Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Marina Tsvetaeva: Thank God for the Rich

And hereafter, having been warned aforehand,
That between myself and them --- lie vast distances!
That I best count myself among the least,
That my place in the world is honorable:

Beneath the wheels of all excess:
At the table of the depraved, of cripples, of hunchbacks . . .
Well, hereafter, from the roof of a bell tower
I declare: I adore the rich!

For their root, putrid and loose,
For their weeping-wound from the cradle,
For their perplexing habit of taking
More from my pocket into their pocket.

For the quietest application of their lips,
Never executed without fanfare.
Since they are not permitted to enter paradise,
Since they won’t look me in the eye.

For their secrets --- delivered solely by courier!
For their billets doux --- delivered solely by messenger!
For the nights thrust upon them,
(As they kiss and drink at will and their leisure!)

Since by calculation, or tedium,
By gold-plate, or yawning, or padding,
They can’t get to me, the insolent ---
I say: I adore the rich!

Despite their being clean-shaven,
Satiated, or drunken (I wink --- and overspend!)
Because some --- seem suddenly --- broken,
Because some hangdog look of theirs
Seems doubtful . . .
                          --- Isn’t this the core
Of non-entity? Are their weights not thumbed?
And because among us lower-classes
There’s no --- bond of abandonment in this world!
Such an ugly fable:

How camels pass through the eye of a needle.
. . . Because they look, stunned to death,
Excusing themselves, pleading illness,
Or protesting even in bankruptcy . . . “I should lend . . . be glad
Of course” . . .
                 Because their quiet word, from pressed lips is:
“I counted his carets, counted on him --- as a brother” . . .
I swear: I adore the rich!

30 September 1922

Translated by Mary Jane White

Translation copyright 2020 Mary Jane White. The original is from the Russica Edition (NYC 1979) of Tsvetaeva’s Collected Lyrics and Poems in Five Volumes, translated under a purchased license.

Mary Jane White is the recipient of NEA Fellowships in poetry and translation. Her many books include a new translation of After Russia, (Paris, 1928), Tsvetaeva’s last collection of short lyrics (Adelaide 2020).

Marina Tsvetaeva (1982-1941), admired by Joseph Brodsky:  “Well, if you are talking about the twentieth century, I’ll give you a list of poets.  Akhmatova, Mandelstam, Tsvetaeva — and she is the greatest one, in my view.  The greatest poet in the twentieth century was a woman.”

2 comments on “Marina Tsvetaeva: Thank God for the Rich

  1. Leo
    January 22, 2021

    One of those poems you read over and over and find yourself saying, “Yes! Yes!” to for its sad truth. Well chosen.

    Liked by 2 people

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