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“Offensive” by Nikolai Gumilev (1886 – 1921)
Translated by Burton Raffel & Alla Burago
This country could have been paradise:
it’s a den of fire.
We’ve been advancing for four days,
we’ve not eaten for four days.
In this strange, bright hour
we don’t need earth’s bread:
the Lord’s Word
is better nourishment.
The blood-filled weeks
are blinding, insubstantial;
shrapnel bursts over my head,
knives fly faster than birds.
I shout, my voice wild,
“That’s brass banging on brass!”
I carry a Great Idea,
I cannot die, I cannot.
Like thunder hammering,
like angry sea-waves,
Russia’s golden heart
beats steadily in my chest.
And how sweet to dress Victory,
like a girl, in ropes of pearls,
as you follow the enemy’s
smoke-covered retreating tracks.