Thursday, January 5, 2012

parable of the russian émigrés - zbigniew herbert

Parable Of The Russian Émigrés 
by Zbigniew Herbert (tr. Peter Dale Scott)

It was the year twenty
or perhaps twenty-one
the Russian émigrés
came to us

tall blond people
with visionary eyes
and women like a dream

when they crossed the market-place
we used to say - migratory birds

they used to attend the soirées of the gentry
everyone would whisper - look what pearls

but when the lights of the ball were extinguished
helpless people remained

the grey newspapers were continuously silent
only solitaire showed pity

the guitars beyond the windows would cease playing
and even dark eyes faded

in the evening a samovar with a whistle
would carry them back to their family railway-stations

after a couple of years
only three of them were spoken about
the one who went mad
the one who hanged himself
she to whom men used to come

the rest lived out of the way
slowly turning into dust

   This parable is told by Nicholas
   who understands historical necessities
   in order to terrify me i.e. to convince me

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