By Way of the Grain (Путем зерна), Vladislav Khodasevich

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This poem, written in the tumultuous year of 1917, sealed Khodasevich’s reputation. A few years later, however, he went into exile, which meant that he was ignored for decades in the Soviet Union and only had the émigré community for an audience. Recently he has gained the following he deserves in Russia, and Peter Daniels published a collection of translations in 2013 – a book I want to get my hands on! He discusses Khodasevich here.

The sower goes along the even furrows’ score.
He follows course of generations long before.

The glinting grain reflects the sun in sower’s hand.
But fall it must on rich black earth’s beloved land.

Beneath, where blindly burrows earthworm cold and deep,
Concealed for long, it dies before its vernal leap.

And thus my soul the same path takes as falling grain:
It dark descends to death, then springs to life again.

O country of my birth, O people to me dear,
You’ll die and live again, get through this fateful year.

If wisdom teaches one thing, it is this refrain:
It falls to all who live to follow way of grain.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Проходит сеятель по ровным бороздам.
Отец его и дед по тем же шли путям.

Сверкает золотом в его руке зерно.
Но в землю черную оно упасть должно.

И там, где червь слепой прокладывает ход,
Оно в заветный срок умрет и прорастет.

Так и душа моя идет путем зерна:
Сойдя во мрак, умрет – и оживет она.

И ты, моя страна, и ты, ее народ,
Умрешь и оживешь, пройдя сквозь этот год, –

Затем, что мудрость нам единая дана:
Всему живущему идти путем зерна.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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