“A fine and wingèd beast was I” (“Я был прекрасен и крылат”), Nikolai Klyuev


Nikolai Klyuev, like his friend (and, many believe, lover) Yesenin, was of peasant stock. He was shot in 1937, but rehabilitated in 1957.

I fear I may have taken a liberty too far in the final stanza, where I introduced “Aphrodite” in the quest for a rhyme for “Almighty”…

A fine and wingèd beast was I,
I lived in God the Father’s dwelling,
The heavenly scent of lilies my
Delight and nourishment compelling.

To blessed motherland was bound,
I’d gained possession of my manhood,
I loved the prayerful Slavic sound
That chimed aloud in desert pinewood.

And now in sheltered vale my soul
For only one desire is yearning –
That fields’ expanse and waters’ roll
May not resound with painful groaning,

That brother won’t on brother cast
The eye of hostile conflagration,
That fields, as garden, may at last
Now bloom in peace and consolation.

That no one may attempt to flee
With lustrous crown of the Almighty,
That outcast I shall never be
And still may sing of Aphrodite.


Я был прекрасен и крылат
В богоотеческом жилище,
И райских кринов аромат
Мне был усладою и пищей.

Блаженной родины лишен
И человеком ставший ныне,
Люблю я сосен перезвон
Молитвословящий пустыне.

Лишь одного недостает
Душе в подветренной юдоли,-
Чтоб нив просторы, лоно вод
Не оглашались стоном боли,

Чтоб не стремил на брата брат
Враждою вспыхнувшие взгляды,
И ширь полей, как вертоград,
Цвела для мира и отрады.

И чтоб похитить человек
Венец Создателя не тщился,
За то, отверженный навек,
Я песнокрылия лишился.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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