For me the great are no match.
Upon every achievement
I stamp nihil
I never want
to read anything.
What are books!
Formerly I believed
books were made like this:
a poet came,
lightly opened his lips,
and the inspired fool burst into song –
if you please!
But it seems,
before they can launch into a song,
poets must tramp for days with callused feet,
and the sluggish fish of the imagination
flounders softly in the slush of the heart.
And while, with twittering rhymes, they boil a broth
of loves and nightingales,
the tongueless street merely writhes
for lack of something to shout or say.
In our pride, we raise up again
the cities’ towers of Babel,
cities to pasture.
In silence the street pushed torment.
A shout stood erect in the gullet.
Wedged in the throat,
bulging taxis and bony cabs bristled.
Pedestrians have trodden my chest
flatter than consumption.
The city has locked the road in gloom.
But when –
the street coughed up the crush on the square,
pushing away the portico that was treading on its throat,
it looked as if:
in choirs of an archangel’s chorale,
god, who has been plundered, was advancing in
But the street, squatting down, bawled:
“Let’s go and guzzle!”
Krupps and Krupplets1 paint
a bristling of menacing brows on the city,
but in the mouth
corpselets of dead words putrefy;
and only two thrive and grow fat:
and another besides,
apparently – “borsch.”
soaked in plaints and sobs,
break from the street, rumpling their matted hair
over: “How with two such words celebrate
a young lady
and a floweret under the dew?”
In the poets’ wake
thousands of street folk:
thousands of street folk:
You are no beggars;
how dare you beg for alms!
We in our vigour,
whose stride measures yards,
must not listen, but tear them apart –
glued like a special supplement
to each double bed!
Are we to ask them humbly:
Implore for a hymn
or an oratorio!
We ourselves are creators within a burning hymn –
the hum of mills and laboratories.
What is Faust to me,
in a fairy splash of rockets
gliding with Mephistopheles on the celestial parquet!
I know –
a nail in my boot
is more nightmarish than Goethe’s fantasy!
the most golden-mouthed,
whose every word
gives a new birthday to the soul,
gives a name-day to the body,
I adjure you:
the minutest living speck
is worth more than what I’ll do or did!
It is today’s brazen-lipped Zarathustra
dashing about and groaning!
our face like a crumpled sheet,
our lips pendulant like a chandelier;
the convicts of the City Leprous,
where gold and filth spawned leper’s sores,
we are purer than the azure of Venice,
washed by both the sea and the sun!
I spit on the fact
that neither Homer nor Ovid
invented characters like us,
pock-marked with soot.
the sun would dim, on seeing
the gold fields of our souls!
Sinews and muscles are surer than prayers.
Must we implore the charity of the times!
each one of us –
hold in our fists
the driving belts of the worlds!
This led to my Golgothas in the halls
of Petrograd, Moscow, Odessa, and Kiev,
where not a man
But for me –
all of you people,
even those that harmed me –
you are dearer, more precious than anything.
Have you seen
a dog lick the hand that thrashed it?!
mocked by my contemporaries
like a prolonged
I perceive whom no one sees,
crossing the mountains of time.
Where men’s eyes stop short,
there, at the head of hungry hordes,
the year 1916 cometh
in the thorny crown of revoluthions.
In your midst, his precursor,
I am where pain is – everywhere;
on each drop of the tear-flow
I have nailed myself on the cross.
Nothing is left to forgive.
I’ve cauterised the souls where tenderness was bred.
It was harder than taking
a thousand thousand Bastilles!
his advent announcing,
you step to meet the saviour –
shall root up my soul;
I’ll trample it hard
till it spread
in blood; and I offer you this as a banner.