Ode to Liberty

Listless Cytherean princess, sing
No more. Begone out of my view!
But you, great scourge of tsar and king,
Proud Muse of Freedom, where are you?
Come rip my laurels off. Bring stones
And crush this coddled lyre. Let me
Sing to the world of Liberty
And shame that scum upon the thrones.

Reveal to me the noble path
Where that exalted Gaul once strode,
When you in storied Days of Wrath
Inspired in him a dauntless Ode.
Now, flighty Fortune's favored knaves,
Tremble, O Tyrants of the Earth!
But ye: take heed now, know your worth
And rise as men, ye fallen slaves!

I cannot cast my gaze but see
A body flayed, an ankle chained,
The useless tears of Slavery,
The Law perverted and profaned.
Yea, everywhere iniquitous
Power in the fog of superstition
Ascends: Vainglory's fateful passion,
And Slavery's gruesome genius.

Heavy on every sovereign head
There lies a People's misery,
Save where the mighty Law is wed
Firmly with holy Liberty,
Where their hard shield is spread for all,
Where in a Nation's faithful hand
Among mere equals in the land
The sword can equitably fall

To smite transgression from on high
With one blow, righteously severe
In fingers uncorrupted by
Ravenous avarice or fear.
O Monarchs, ye are crowned by will
And law of Man, not Nature's hand.
Though ye above the people stand,
Eternal Law stands higher still.

But woe betide the commonweal
Where it is blithely slumbering,
Where Law itself is forced to kneel
Before the Masses, or the King.
Here is the Man: witness he bears
To his forebears’ infamous error
And in the storm of recent Terror
Laid down royal neck for theirs.

King Louis to his death ascends
In sight of hushed posterity,
His crownless, beaten head he bends:
Blood for the block of perfidy.
The Law stands mute, the People too.
And down the criminal axe-blade flies
And lo! A ghastly purple lies
Upon a Gaul enslaved anew.

You autocratic psychopath,
You and your throne do I despise!
I watch your doom, your children's death
With hateful, jubilating eyes.
Upon your forehead they descry
The People’s mark of true damnation.
Stain of the world, shame of creation,
Reproach on earth to God on high!

When on the dark Neva the star
Of midnight makes the water gleam,
When carefree eyelids near and far
Are overwhelmed with peaceful dream,
The poet, roused with intellect,
Sees the lone tyrant's statue loom
Grimly asleep amid the gloom,
The palace now a derelict,

And Clio's awesome call he hears
Behind those awesome walls of power.
Vivid before his sight appears
The foul Caligula's last hour.
In stars and ribbons he espies
Assassins drunk with wine and spite
Approaching, furtive in the night
With wolfish hearts and brazen eyes.

And silent stands the faithless guard,
The drawbridge downed without alarm,
The gate in dark of night unbarred
By treason’s mercenary arm.
O shame! O terror of our time!
Those Janissary beasts burst in
And slash, the Criminal Sovereign
Is slaughtered by unholy crime.

Henceforward, Monarchs, learn ye well:
No punishment, no accolade,
No altar and no dungeon cell
Can be your steadfast barricade.
The first bowed head must be your own
Beneath Law's trusty canopy
Then Peoples' life and liberty
Forevermore shall guard your throne.

Translated by A. Z. Foreman

A.S. Pushkin. Ode to Liberty (“Listless Cytherean princess, sing...”). Translated by A. Z. Foreman // Alexander Pushkin. Collected Works: Parallel Russian Text and English Translation.
© Электронная публикация — РВБ, 2022—2024. Версия 2.1 от 30 ноября 2023 г.