Saturday, 14 August 2010

A Voice from the Past

Nikolai Gumilev has a page on Facebook. Only ten people ‘like’ it – eleven, now that I have added myself – but at least he has a page, rather a surprise, really, given that he is now almost unknown in the English-speaking world, almost unknown outside his native Russia.

Who was he, you might ask? He was a poet, far from being the greatest in a land of great poets, one with an almost limitless and playful imagination; one who appeals to my own romantic and political vision. Like Arthur Rimbaud, another of my favourites, he was fascinated by Africa in the way that I am fascinated by Africa.

Gumilev was also a patriot, a lover of Russia, a hater of the Bolsheviks, those sub-human political gangsters who took control of the country in a military coup in late 1917. He did nothing to hide his contempt, nothing to disguise the fact that he was a committed ‘counter-revolutionary.’ In August 1921 he was arrested by Cheka, the Soviet secret police, and subsequently executed for his part in a monarchist conspiracy. His burial place is still unknown.

To the People of the Future

This single link was else respected
By people of the days that gone –
There’s written on its tablet sacred
That Love and Life is one.
But you’re not they, you live like arrows
Of dreams that fly through skies and earth,
And in your flight, unite, my fellows,
The Love and Death.

They said in their pledge eternal
That they are slaves of the bad past,
That they were born in dust infernal,
And will return again to dust.
Your heedless brightness was aroused
By songs of lyre, mad and fine,
Eternity will be your spouse,
The world – a shrine.

All folk were utterly believing
That they must live and love with smiles,
That woman is a child of sinning,
Who’s marked by sins a hundred times.
But different, unearthly sounds
Were brought to you by running years,
And you will take to Snow Crowns
Your gentle friends.