Nonfiction > Upton Sinclair, ed. > The Cry for Justice

Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968).
The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest.  1915.
The Revolutionist

By Ivan Turgénev

(Russian writer, 1818–1883, one of the masters of the novel form. He was imprisoned and later exiled. In the original the present extract is a prose poem. The versification is by Arthur Guiterman)
I SAW a spacious house. O’erhung with pall,
A narrow doorway pierced the sombre wall.
Within was chill, impenetrable shade;
Without there stood a maid—a Russian maid,
To whom the icy dark sent forth a slow        5
And hollow-sounding Voice:
                “And dost thou know,
When thou hast entered, what awaits thee here?”
“I know,” she said, “and knowing do not fear.”
“Cold, hunger, hatred, Slander’s blighting breath,”        10
The Voice still chanted, “suffering—and Death?”
“I know,” she said.
                “Undaunted, wilt thou dare
The sneers of kindred? Art thou steeled to bear
From those whom most thou lovest, spite and scorn?”        15
“Though Love be paid with Hate, that shall be borne,”
She answered.
                “Think! Thy doom may be to die
By thine own hand, with none to fathom why,
Unthanked, unhonored, desolate, alone,        20
Thy grave unmarked, thy toil, thy love unknown,
And none in days to come shall speak thy name.”
She said: “I ask no pity, thanks or fame.”
“Art thou prepared for crime?”
                She bowed her head:        25
“Yes, crime, if that shall need,” the maiden said.
Now paused the Voice before it asked anew:
“But knowest thou that all thou holdest true
Thy soul may yet deny in bitter pain,
So thou shalt deem thy sacrifice in vain?”        30
“E’en this I know,” she said, “and yet again
I pray thee, let me enter.”
                “Enter then!”
That hollow Voice replied. She passed the door.
A sable curtain fell—and nothing more.        35
“A fool!” snarled some one, gnashing. Like a prayer
“A saint!” the whispered answer thrilled the air.

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