Twins – F. Tyutchev

Russian Golden Age and Romantic poetry translation series, 8/?

Fyodor Tyutchev (1803-1873) spent most of his career as a diplomat, much of it in Germany, and wrote poetry on the side, not valuing it as more than a hobby. It was only later that his lyric gifts were appreciated. His poems reflected his complicated life (he had both wives and mistresses, and seemed to dearly love them). He also struggled with depression recurrently throughout his life. This poem expresses his attitude towards both issues.

Twins

There are two gods for mortal creatures,
Two twins that we call Death and Dream
Wondrous alike in many features —
One gentler, one would grimmer seem…

But other gods are also twain.
The world knows no lovelier pair,
And hearts who yield to their charms fair
Will not know of more desperate pain.

Their bond is tight, not chance, not wild.
Only on fateful days are we
Charmed by their secrets and beguiled
By their persistent mystery.

And who, when flooded by sensations
When blood would freeze and boil inside,
Has not known of your joint temptations,
Twin sisters Love and Suicide!

Feodor Tyutchev, c. 1850, first published 1886; translation by Tamara Vardomskaya, October 2016

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