Poetical Works by Mikhail Lomonosov, 1711-1765

translated from the Russian by Sibelan Forrester

With thanks to Dr. Marina Rojavin of Temple University, for assistance with choice of poems and excerpting.



ODE

on the birthday of her majesty,
the sovereign empress Elisaveta Petrovna,
autocrat of all Russia, in the year 1746

This very day, most blessèd Russia,
A pleasing land in heaven’s eyes,
This very day from holy heights
Elisaveta’s given thee.
To raise our Peter posthumously,
To crush our foes’ o’erweening pride
And cast them also into horror,
To make thee safe from dire misfortunes,
To place thee judge above the kingdoms
And elevate thee o’er the clouds.

Oh child of Him who thunders above us,
Mother of all the tribes of earth,
Oh Nature, marvelous in actions,
As if you judge me to be worthy
To know the deepest of your secrets,
And if the weak engine of thoughts
May penetrate into your mansions,
Present to me that fateful epoch
And the stars’ whole course in order,
As He most high gave us this token.

Through stormy clouds of former sadness,
Which cruèl fate brought unto us,
Oh, how the mountains wept for Peter
And Pontus roared within its banks,
Through changes dreadful for the Rossians,
Through the dust that wars disturbed,
I see that bright and radiant moment:
There ’round the young Elisaveta
Shine planets bearing happy fate,
I hear the voice of Nature present.

[…]

How clear the sun when that first time
Upon you shone its gleaming ray,
Already fortune stretched her hand
With love for all your pleasant ways,
She held the crown above your head
And elevated there before you
The trophies of your fathers’ conquests,
Most glorious to the ends of earth.
How fortunate was Russia then
When first upon the world you gazed!

Then from Poltava, filled with gladness,
The sound of Rossian vict’ry roared,
Then all the universe’s limits
Could not contain the fame of Peter,
Then the heads of vanquished vandals
Bowed low as they were herded past,
E’en when you were in swaddling clothes;
Then it was that fate made known,
The regiments of their descendants
Would fall before you tremorously.

[…]

But lo, the various tongues and peoples
From the great rivers and the seas
Lift up harmonious exclamations,
To you, their monarch and their lady,
They spread out wide their hearts and hands,
And many a time do they repeat:
“Long live the great Elisaveta,
Born on this day for Rossian glory,
And may the heavens fortify her
Through multitudes of happy years.”

[…]

(late 1746)

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ODE

On the Day of the ascension to the throne of all Russia
of her majesty the sovereign empress
Elisaveta Petrovna, in the year 1747

The great light-giver of the world,
As it shines down from ageless heights
On pearls, on gold and regal purple,
And onto all the charms of earth,
To every side it lifts its gaze,
But in the world it does not find
One fairer than you and Elisaveta.
You’re higher than all aside from her;
Her soul is milder than the zephyr,
Her gaze more grand than paradise.

When she ascended to the throne,
As the Most High gave her the crown,
She did return you unto Russia,
She put an end to waging war;
Having brought you there, she kissed you;
Enough of victories, she said,
For which a stream of blood is flowing.
I’ll give the Rossians happy joys,
I’ll not exchange their peace and calm
For all the west and all the east.

’Tis meet for lips divine to speak,
Oh monarch, in a voice thus meek:
Oh worthily are elevated
This day and that blessèd hour,
When from the joyful alteration
By cheers and cries the walls of Peter
Were elevated to the stars!
When in your hand you bore the cross
And on the throne installed beside you
The splendid visage of your goodness!

For a word to do them justice
Our power’s compass is too small;
Yet we cannot restrain ourselves
To keep from singing praise of you.
Your generosities give courage
To our souls, set us in motion,
As into Pontus the able wind
Rushes the sailor through wild waves;
He leaves the shore with merriment;
The helm flies ’midst the water’s depths.

Be silent, hush, you fiery sounds,
And cease to agitate the world;
Here in the world Elisaveta
Has seen fit to advance the sciences.
You, sudden tempests, do not dare
To howl, but meekly spread the word
Of these most splendid times of ours.
Oh universe, pay heed in silence:
Here the inspirèd lyre desires
To give great names a voice and praise.

[…]

What radiance is this surrounding
Parnassus Mount, amidst such grief?
Oh how concerted there is strumming
The sweetest voice of pleasant strings!
The hills are thick with subjects thronging;
In all the vales their cheers ring out:
The daughter and great heir of Peter
Exceeds her sire’s munificence,
Deepens the Muses’ satisfactions,
Flings wide the door to happiness.

That warrior who can match his battles
To the count of your victories,
Who lives his whole life in the field,
That man is worthy of great praise;
But fighters, in service to him,
Are always party to his boasting,
And noise from all sides in the troops
Muffles the resonance of fame,
And the weeping of the vanquished
Impedes the thunder of her trumpets.

This great fame is yours alone,
Oh monarch, rightfully possessed,
The spacious realm you make your home,
Oh, how it speaks in gratitude!
Regard the peaks supremely high,
Regard the breadth of your great fields,
Where Volga, Dnieper, Ob are flowing;
The riches that these lands conceal
Will be brought unto light by science,
Which through your kindness flourishes.

[…]

The sciences nourish young people,
Give consolation to the old,
They decorate a happy life,
And they protect one in misfortune;
Consoling in domestic troubles
And not a hindrance in far travels.
The sciences prove ever useful,
Among the peoples and in wildness,
In urban noise or isolation,
In calm they’re sweet, and sweet in labor.

To thee, oh source of benefaction,
Oh angel of our peaceful years!
May the Most High help make it so
That he who dares in arrogance,
Envying our tranquility,
To rise against thee and make war,
May the Creator then preserve thee
On all roads without obstacles
And may He make thy blessèd life
Match sum with thy munificence.

Late 1747

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Verses

Written on the road to Peterhof,
when in 1761 I was going there to plead
for a signature for the privileges of the Academy,
having gone many times after the same thing

Dear little grasshopper, how deeply you are blessed,
How much, compared to people, you are granted happiness!
You while your life away amidst the softest grass
And take your pleasure in the honey of sweet dew.
Though in the eyes of many you’re a creature scorned,
Indeed in very truth you are a tsar before us;
An angel in the flesh, or, rather, bodiless!
You leap and sing, at liberty, you are light-hearted,
All that you see is yours; you’re everywhere at home,
You beg for nothing, and you owe nothing to anyone.

Summer 1761

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