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“Sixth Sense” by Nikolai Gumilev (1886 – 1921)
Translated by Vladimir Markov & Merrill Sparks
O beautiful the wine in love with us!
The good bread in the oven—for us baking!
And that woman, who gave torment and fuss.
Whom now we can enjoy—for just the taking!
But what to do with this rose sunset over
A sky becoming cold as hues disperse.
Where silence and unearthly calm still hover,
What should we do with our immortal verse?
You can’t eat, drink, or kiss sunsets or lines …
The moment runs unchecked and we, hand-wringing,
Are still condemned to overlook the signs
And somehow miss the mark—with our wide swinging.
Just as a boy sometimes watching girls bathing
(Having forgotten all about his games.
Yet innocent of love and love’s behaving)
Is tortured by a strange desire’s flames;
Just as that slippery creature at one time,
Feeling still-unformed wings upon his shoulders,
Roared out his sense of helplessness through slime
And geologic giant ferns and boulders—
So century on century (Lord, quickly?)
Beneath nature and art’s knife our intense
Spirit cries out, our flesh grows faint and sickly—
Trying to birth organs for our sixth sense.