Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Poet. What did you expect?

Poetry should be our beacon in life, we may be allowed to think. Not poets themselves, not necessarily.

If the scandal surrounding elections of the new Oxford professor of poetry surprised you, read this poem by Alexander Pushkin, a Russian great. It is probably the best explanation of how the split between the poet's work and their personality works.

The Poet

Until the poet hears Apollo's
Call to the hallowed sacrifice,
The petty cares of life he follows,
And sunk in them his spirit lies.
His holy lyre remains unsounded;
His spirit sleeps in numbing rest,
By an unworthy world surrounded,
Himself perhaps unworhtiest.

But once his ear, attentive, shakes
When the god-given word is stirring,
The poet's soul, its pinions whirring,
Is like an eagle that awakes.
Then wearied of all worldly playing,
He shuns the babble of the crowd;
The people's idol disobeying,
His haughty head remains unbowed.
He runs away, and wildly, proudly,
Comes full of riot, full of sound,
Where empty waters wash around
The shores and woods that echo loudly.

Tr. C. M. Bowra

Ruth Padel, the first woman to be elected the Oxford professor of poetry, resigned on 25 May after holding the post, the most important academic role in poetry in Britain, for just nine days. It became known that she had sent emails to journalists about claims of sexual harassment which had been made against her rival for the post Derek Walcott. Walcott had withdrawn from the race.

The Poet in Russian:


Пока не требует поэта
К священной жертве Аполлон,
В заботах суетного света
Он малодушно погружен;
Молчит его святая лира;
Душа вкушает хладный сон,
И меж детей ничтожных мира,
Быть может, всех ничтожней он.

Но лишь божественный глагол
До слуха чуткого коснется,
Душа поэта встрепенется,
Как пробудившийся орел.
Тоскует он в забавах мира,
Людской чуждается молвы,
К ногам народного кумира
Не клонит гордой головы;
Бежит он, дикий и суровый,
И звуков и смятенья полн,
На берега пустынных волн,
В широкошумные дубровы...

15 августа 1827

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