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Russian Poetry: Vasily Zhukovsky

Russian Poetry: Vasily Zhukovsky

Vasily Zhukovsky (1783-1852)

Vasily Andreyevich Zhukovsky was an outstanding 19th century Russian poet. Zhukovsky brought the spirit of European Romanticism to Russia. Among others, he translated Byron, Schiller, Goethe, and Walter Scott into Russian. His poetry ranges from the short lyric to the epic, and his writing includes prose, drama, and critical essays. His elegies, ballads, and odes inspired other great Russian poets.

To a Familiar Genius Flying By

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Reveal yourself, anonymous enchanter!
What heaven hastens you to me?
Why draw me to that promised land again
That I gave up so long ago?

Was it not you who in my youth
Enchanted me with such sweet dreams,
Did you not whisper, long ago,
Dear hopes of a guests ethereal?

Was it not you through whom all lived
In golden days, in happy lands
Of fragrant meadows, waters bright,
Where days were merry ?neath clear skies?

Was it not you who breathed into my vernal breast 
Some melancholy mysteries
Tormenting it with keen desire 
Exciting it to anxious joy?

Was it not you who bore my soul aloft
Upon the inspiration of your sacred verse,
Who flamed before me like a holy vision,
Initiating me into life's beauty?

In hours lost, hours of secret grief,
Did you not always murmur to my heart,
With happy comfort soothe it
And nurture it with quiet hope?

Did not my soul forever heed you
In all the purest moments of my life
When'ere it glimpsed fate's sacred essence
With only God to witness it?

What news bring you, O, my enchantress?
Or will you once more call in dreams
Awaken futile thoughts of old,
Whisper of joy and then fall silent?

O spirit, bide with me awhile;
O, faithful friend, haste not away;
Stay, please become my earthly life,
O, Guardian angel of my soul.
August 7, 1819

The Mysterious Visitor

Spirit, lovely guest, who are you?
     Whence have you flown down to us?
Taciturn and without a sound
     Why have you abandoned us?
Where are you? Where is your dwelling?
     What are you, where did you go?
Why did you appear,
     Heavenly, upon the Earth?

Mayhap you are youthful Hope,
     Who arrives from time to time 
Cloaked in magic 
     From a land unknown?
Merciless as Hope,
     Sweetest joy you show us
For a moment, then 
     Take it back and fly away.

Was it Love that you enacted
     For us all in mystery? . . .
Days of love, when one beloved
     Rendered this world beautiful
Ah! then, sighted through the veil
     Earth did seem unearthly...
Now the veil has lifted; Love is gone;
     Life is empty, joy - a dream.

Was it Thought, enchanting
     You embodied for us here?
Far removed from every worry,
     With a dreamy finger pointing
To her lips, she sallies forth
     Just like you, from time to time,
Ushers us without a sound
     Back to bygone days.

Or within you dwells the sacred spirit
     Of Dame Poetry? . . .
Just like you, she came from Heaven
     Veiling us twofold:
Using azure for the skies,
     And clear white for earth;
What lies near is lovely through her;
     All that's distant - known.

Or perhaps 'twas premonition
     That descended in your guise
And to us with clarity described
     All that's sacred and divine?
Thus it often happens in this life:
     Something brilliant flies to meet us,
Raises up the veil
     And then beckons us beyond.

1824
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