The Prophets (Пророки), Nikolai Gumilev

student nikolai-gumilev

Gumilev wrote this in the autumn of 1905, a few months after the Revolution of that year which led to a comprehensive democratic reform in Russia. The poem needs to be read in that context – but it may not be of much assistance in working out Gumilev’s feelings about what had just happened. At the time he was 19, a student at the Imperial Lyceum in Tsarskoye Selo, and already in love with his fellow student Anna Andreevna Gorenko, who was to become Anna Akhmatova.

There are some prophets still among us,
Although the altars now are gone.
Their eyes are deep and they are lustrous
With flaming future of the dawn.

But victor’s call is alienating,
Unfathomed words on them bear down,
They’re pale, and find intimidating
Oppressive houses in the town.

And sometimes ’midst the storm’s dejection
A prophet, whom we do not know,
Will cast blue gaze in sky’s direction
And eyes like radiant crystal glow.

He says that he is quite demented,
But that his soul is full of grace,
That in his fevered mind, tormented,
He’s seen Messiah’s shining face.

The Master’s dreams have many faces,
The Giver’s hand is kind and free,
And there are prophets still in places
Like him, who only virtue see.

He says this world is getting better,
That he’s the prince of Future Dawn…
But only sprites of dark tower’s fetter
Attend, and they react with scorn.


И ныне есть еще пророки,
Хотя упали алтари.
Их очи ясны и глубоки
Грядущим пламенем зари.

Но им так чужд призыв победный,
Их давит власть бездонных слов,
Они запуганы и бледны
В громадах каменных домов.

И иногда в печали бурной
Пророк, не признанный у нас,
Подъемлет к небу взор лазурный
Своих лучистых, ясных глаз.

Он говорит, что он безумный,
Но что душа его свята,
Что он, в печали многодумной,
Увидел светлый лик Христа.

Мечты Господни многооки,
Рука Дающего щедра,
И есть еще, как он, пророки –
Святые рыцари добра.

Он говорит, что мир не страшен,
Что он Зари Грядущей князь…
Но только духи темных башен
Те речи слушают, смеясь.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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