“And, oh! how blue is heaven’s glimmer” (“И это небо голубое”) Fyodor Sologub

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The poet and humourist Teffi write of Sologub:

His face was pale, long, without eyebrows; by his nose was a large wart; a thin reddish beard seemed to pull away from his thin cheeks; dull, half-closed eyes. His face was always tired, always bored… Sometimes when he was a guest at someone’s table he would close his eyes and remain like that for several minutes, as if he had forgotten to open them. He never laughed… Sologub lived on Vasilievsky Island in the small official apartment of a municipal school where he was a teacher and inspector. He lived with his sister, a flat-chested, consumptive old maid. She was quiet and shy; she adored her brother and was a little afraid of him, and spoke of him only in a whisper. He said in a poem: “We were holiday children, My sister and I”; they were very poor, those holiday children, dreaming that someone would give them “even motley-colored shells from a brook.” Sadly and dully they dragged out the difficult days of their youth. The consumptive sister, not having received her share of motley shells, was already burning out. He himself was exhausted by his boring teaching job; he wrote in snatches by night, always tired from the boyish noise of his students…

So Sologub lived in his little official apartment with little icon lamps, serving his guests mint cakes, ruddy rolls, pastila, and honey cakes, for which his sister went across the river somewhere on a horsecar. She told us privately, “I’d love to ride on the outside of the horsecar sometime, but my brother won’t let me. He says it’s unseemly for a lady.”… Those evenings in the little apartment, when his close literary friends gathered, were very interesting.

Sologub fascinates me. So much about him seems to epitomise bourgeois respectability, yet his poetry has a loftiness that escapes the restraint of a propriety he appears to have visited on others.

And, oh! how blue is heaven’s glimmer,
And, oh! how lofty is the hush!
It seems, O child of night-pitch shimmer,
You plunge to earth in headlong rush,

As joyous eyes you’re now inclining
Upon this valley of despair,
Where now must start your doleful whining,
As painful fall o’ercomes you here.

Yet you must harbour aspirations
and quake at what you find amiss.
The waterfall’s concatenations
Delay your leap across abyss,

The sun can never lose its vision,
It will not waste its burning rays
So those who’re born of heat’s collision
Are more consumed by solar blaze.

So gust, and aspiration, passion
Are forces governed by the sun.
Discharge upon the earth your ration,
The heaven-purloined hoard you’ve won.

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

И это небо голубое,
И эта выспренная тишь!
И кажется,- дитя ночное,
К земле стремительно летишь,

И радостные взоры клонишь
На безнадежную юдоль,
Где так мучительно застонешь,
Паденья ощутивши боль.

А все-таки стремиться надо,
И в нетерпении дрожать.
Не могут струи водопада
Свой бег над бездной задержать,

Не может солнце стать незрячим,
Не расточать своих лучей,
Чтобы, рожденное горячим,
Все становиться горячей.

Порыв, стремленье, лихорадка,-
Закон рожденных солнцем сил.
Пролей же в землю без остатка
Все, что от неба получил.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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