Translator’s note: Konstantin Batyushkov (1787–1855) was a key figure in the emergence of modern Russian poetry; the harmony of his verse was much admired by Pushkin. In 1821 he succumbed to incurable mental illness.

Like a flaneur with a magic cane,
tender Batyushkov lives at my place—
wanders down Zamostie lanes,
sniffs a rose, sings Zafna’s praise.

Not for a moment believing that we
could be separated, I bowed to him:
I shake his brightly gloved cold hand
in an envious delirium.

He smiled at me. “Thank you,” I said,
so shy I could not find the words:
no one commands such curves of sound,
never was there such speech of waves.

With oblique words he made us feel
the wealth and torments that we share—
the buzz of verse-making, brotherhood’s bell
and the harmonies of pouring tears.

And the mourner of Tasso answered me:
“I am not yet used to eulogy;
I only cooled my tongue by chance
on the grape-flesh of poetry.”

All right, raise your eyebrows in surprise,
city dweller and city dweller’s friend—
like blood samples, from glass to glass
keep pouring your eternal dreams.

June 18, 1932