Only (Только), Konstantin Balmont

balmont-2

Balmont wrote this in exile in Paris in 1922. He had managed to get out of Moscow with his family in 1920. Exile was not easy for him – many in the Russian community in Paris felt that the relative ease of his departure indicated a certain sympathy for the Bolshevik regime. Perhaps this sonnet is an attempt to address that sentiment.

It isn’t Cairo’s scents’ intoxications,
Where through the night the muezzin’s summons rings,
Nor Java where amidst the ruins clings
The light from ancient lantern’s bright striations,

It’s not Benares, fiery Indra’s dwelling,
Who covets there a lightning banquet’s show
In azure valleys’ rain-swept monsoon glow –
Nor is it where the lyre’s song is welling –

It’s not the lingering hold of ancient Rome,
Nor yet the names that fill with thoughts alluring,
Damascus and Baghdad of fame enduring –

These cherished names don’t tempt me now to roam –
In Paris for me nothing needs securing,
But Moscow only ever can be home.

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

Ни радости цветистого Каира,
Где по ночам напевен муэззин,
Ни Ява, где живет среди руин,
В Боро-Будур, Светильник Белый мира,

Ни Бенарес, где грозового пира
Желает Индра, мча огнистый клин
Средь тучевых лазоревых долин,—
Ни все места, где пела счастью лира,—

Ни Рим, где слава дней еще жива,
Ни имена, чей самый звук — услада,
Тень Мекки, и Дамаска, и Багдада,—

Мне не поют заветные слова,—
И мне в Париже ничего не надо,
Одно лишь слово нужно мне: Москва.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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