Oleg’s Shield (Олегов щит), Alexander Pushkin

Bust of Pushkin, Pushkinskaya Metro Station, Moscow

This poem, written in 1829, contrasts two assaults on Constantinople: the first, by Oleg, the Varangian (Viking) prince who led the forces of Kievan Rus against the Greeks in 907; the second, by the Russian army in its war with Turkey in 1828-1829. It seems Pushkin was less than convinced that the second victory was as glorious as the the first.

When you, O warlike soldier-Viking,
Accompanied by Slav brigade,
At Constantine’s Great City striking
Unfurled the victory banner frayed,
Then to great Russia’s martial glory,
To shame and fear of stubborn Greek,
You pinned amidst the great furore
Your damask shield to gates antique.

The days of bloody strife’s furore
Are here again, we’ve followed you.
But now we’ve come afresh in glory
With menaces on Stamboul too,
Your hill by fearsome roar was shaken,
Resounded loud your jealous moan,
And though Stamboul again was taken
By ancient shield we still were thrown.


Когда ко граду Константина
С тобой, воинственный варяг,
Пришла славянская дружина
И развила победы стяг,
Тогда во славу Руси ратной,
Строптиву греку в стыд и страх,
Ты пригвоздил свой щит булатный
На цареградских воротах.

Настали дни вражды кровавой;
Твой путь мы снова обрели.
Но днесь, когда мы вновь со славой
К Стамбулу грозно притекли,
Твой холм потрясся с бранным гулом,
Твой стон ревнивый нас смутил,
И нашу рать перед Стамбулом
Твой старый щит остановил.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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