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The Sixth Sense
All lyrics by Nikolai Gumilev

The Sixth Sense

translated by: Yevgeny Bonver
Poetry Lovers' Page

Fine is the wine that is in love with us,
The goodly bread we wait for from the oven,
And woman whom we have possessed, at last,
After we've suffered under yoke her own.

But what to do if a red sunset freezes
Above a sky that's drowning in cold,
Where there is silence and unearthly peace,
What can one do with the immortal ode?

You can't eat it, or drink, or even kiss...
The moment fled, and next one now hovers,
And we wring hands, but yet once more miss -
We are condemned to miss and miss it over.

Just as a boy, forgetting games and friends,
Sometimes beholds the girls bath in a river
And, knowing nothing of the loving trends,
Is yet tormented by a hidden fever;

As once in time on overgrowing banks
The moisten creature holed in despair
Of self impotence, feeling on its back
Wings - still unformed and very feeble pair, -

So century after century - when, O Christ?
Under the knife of liberal arts and nature
The flesh breaks down and the spirit cries
As they bear organs of the sixth sensation.


translated by: Richard McKane
source: N.Gumilev. 1999. The pillar of fire and selected poems

I don't dare to pray any more,
I have forgotten the words of the litanies.
There is a menacing bird above me,
and its eyes are fires.

Now I hear a restrained screech
as if it were the ringing of rusted cymbals,
as if it were the thunder of a distant sea,
of a sea that beats at the breast of cliffs.

Now I see steel talons
bending over me,
as if, lit by the moon,
the river streams tremble.

I'm afraid. What does it need?
I am not the young Ganymede.
The Greek sky never
streamed its tender light over me.

If this is the dove of the Lord
flown down to say: ‘Are you ready!’ —
then why is it so unlike the pigeons in our garden?


translated by: Eleonora Knyazheva

The one, who lies in a grave,
Hears wondrous jingling
And can feel the scent
Of the whitest lily.

The one, who lies in a grave
Sees the light eternal,
Angels’ snow-white shade,
Their feathers’ murmur.

There, you are dying
And your hands are cold.
Unearthly spring is coming
That you do not know.

But you go to heaven –
I prayed to see you there.
It is so, I know that
And to you I swear.


translated by: Richard McKane
source: N.Gumilev. 1999. The pillar of fire and selected poems

I groaned from a bad dream
and woke up in heavy sadness,
I dreamed you loved another
and that he had hurt you.

I ran from my bed
like a murderer from his scaffold
and I saw how the streetlamps
glittered dully with the eyes of beasts.

Oh, no one ever wandered
so homelessly that night
down the dark streets,
as down beds of dried-up rivers.

Here I am standing before your door:
I have no other path,
although I know that I will never
dare go through this door.

He hurt you, I know,
although this was just a dream,
but nonetheless I am dying
in front of your closed window. 


translated by: Maya Jouravel

The moon climbs graciously the evening heavens,
And there affectionately rests her beauty.

The evening breeze is canvassing the lakeshore,
To spread the kisses to the happy water.

Oh, how heavenly would be a union
Of people who are destined for each other.

Yet those who are destined for each other
Can rarely, alas, enjoy their union.


translated by: Richard McKane
source: N.Gumilev. 1999. The pillar of fire and selected poems

In the morning of my unsure memory
I recall a many-coloured meadow,
where ruled a haughty
turkey, adored by me.

He was malicious and free,
his beak crimson as fire
and he was sharply scornful
of my four years.

Neither chocolate, nor caramels,
nor pineapple juice
could comfort me
in the realization of my shame.

Once more came disaster
and shame and grief of childhood years,
you, my adored one, cruel girl
answer me proudly: ‘No!’

But all passes in this unsteady life —
love will pass, sadness too,
and I will remember you with a smile
as I remember the turkey.


Primal Memories
translated by: B. Raffel & A. Burago
source: Selected Works of Nikolai S. Gumilev, 1972

Life—all of it—there it is! Dancing, singing,
cities, deserts, oceans—
a quick reflection
of what's forever lost.

Fires burn, trumpets blare,
and chestnut horses run,
and nervous lips repeat,
keep repeating—what ?—Happiness. Yes, happiness, I think.

And that's ecstasy, and that's pain,
again, once again, forever again;
an ocean waves its grey-haired mane,
deserts sprout, and cities.

And when will I finally end
this dream, and be myself—
a humble Indian dozing
in the sacred twilight, along some quiet river ?

You and I

You and Me
translated by: B. Raffel & A. Burago
source: Selected Works of Nikolai S. Gumilev, 1972

Sure, I'm not good enough,
I come from the provinces,
I don't strum a guitar
but blow an old reed flute.

I don't read poems in velvet rooms and red-plush
halls, to dark dresses and starched black coats;
I read to waterfalls, I read to dragons,
I read to clouds.

When I'm in love — it's like a bedouin
falling on his face when he finds water,
not like a knight in a picture
staring up at the stars — and waiting.

I won't die in a bed
with a doctor and a lawyer puffing up my pillow,
but in some narrow ditch,
covered with wild ivy,

And the Heaven I'll go to won't be the hygienic
Protestant paradise, open to everyone,
but that Heaven where whores and robbers and Judean
tax collectors will yell: Hey! Come out of that ditch!

I haven’t lived, I’ve suffered through it…

It Wasn't Living
translated by: B. Raffel & A. Burago
source: Selected Works of Nikolai S. Gumilev, 1972

It wasn't living, I wasted
half my life
—and then, Lord, You came to me
like this, in an impossible dream.

I see light on Mount Tabor
and my heart hurts
with love for the land and the sea
and the whole tree-dark dream of existence,

My heart hurts that
I wasn't Yours sooner,
that I was so tormented
by Your daughters' beauty.

But is love only a tiny red flower
with just a moment to bloom?
Is love only a tiny flame
so easy to snuff out?

Thinking these quiet, dismal thoughts
I'll manage to drag this life out —
But You think about the next one:
I've ruined one already.

© 2011 Little Tragedies