“Windows steel-gridded, grim faces…” – A. Fet

Russian Golden Age and Romantic poetry translation series, 7/?

Later in his life, now legally Shenshin at last, Afanasy Fet adopted a practice of spending his winters in Moscow and his summers at his manor at a village near Kursk, where he was very inspired by the surroundings. He produced four new volumes of poetry called “Evening Lights”, but others criticized him as his deep lyric poetry with its beauty and pain did not match his appearance as a sober well-to-do landowner, family man, justice of the peace.

This poem is in the first volume.

***

Windows steel-gridded, grim faces so pale,
Hatreds from brother to brother all glare.
I will acknowledge your stone walls, o jail:
The feast of youth had rejoiced once in there.

What has flashed yonder with beauty undying?
Ah, ’tis my spring flower lovely and dear.
How did you stay whole, meek, piteous, drying,
Under the feet of inhuman mobs here?

Joy had been shining, immaculate, pure
When you were dropped by the maid bridal-dressed.
No, I won’t abandon you; safe and secure
Your home and place now will be on my breast.

Afanasy Fet, 1882; translation by Tamara Vardomskaya, October 2016.

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