Vladimir Solovyov: A Parody on Russian Symbolists

Russian Symbolism was a branch of European artistic movement under the same name. I first discovered Russian Symbolist poets more than 10 years ago, when I was still at school (Alexander Blok and Konstantine Balmont were my favourite). I suspect, however, that outside Russia Russian symbolism may be primarily associated with theatre, especially the names of Diaghilev and Meyerhold.

Russian Symbolism was occasionally criticised for its superfluous imagery, and the poem that I translated highlights just this sort of criticism. It was composed by Vladimir Solovyov, a Russian philosopher, who was close enough to the Russian literary circles to be able to smile at these sarcastically. The Parodies on Russian Symbolists were printed in 1895 and consist of three parodies, but my favourite has always been the one I have just translated from Russian. It is very much an impromptu, completed chiefly on the bus on my way home. As you may see, Solovyov’s poem is more of a parody on symbolism per se: he generously fills every line with a «symbol», to create a hilarious image of a jealous lover.

The skies are burning with the lanterns’ fire —
Dark is the Earth!
So, have you been with him, oh woeful liar?
Let truth shine forth!

But tease not the hyena of misgiving
And mice of gloom!
Or else the leopards of revenge come bringing
In teeth your doom!

And call you not the owl of discretion
This fateful night!
The mokes of poise and elephants of question
Have taken flight!

You bore yourself the monstrous crocodile,
Which is your fate!
Oh let the skies burn with the lanterns’ fire —
Dark is the grave!

© Julie Delvaux 2007

Владимир Соловьев, Пародии на русских символистов (1895)

На небесах горят паникадила,
А снизу — тьма!
Ходила ты к нему иль не ходила?
Скажи сама!

Но не дразни гиену подозренья,
Мышей тоски!
Не то смотри, как леопарды мщенья
Острят клыки!

И не зови сову благоразумья
Ты в эту ночь!
Ослы терпенья и слоны раздумья
Бежали прочь!

Своей судьбы родила крокодила
Ты здесь сама!
Пусть в небесах горят паникадила,
В могиле — тьма!

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