To an Unknown Hero (Безвестному герою), Ryurik Ivnev

Ivnev as a student
Ivnev as a student

Ryurik Ivnev (1891-1981) was born Mikhail Alexandrovich Kovalyev in Tbilisi, the son of an aristocratic family. In his long life he belonged to various literary movements. He associated with Blok (who dismissed his early work), as well as Mandelstam and Akhmatova. This poem from 1948 perhaps shows him at his most Soviet…

Incline, incline your restless head so weary,
And stop a while beside the river’s flow,
Here lies the body of an unknown hero
Who fell in battle at the hands of foe.

And all around are fields and azure heavens,
As music of my native language pours.
Will his descendant know this place of battle,
Detect the trace of former fierce furores?

But no one will be fooled by earth’s deception,
Forgetful of the ages, heart will clog,
And shining star will float in our perception,
A little blurred by eyeball’s teary fog.

On riverbank, amidst the scrub and meadows,
In crash of wave, in silence and in song,
For ever he’s among us casting shadows,
To thoughts a light, in spirits blazing strong.


Склонись, склонись мятежной головою,
Остановись на берегу реки,
Здесь прах лежит безвестного героя,
Что пал в бою от вражеской руки.

Кругом поля и небо голубое,
Как музыка, родная льется речь.
Узнает ли потомок место боя,
Следы былых ожесточенных сеч?

Но никого природа не обманет,
Забьется сердце, позабыв века,
И пред глазами светлый образ встанет,
Слезою отуманенный слегка.

На берегу, среди полей и в чаще,
Средь шума волн, и в песне, и в тиши,
Он вечно с нами, друг наш настоящий,
Свет наших дум и пламенной души.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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