“His lips another prayer are mute repeating” (“Еще молитву повторяют губы”), Georgy Ivanov


Georgy Vladimirovich Ivanov, 1894-1958, spent most of his life in exile. He was a contemporary of Akhmatova, Mandelstam and Gumilev, and placed himself in the ranks of the Acmeists. His contemporaries were – and subsequent opinion is – divided about his merits, but he has enjoyed something of a revival in recent years.

His lips another prayer are mute repeating,
But in his head he’s reading balance sheets.
And wrapped in fur and not exchanging greeting
The trading folk are rushing down the streets.

Across the imperial city fires are smoking,
And bolts and locks resound with clanging blows,
And scattered in the January dawn are cloaking
Arrays of fruit in cornucopian rows.

The melon’s sheen, the grapes in gorgeous bunches,
The blush of apples, pineapples’ conceit!
Behind his takings now his honour hunches,
Like Lord of Hosts he takes the grandee’s seat.

He reads “The Realm”, on sugar lump he’s sucking
As chews he hunks of kulach with his tea,
And radiant sunbeams flap, like hens they’re clucking,
On sky-blue teapot’s gleam as if in glee.

At home on feather bed now idly lingers
His wife in yards of silken fashion’s floss,
And as pearl necklace lovingly she fingers,
She’ll sigh, emit a yawn, make sign of cross.


Еще молитву повторяют губы,
А ум уже считает барыши.
Закутавшись в енотовые шубы,
Торговый люд по улицам спешит.

Дымят костры по всей столице царской,
Визжат засовы, и замки гремят,
И вот рассыпан на заре январской
Рог изобилия, фруктовый ряд.

Блеск дыни, винограда совершенство,
Румянец яблок, ананасов спесь!..
За выручкой сидит его степенство,
Как Саваоф, распоряжаясь здесь.

Читает “Земщину”. Вприкуску с блюдца
Пьет чай, закусывая калачом,
И солнечные зайчики смеются
На чайнике, как небо, голубом.

А дома, на пуховиках, сырая,
Наряженная в шелк, хозяйка ждет
И, нитку жемчуга перебирая,
Вздохнет, зевнет да перекрестит рот.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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