Vasily Kapnist

The following two poems were written by Vasily Kapnist (1758–1823), who  was born in Velikaya Obukhovka in the Kiev Governorate of the Russian Empire in 1758. The poems were first translated into English by Tamara Romanyk, then reworked into poetry by John Gallas and published in his collection 52 Euros in 2013.

Storm Coming

Dark thrown on the sun
like curdled smokeblack:
the bright sky palled
with a dim night’s winding-sheet.
Storm coming. Wailing wind.
The roused woods clamour.
The crackgust blows its swarms on the harvest
and a hum that threatens mounts faroff.

Quick, into the haycock,
and down with the golden sheaves.
Now, now the rainspout cuts through
into the valley’s jaws.
The wind has sown your corn with hail
across the fields and blackthorn groves,
and strewn away the land’s fair favours.

Is it too late to make and mend now
in its ill wind, when rain
sheets down from the loomed storm-sky
and pours in rivers over the fields?
Quick, take your children,
run, run to shelter and save yourself there.
Listen. Near now. The thunderclap.

Poor Folks’ Riches

The fat home-smiling men of this world,
struttant and glorious-vain,
have only Themselves in their General View.
But I will make do
with peace and with you,
happy in this quiet spot,
unblown with puff.

Let dealers raven the sea for gold,
let self-spouted princes
splosh waves of blood
for one yard of another’s land
But I will make do
without the blood-bought acre,
and richer than princes with you.

Our place is plain: but safe
and sacred-walled for us,
and all I ask is to be left in peace.
Here I will make do well with my life
and ask for no yard of another’s.
My only fear is to be left alone,
should you be taken away.