnia after the war. He is little known, however, outside Russia. Although a contemporary of the poets of the Silver Age, he was determined that his only model was Pushkin. He was much admired by Nabokov. The following, adolescent, poem is certainly redolent of the greatest Russian poet’s fatalism.

Fell to thinking I. And woke up.
Rang out belfry’s toll!
Tapered, smoke-dimmed icons – churchward
Beckons pealing, dole.

Tardy, tardy – church is empty.
Lastly tolls the bell.
Yearnful heart impatient, sorry
Heartful groan so fell.

Much too late. It’s snuffed, the candle.
Here – the only one.
Not remembering church is joy-filled,
Sad, returning, son.

How I want to turn the clock back,
Down on knees I fall!
God, O God! Your tabernacle
Holds me in its thrall!

Questing, I am now imprisoned.
Spectres o’er me flap –
Threatening, threatening, lure-enticing,
Spider’s silky trap!

Much too late. In darkened hell-hole
Blind, condemned to rot…
Yet, regretful, dallying light’s call –
Strengthless, take my lot.


Я задумался. Очнулся.
Колокольный звон!
В церковь, к свечкам, к темным ликам
Грустно манит он.

Поздно, поздно. В церкви пусто.
То последний звон.
Сердцу хочется больного,
Сердцу внятен стон.

Слишком поздно. Свечи гаснут.
Кто всегда – один,
Тот забыл, что в церкви – радость,
Он – как блудный сын.

Я хочу назад вернуться,
На колени пасть!
Боже, Боже! Дом Твой кроток,-
Надо мною – власть!

Я в тюрьме своих исканий.
Призраки плывут,
И грозят, и манят, манят,
Паутину ткут!

Слишком поздно. В темной бездне
Я ослеп и сгнил…
Будет стыдно выйти к свету –
И не хватит сил.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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