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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Speak, Memory: Solzhenitsyn's Poetry, Past as Prologue

"The Prisoners' One Right"

Yoke of years that we lived in prison
Grants no rights: we're entitled to naught.

Not to pulpits. Nor lecturns. Nor glory.
Nor power. Nor halos of saints.

Nor in memoirs to mix with fatigue and
Our colorless ashen complaints.

Nor that armies of youths should now run astride life
by the path that we trod for them.

All will go as 'twill go. "There's no point
To pound the wheel's rut before the journey."

An illuminated interior suffering core:
May, for everything, this be our one recompense.

It's the most precious of all earthly gemstones,
And, to carry it home undefiled,

Let of our phantom rights, then, at the very least be
Our secreted right to an equal revenge.

There's a number. So endlessly long.
Comprehensible just to Chinese and to Russians.

All those fallen, extinguished, without guilt or trace.
In that number we're nil upon nil.

Our right is but one:
To be rancorless sons of our luckless Russian land.

Let our grievances burn, rot, decay deep inside.
To the outside we'll spring living shoots, only then,

Looking up, will our Russia's fatigued countryside
See the sun it awaited so long.

--by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
--(undated, translated from the Russian by his son Ignat)
--source: The New Yorker magazine, August 21, 2006 issue

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