The Russian God by Peter Vyazemsky

russian peasants

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The Russian God

Do you need an explanation

what the Russian God can be?

Here’s a rough approximation

as the thing appears to me.

God of snowstorms, God of potholes,

every wretched road you’ve trod,

coach inns, cockroach haunts, and ratholes –

that’s him, that’s your Russian God.

God of frostbite, God of famine,

beggars, cripples by the yard,

farms with no crops to examine –

that’s him, that’s your Russian God.

God of breasts and…all sagging,

swollen legs in bast shoes shod,

curds gone curdled, faces dragging –

that’s him, that’s your Russian God.

God of brandy, pickle vendors,

those who pawn what serfs they’ve got,

of old women of both genders –

that’s him, that’s your Russian God.

God of medals and of millions,

God of yard sweepers unshod,

lords in sleighs with two postilions –

that’s him, that’s your Russian God.

Fools win grace, wise men be wary,

there he never spares the rod,

God of everything contrary –

that’s him, that’s your Russian God.

God of all that gets shipped in here,

unbecoming, senseless, odd,

God of mustard on your dinner –

that’s him, that’s your Russian God.

God of foreigners, whenever

they set foot on Russian sod,

God of Germans, now and ever –

that’s him, that’s your Russian God.

Peter Vyazemsky

Trans. A. Myers


Prince Pyotr Andreyevich Vyazemsky or Petr Andreevich Viazemsky (Russian: Пëтр Андре́евич Вя́земский) (23 July 1792 – 22 November 1878) was a leading personality of the Golden Age of Russian poetry.

His parents were a Russian prince of Rurikid stock, Prince Andrey Vyazemsky, and an Irish lady, Jenny O’Reilly. As a young man he took part in the Battle of Borodino and other engagements of the Napoleonic Wars. Many years later, Tolstoy‘s description of the battle in War and Peace would appear inaccurate to him and he would engage in a literary feud with the great novelist.

In the 1820s Vyazemsky was the most combative and brilliant champion of what then went by the name of Romanticism. Both Prince Pyotr and his wife Princess Vera, née Gagarina were on intimate terms with Pushkin, who often visited their family seat at Ostafievo near Moscow (now a literary museum). Unsurprisingly, Vyazemsky is quoted in Pushkin’s works, including Eugene Onegin. The two friends also exchanged several epistles in verse.

In the thirties, like all the “literary aristocracy”, Vyazemsky found himself out of date and out of tune with the young generation. He had the great sadness of surviving all his contemporaries. Though it was precisely in his last years that his poetical talent bore its best fruit, he was forgotten and abandoned by critics and public long before he died. He grew into an irritated reactionary who heartily detested everyone born after 1810. (Source: Wikipedia)


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