Moscow

Russian poetry. Boris Pasternak. Winter Night

22 Nov 2018
Winter Night

It snowed and snowed ,the whole world over,
Snow swept the world from end to end.
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.

As during summer midges swarm
To beat their wings against a flame
Out in the yard the snowflakes swarmed
To beat against the window pane

The blizzard sculptured on the glass
Designs of arrows and of whorls.
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.

Distorted shadows fell
Upon the lighted ceiling:
Shadows of crossed arms,of crossed legs-
Of crossed destiny.

Two tiny shoes fell to the floor
And thudded.
A candle on a nightstand shed wax tears
Upon a dress.

All things vanished within
The snowy murk-white,hoary.
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.

A corner draft fluttered the flame
And the white fever of temptation
Upswept its angel wings that cast
A cruciform shadow

It snowed hard throughout the month
Of February, and almost constantly
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.

(Boris Pasternak 1890 – 1960, translated by Andrey Kneller)

Probably best known in the west for his prose, Nobel prize winner Boris Pasternak has long been praised in Russia as one if its most outstanding poets. His very first poems from the 1920s astounded Russian literary circles who fell in love with Pasternak’s ‘pure, unbridled inspiration’. His debut collection My Sister’s Life was praised for its ground breaking and unusual style which helped revolutionize Russian poetry as it stood at the time. However, during Stalin’s oppressions Pasternak fell out of favour with the authorities largely due to his colourful style and was unable to print his own creative works for many years. Instead he worked as a literary translator whilst secretly writing his famous novel Dr Zhivago which was smuggled out to the west for publication in 1957. The book instantly became a best seller and Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958. Due to pressure from the Soviet authorities Pasternakwas sadly forced to reject the prize and many say he was even lucky to not have been exiled or imprisoned for having authored the great novel. Pasternak died of lung cancer in 1960 and despite only a tiny notice of his death appearing in a small local newspaper in the village just outside of Moscow where he died, thousands of people turned up at his funeral to mourn him. Word of mouth spread across the city within hours and fans from across Moscow turned up to honour him by reciting his poems from memory well into the night.
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