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You are here: Home » Russian Poets » Bella Akhmadulina » The Saint Bartholomew's Night

Bella Akhmadulina

Bella Akhmadulina

BELLA AKHMADULINA: The Saint Bartholomew's Night

The Saint Bartholomew's Night

I sometimes wonder to the hum of rain:
Whether it’s true  – on some assumptive level – 
that any child, born close by the slain,
is execrated to the sin and evil.

In that cursed night when Saint Bartholomew
flocked all the craving, how week and sole,
was cry of him, who midst these fires, two,
was still not Catholic, nor Huguenot in whole.

Though a chick, still peeping in his nest,
though a kid, still weak and not earth-rooted,   
he had survived and owned his first breath
just from the one who was there executed.

So, little nurse, how weren’t you try to brood,
over a child with milk of earth or heaven,
in his so small and so tidy blood
still lives a gulp of oxygen that’s alien.

He has a sweet tooth, wants to eat a lot:
doesn’t sense his body, ignorant and brainless,
that so greedy, testily and hot                                                     
it feasts with spirit of the larynx breathless.

He’s fond of breath! And he has not the blotch
of distant massacres, religious superstitions…           
And he takes fumes, the bloody ones and staunch,
for common favor for his lungs, ambitious.                      

I do not know in whose shade he lays
and sleeps, with childhood and bloodshed around –   
but, equally, the hangmen and their prey
will putrefy his dreams, still blind and sound.

When will be opened just a single eye,
in what his fate will seeds of poison spear:
will it be bliss to kill someone or die,
or just – be blackened by the yoke and fear.

Used to abundance of the death and blood,
you, worthy people, always fight and swear, 
you so boldly nurse your own child,
as if he doesn’t raise your sense of fear.

If from his sleep, he cries and wakes, alarmed, 
don’t be in trouble – it’s his fault, entire:
a gentle gum is, maybe, slightly harmed
by milk-eye-teeth of your sinless vampire.

And if, through branches, once, would something gaze
at you in ways, which make you twitch and shiver, 
don’t be afraid! – this is a little face
of any child, bred in the evil sphere.

But maybe, midst deep fits or Heaven plains,
this cry’s high honour to the other choices,
and this little throat fiercely complains
about its frugality and losses

with all its tunes, too deep for world of strings,
with all its awe, too great for lines’ discretion.
But yet, in whole, what a trifling thing!
Just thirty thousand killed Huguenots, in question.

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver, April, 2001

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