Soviet War Poetry

Discussion in 'Soviet' started by Zoya, Mar 16, 2008.

  1. Zoya

    Zoya Partisan

    I have enjoyed reading some of the Russian WWII war poetry, which differs a lot from the WWI poets, such as Owen, Sassoon etc. Whereas these and other WWI poets focused on the horror/injustice of war, the Russian war poets focused more on patriotic glory, the glorious Motherland, the honour of fighting and dying for Mother Russia etc. The style is very different.

    Here are some examples:

    It's not for us to calmly rot in graves.
    We'll lie stretched out in our half-open coffins
    And hear before the dawn the cannon coughing,
    The regimental bugle calling gruffly
    From highways which we trod, our land to save.

    We know by heart all rules and regulations.
    What's death to us? A thing that we despise.
    Lined up in graves, our dead detachment lies
    Awaiting orders. And let generations
    To come, when talking of the dead, be wise;
    Dead men have ears and eyes for truth and lies.

    Nicolai Mayorov
    Translated by Dorian Rottenberg
    In February 1942 Nikolai Mayorov, political instructor of a machine-gun company, died in action in Smolensk Region.


    We rose at dawn,
    When night crept close to day.
    The wind that blew was fresh and light
    and fitful,

    A little briny and a little bitter.
    As on an open palm the sea before us lay,
    With fishing boats its surface strewn,
    the advent

    Of morning marking....
    Under foam-washed boulders
    (Quite large they were and black and sleek
    and shiny),

    Beneath dark sea-weed, butter-soft and slimy,
    The bullheads moved their bulky tops, and twisted
    Their narrow tails.
    The ship to the horizon
    Was firmly glued.
    The sparkle of the rising
    Sun hurt the eyes.
    The contours of the misty
    Shores were a trifle vague and undefined.
    We`ll not surrender you, Odessa, city mine!
    Let death walk every street;
    With hoarse and choking sound,
    Let homes in flame go up and topple to the ground.

    Let acrid smoke eat at our eyes, let bread
    Give off the smell of powder and of lead -
    Odessa, city mine,
    My friend and comrade true,
    Odessa, city mine,
    We`ll not surrender you!

    Vsevolod Bagritsky
    1941 Translated by Irina Zheleznova
    Vsevolod Bagritsky was fallen by an enemy bullet while jotting down some facts passed on to him by one of the men. This was on February 26, 1942, in the village of Dubovik, the Leningrad Region.

    I am Goya
    of the bare field, by the enemy’s beak gouged
    till the craters of my eyes gape
    I am grief

    I am the tongue
    of war, the embers of cities
    on the snows of the year 1941
    I am hunger

    I am the gullet
    of a woman hanged whose body like a bell
    tolled over a blank square
    I am Goya

    O grapes of wrath!
    I have hurled westward
    the ashes of the uninvited guest!
    and hammered stars into the unforgetting sky - like nails
    I am Goya

    Andrey Voznesensky
    Translated by Stanley Kunitz
    Voznesensky isn't a war poet in the truest sense, ie he wasn't in active service, having been born in 1933, but his memories of the war is the theme of this poem. He was denounced by Khrushchev in 1963, but in 1978 was awarded the USSR State Prize.

    There aren't many war poems on the net, but you will find some more here: The Voice of Russia (CHAPTER DEVOTED TO THE SECOND WORLD WAR)

    Related books:
    The Road To The West - Sixty Soviet War Poems (rare)
    Let the Living Remember: Soviet War Poetry (v. rare)

    Hope this is of interest!
    If you know of any more, please post them!;) :)
  2. Marina

    Marina Senior Member

    Very powerful, Zoya. Voznesensky's

    'of a woman hanged whose body like a bell
    tolled over a blank square'
    will stick with me.

  3. Zoya

    Zoya Partisan

    How much I love them all
    (and they will all be killed
    All of them –
    The company commanders
    'Companeee, forward, follow the
    (Their mouths will grow
    These here, in the earth.

    Yan Satunovsky
    Kak ya ikh vsekh lyublyu [How Much I Love Them All... trans M. G.], 1942

    My comrade, in your death-agony
    Don't call your friends in vain!
    Instead let me warm my palms
    Over your steaming blood.

    Don't you weep, don't moan,
    You are no small child
    You are not hurt, you have simply been killed.
    Let me take off your boots as a keepsake,
    For we shall yet have to advance.

    Ion Degen
    Moj tovarischtsch, v smertel'noj agonii...

