Verse > Anthologies > Deutsch and Yarmolinsky, comps. > Modern Russian Poetry
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Deutsch and Yarmolinsky, comps.  Modern Russian Poetry.  1921.
 
The Scythians
By Alexander Blok (1880–1921)
 
        “Pan-Mongolism—though the word is strange,
My ear acclaims its gongs.”
—VLADIMIR SOLOVYOV.


YOU are the millions, we are multitude
And multitude and multitude.
Come, fight! Yea, we are Scythians,
Yea, Asians, a squint-eyed, greedy brood.
 
For you: the centuries; for us: one hour.        5
Like slaves, obeying and abhorred,
We were the shield between the breeds
Of Europe and the raging Mongol horde.
 
For centuries your ancient hammers forged
And drowned the thunder of far hates.        10
You heard like wild fantastic tales
Old Lisbon’s and Messina’s sudden fates.
 
Yea, so to love as our hot blood can love
Long since you ceased to love; the taste
You have forgotten, of a love        15
That burns like fire and like the fire lays waste.
 
All things we love: clear numbers’ burning chill,
The ecstasies that secret bloom.
All things we know: the Gallic light
And the parturient Germanic gloom.        20
 
And we remember all: Parisian hells,
The breath of Venice’s lagoons,
Far fragrance of green lemon groves,
And dim Cologne’s cathedral-splintered moons.
 
And flesh we love, its color and its taste,        25
Its deathy odor, heavy, raw.
And is it our guilt if your bones
May crack beneath our powerful supple paw?
 
It is our wont to seize wild colts at play:
They rear and impotently shake        30
Wild manes—we crush their mighty croups.
And shrewish women slaves we tame—or break.
 
Come unto us, from the black ways of war,
Come to our peaceful arms and rest.
Comrades, while it is not too late,        35
Sheathe the old sword. May brotherhood be blest.
 
If not, we have not anything to lose.
We also know old perfidies.
By sick descendants you will be
Accursed for centuries and centuries.        40
 
To welcome pretty Europe, we shall spread
And scatter in the tangled space
Of our wide thickets. We shall turn
To you our alien Asiatic face.
 
For centuries your eyes were toward the East.        45
Our pearls you hoarded in your chests,
And mockingly you bode the day
When you could aim your cannon at our breasts.
 
The time has come! Disaster beats its wings.
With every day the insults grow.        50
The hour will strike, and without ruth
Your proud and powerless Paestums be laid low.
 
Oh pause, old world, while life still beats in you.
Oh weary one, oh worn, oh wise!
Halt here, as once did Œdipus        55
Before the Sphinx’s enigmatic eyes.
 
Yea, Russia is a Sphinx. Exulting, grieving,
And sweating blood, she cannot sate
Her eyes that gaze and gaze and gaze
At you with stone-lipped love for you, and hate.        60
 
Go, all of you, to Ural fastnesses,
We clear the battle-ground for war;
Cold Number shaping guns of steel
Where the fierce Mongol hordes in frenzy pour.
 
But we, we shall no longer be your shield.        65
But, careless of the battle-cries,
Shall watch the deadly duel seethe,
Aloof, with indurate and narrow eyes.
 
We shall not move when the ferocious Hun
Despoils the corpse and leaves it bare,        70
Burns towns, herds cattle in the church,
And smell of white flesh roasting fills the air.
 
For the last time, old world, we bid you come,
Feast brotherly within our walls.
To share our peace and glowing toil        75
Once only the barbarian lyre calls.
 
 
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