Children of the City – S. Gorodetsky

Russian Silver Age poetry translations, 30/?

We’ve previously seen Sergei Gorodetsky at his Symbolist height, in the poem “The Birch Tree” from 1906. Now, only a year later, we get a poem concerned much less with lyrical and mystical landscape imagery, and a lot more with the concerns of social justice. He would not officially become one of the co-founders of the Acmeist movement, that strove to break from the Symbolists and call things as they see them and as they are, until 1912, but even this poem suggests that there was more to him than admiring birch trees and dreaming of pagan gods. Even as he was a member of the educated middle class (his father was an ethnographer) he noticed the struggles and suffering of the lower classes and dreamed of a better future for them. To him, at least, the idea of the Soviet would be such a future; for many of his fellow poets, it was not.

Children of the City

Children of the city, withered faded flowers,
I love you for the completion that a dream empowers.

If only this forehead would smooth out from strain,
If only these eyes were not so sad and drained,

If only these bodies were not starved and thin,
How much joyful enmity would have surged within!

If these feet were only not all rickets-bent,
If beneath them only grass and greenery’s scent!

Children of the city, withered faded blooms,
Still a seed of beauty hides within your gloom.

Mid the clang of iron, the deafening of stone,
You are all the brighter, you are hope alone!

Sergei Gorodetsky, 1907; translation by Tamara Vardomskaya, July 2016.