    Your crutches and your lethal perforating wound,
    and the tombs over the Volga, where thousands of
    young ones are lying, –
    all this is our fate, she is what we argued and sang with...

    But when we come back – and we will come back victorious,
    all of us, stubborn as devils and tenacious and spiteful as men,
    let them brew beer for us and fry meat for lunch,
    to make the tables on oaken legs burst far and wide.

    We shall bow low to our weary own people,
    we shall smother our mothers and girlfriends with
    kisses for having waited for us and kept their love,
    when we come back, having obtained victory with our bayonets,
    then we shall love everything to the end, my coeval,
    and find ourselves trades.

    Semyon Gudzenko
    Nas ne nuzhno zhalet' [No Need to Pity Us – trans. M. G.], 1945
  4. Zoya

    Zoya Partisan

    Yay! I managed to track down a copy of Let the Living Remember at a more than reasonable price. For a book so rare I'm well pleased.

    It's beautifully illustrated throughout, poems in English and Russian. Published in the USSR, 1976; I scanned some pages:

    Attached Files:

    Owen likes this.
  5. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    If you look at the propaganda of the time Zoya, you will see that the regime was very careful to promote the idea of Mother Russia being fought for, rather than the ideology. They werent above using images of Tsarist Generals urging the troops on in propaganda posters. So its no surprise to see poems about the glory of Mother russia gaining popularity.
  6. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

  7. Zoya

    Zoya Partisan

  8. Zoya

    Zoya Partisan

    From the link in GH's thread about Kursk...
    Kursk Page

    Wait for me, and I'll return - only wait very hard;
    Wait until you are filled with sorrow as you watch the yellow rain;
    Wait when the wind sweeps the snowdrifts;
    Wait in the sweltering heat;
    Wait when others have stopped waiting, forgetting their yesterdays;
    Wait when even from afar no letters come to you;
    Wait even when others are tired of waiting;
    Wait even when my mother and son think I am no more;
    And when friends sit around the fire drinking to my memory,
    Wait, and do not hurry to drink to my memory too;
    Wait, for I'll return, defying every death;
    And let those who do not wait say I was lucky;
    They will never understand that, in the midst of death,
    You, with your waiting, saved me;
    Only you and I will know how I survived -
    It's because you waited as no one else did.

    Konstantin Simonov, 1941
    Michael Bully likes this.
  9. Michael Bully

    Michael Bully Active Member

    Pleased to have found this thread. I am looking for poems about the Eastern Front from the Soviet point of view for my blog
    So far have covered 'Babi Yar' by Yevgeny Yevtushenko written in 1961.

    I have read Konstantin Simonov's poem 'Wait for Me', but not the others on this thread to great to see them. Thank you for sharing.

    There is a clip of Yevgeny Yetushenko reading 'Baba Yar' in English ....begins about 1 minute 50 seconds.

  10. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

  11. Michael Bully

    Michael Bully Active Member

    Just read some of Anna Akhmatova's poetry and found an article about her life here.

    10 Anna Akhmatova Poems to Read when Life, Love, and Politics Are Hard

    Anna Akhmatova was born in 1888 and died in 1966. Akhmatova's poetry was first published in 1910 and she carried on writing until her end of her life. Her work dealt with the Russian Revolution, the Stalinist purges, World War 2 and beyond.

    A cycle of 16 short poems 'The Winds of War ' appeared in 'Second World War Poems-chosen by Hugh Haughton ' ( Faber & Faber, 2004).

    Here is number three in the series.

    First Long-Range Firing on Leningrad

    And people's colourful daily round
    Suddenly changed drastically
    But this was not a city sound,
    Not one heard in the villages.
    It resembled a distant peal of thunder
    As closely as one brother resembles another,
    But in thunder there's the moisture,
    Of cool cloud towers
    And the yearning of the meadows-
    For the news of joyous showers,
    But this was like scorching heat, dry,
    And we didn't want to believe
    The rumour we heard-because of
    How it grew and multiplied,
    Because of how indifferently
    It brought death to my child.

    September 1941
  12. Michael Bully

    Michael Bully Active Member

    Have co-operated with Lucy London from the 'Female Poets of the First World War 'blog in writing a web article on about Anna Akhmatova . Was good to have the benefit of Lucy London's considerable knowledge, particularly as Anna Akhmatova's life and poetry spanned the pre-revolutionary era , World War 1, the Russian Revolution, the rise of Stalin, the Purges, World War 2, and beyond.
    Anna Akhmatova – a joint piece from Lucy London and Michael Bully – World War Poetry

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