Not in vain and not by chance
Was life granted me by God
And not without God’s hidden will
Has it been condemned to death.
I myself through willful power
Summoned evil from the dark abyss
And my soul I filled with passion,
Stirring up my mind with doubts.
Remember Him whom I’d forgotten
Pierce through with light the gloom of thoughts
Then it will be, through You created
A heart that’s pure, a mind that’s clear
St. Philaret of Moscow
Interestingly, St. Philaret (at that time Metropolitan of Moscow) in that poem is responding to a following poem by his contemporary, Alexander Pushkin, the greatest Russian poet.
“Gift without use, gift made by chance,
Life, wherefore art thou given me ?
Or wherefore art thou doomed to end
By fate’s mysterious decree ?
Who was it used a hostile power
From nothingness to call me out
With passion fill my soul for me
And agitate my mind with doubt ?
No purpose is before me set,
Empty my heart, my mind is bare ;
Life’s clattering monotony
Wearies me with a dull despair.”
After reading Metropolitan’s response, Pushkin replied with another Stanza
In hours of amusement or idle boredom,
Once upon a time, I used to conﬁde
To my lyre the cosseted sounds
Of madness, indolence and passion.
But even then I would arrest
The vibration of the treacherous string
When your majestic voice
Suddenly struck me.
I poured for the streams of sudden tears,
And to the wounds of my conscience
The balsam of your fragrant words
Was a pure delight.
And now from a spiritual height
You extend a hand to me
And with meek and loving strength
Becalm restless dreams.
Set a ﬁre by your ﬂame my soul
Has thrown off the darkness of earthly cares,
And in a state of holy awe
The poet listens to the harp of the seraphim*
(In Pushkin handwriting “the harp of Philaret”, but it was changed in publication, possibly due to censorship reasons”)
Of course, it’s much better in Russian than in translation 🙂
I am not sure that there is any poetry in the world to rival Russian poetry. There are no people in the world who have a greater love of language.
Beautiful, thank you Vlad and Fr Stephen for sharing this.
What would these poems be
it were not for choices made
by minds and hearts bestowed
with freedom true any less it would be cruelty.
And now for my usual question: where’d you get that wonderful poem? I am unaware of any of St Philaret’s works published in English.
Thanks again for your presence on the web and in our lives. I have lost track of the number of times that you have salvaged a day of mine that otherwise seemed lost.
I found it while brousing the net. Sometimes you run across excellent material. I was looking for atonement material and just came across this page with his poem. Father Stephen +
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that such a “poetic conversation” simply wouldn’t happen in America today…and that makes me sad. :-/
Or it would be in “rap”
The thought of +Met. Jonah or any priest rapping gives me chills…
It’s not a pretty sight… 🙂
“I am not sure that there is any poetry in the world to rival Russian poetry. There are no people in the world who have a greater love of language.”
And this is absolutely the truth, Father. Words come out of Russia like they do from no other place. Nothing more frightening to its enemies, nothing more beautiful to its admirers.
the serbian bishop nikolai vellimirovich,his prayers by the lake is poetry to me. i call them his love letters to God.
That was absolutely beautiful!!!
I bet it is even better in Russian!