Three Poems by Aleksey Khomyakov


A timeless borderline you are
That God twixt night and day put down;
He clothed you in a scarlet gown,
He gave you a companion in the morning star.
When in the heavenly azure
You give off light and calmly fade,
I look at you and ruminate:
We are like you, the Dawn of day—
A mix of blazing flames and cold,
Of heaven and the underworld,
A blend of light and shadows grey.


Heaven, make my hands
Like a mighty titan’s!
I’ll envelop nature
In my fervid grasp,
I shall hold nature
To my trembling heart,
And she will respond
To my heart’s desire
With the love of youth.
Everything in her
Shines and breathes with passion;
In her, nothing sleeps
In hibernal slumber.

Fearsome volcanoes
Rumble on the earth;
Boisterous rivers
Flow into the ocean;
In the sea azure
Billows bounce swiftly,
Playing stormy games.
Both the sea and land
Grant ebullient dreams,
Joyfulness and hope,
Fame and youthful beauty
To a mortal man.
Stars in the blue heavens
Hurry after stars;
In the streams of lustre
Flow across the ether
Secret words of passion,
Secret declarations.
Centuries go by,
Centuries are born—
An eternal struggle,
An impassioned life.

Heaven, give a titan’s
Mighty hands to me:
I must hold nature,
Like an ardent lover,
In my joyful grasp.

An inscription on a painting
(An angel is saving two souls from Satan)*

I saw a messenger of heaven
Whisk off two souls from the Earth;
They both were lovely, but their beauties
Were clearly not of equal worth:
The first remembered heaven’s light,
But in the worldly took delight
And with the dust of Earth was stained;
The other had just touched the ground,
When from the Earth she turned around
And for the afterlife retained
Her fair brow of a maid.

*According to the beliefs of Orthodox Christianity, the soul abandons the body at death and is escorted to heaven by angels. However, in the aerial realm of Satan, which is thought to be in the atmosphere of the Earth, the soul is surrounded by demons, reproaching it for sins committed throughout its life. The Devil and his servants attempt to frighten the soul, bring it to despair, and take hold of it. Thus, the mission of angels is to defend the soul on its way to heaven.


Aleksey Khomyakov

Aleksey Khomyakov (1804–1860) was a Russian religious philosopher, historian, economist, poet, painter, engineer, and inventor. He was the leader of the Slavophiles and promoted the idea of Pan-Slavism based on the principles of Orthodoxy. His early poems, created within the framework of romanticism, are concerned with the inner unity between the spirit and nature. Later he drew the most important source of his poetry from Orthodox Christianity. His theological writings influenced Fyodor Dostoevsky and Vladimir Solovyov. Khomyakov’s poetry remains largely untranslated.

Dmitry Shatalov

Dmitry Shatalov is a graduate of Voronezh University, where he obtained a specialist degree in Translation Studies. He is a Hill Foundation scholar reading for a doctorate of philosophy at the University of Oxford. His dissertation is focused on metaphorical conceptions of translation in England, Russia, and France. His poetry and translations into Russian of modern American poets (including Scott Cairns, Nicholas Samaras, Claire Bateman, Carolina Ebeid, and Jeffrey Pethybridge) are forthcoming in the anthology Otzvuki Nebes (Echoes of Heaven) in 2010. He may be reached at [email protected].

English translation copyright (c) Dmitry Shatalov, 2010. 

Dmitry Shatalov would like to acknowledge and thank Victoria Donovan,
who helped to edit these translations.