In fields hopeless and dumb
Droops the pale-bladed grain;
It is dozing and numb
Amid dreams that are vain….
With a high sudden hum
The field tosses its mane:
“Unto us Christ is come!”
The wild news shakes the plain.
Like a wind-beaten drum
Shouts the quivering grain.
The bells ring soft and slow,
There is clamor and pain
In the church, and a low
Voice is lifted again
That reiterates: “Woe!”
To the poor folk and plain
Are brought candles aglow:
“Christ is coming again!”
But with voices of woe
They file doorward, in pain.
The shining and ponderous goblet
I empty: the earth drops below me,
All things sink away, —I am treading
Cold space—the vast void—the dim ether.
But distant, in ancient space looming,
My glimmering goblet: the Sun.
I look—far below me are lying
The rivers, the forests, the valleys,
Estranged in the vanishing distance.
A cloud, blowing fog on my eyelids,
Trails gossamer gold in its going.
The flickering landscape is burning
Its last: mid-day stars newly-kindled
Look into my soul, sparkling: “Welcome,”
With radiance silently streaming:
“The end of long wanderings, brother,
Lies here, in your motherland, welcome!”
Slow hour upon hour in procession,
Slow centuries, smiling, pass onward.
In ancient space proudly I lift it,
My glimmering goblet: the Sun.
“YOU SIT ON THE BED THERE”
(Opening poem of the “Funeral Mass” cycle)
“You sit on the bed there
In the sunset’s full crimson,
Looking distracted, —what
“Oh, swept by
The fir-tree tops
Loom athwart the sky’s blue.”
“Orphaned, alone, I shall
Twilights and Winter nights.
There are new flights, but
Try them I dare not.
Oh, do not die!”
“Oh, above the pines
I float off into æther seas.
Who, there, what, there,
Swathes the sky with whitenesses,
As with vestments of silver?”
Reared in a professorial atmosphere, in which science was the major element, Boris Bugayev, better known under his pseudonym of Andrey Bely, has lived a double life of artist and analyst. The artist was engrossed in problems of form. He created an interesting, experimental genre which he called “symphony,” with cadenced prose, verbal instrumentation and musical development of themes. The analyst, on his part, used mathematical formulæ on the poet’s fine frenzy, inaugurating a science of rhythmics, at least for the Russians. Yet Bely is no æsthete, but a mystic, who gropes toward the light of Christ, “the timeless taper,” and who lives by the uncertain hope of the ineffable coming. The metaphysical conflict is constantly invading the field of his poetic endeavor, until his lyrics become the battle-cries of his spiritual journeys. He is responsible for more theorizing about symbolism than any one else, ‘Weltanschauung’ and almost intto an ethics.
His poetry is rarefied and difficult. Its delicate imagery is but an overtone of a resonant spiritual note. His poems have an esoteric quality which is also evidenced in his two famous novels, “The Silver Dove” and “Petersburg.”Through both moves a curious counterpoint of the apocalyptic and the homely, muffled by theosophic speculation.
The proletarian revolution elicited from Bely a cycle of poems, suggestively entitled “Christ is Risen!” Herein he envisions Russia, of which he once despaired, as the new Nazareth. Quite Recently he completed the first part of a monumental epic planned for ten volumes.
[from the original introduction to the poetry of Andrey Bely in Modern Russian Poetry; An Anthology translated by Babette Deutsch and Avrahm Yarmolinsky (Bodley Head, 1923). Bely went on to produce numerous works of critical prose, memoir and fiction. He died in Moscow in 1934.]