Ooh, 19th Century Russian Orientalism!
Where the sea forever splashes
By a desolate rocky shore,
Where the moon more warmly glimmers
O’er the mellow twilight hours,
Where the Muslim in his harem
Spends his days in revelry,
There, a sorceress caressed me,
Handed me a talisman.
OK, no, seriously, this is not one of my favourites by Pushkin even though it’s delicious… I guess just couldn’t resist that vision of the harem and the “revelry.”
Here’s the poem I really want you to read:
Tormented by a spiritual thirst,
I stumbled through a gloomy waste,
And there a six-winged seraph
Appeared before me at the crossroad.
With touch as light as slumber,
He laid his fingers on my eyes,
Which opened wide in prophecy
Just as a startled eagle’s might.
Upon my ears his touch then fell,
And they were filled with noise and clangs:
I heard the heavens shift on high,
The whispering of angels’ wings,
Sea monsters moving in the deep,
The growing grapevines in the vales.
And then he bent down towards my mouth,
My sinful tongue he ripped right out-
Its slander and its idle lies-
And with his bloody hand inserted
Between my still and lifeless lips
A cunning serpent’s forked tongue.
And with his sword he cleaved my breast
Removed my shaking heart,
And then he seized a blazing coal,
And placed it in my gaping breast.
Corpse-like I lay upon the sand
And then God’s voice called out to me:
“Arise, O Prophet, watch and hark,
Fulfill all my commands:
Go forth now over land and sea,
And with your word ignite men’s hearts.
No, not that Prophet… Or maybe yes… Or maybe… Oh never mind…
What a good translation though, right? I wish I could tell you I did this, but I would be a liar. The translator does not appear to be listed – and that’s a shame.