Ode to Liberty

Pushkin recites his poem Ode to LibertyAlexander Pushkin is the father of the golden age of Russian Literature. He had many loves, one of which was Liberty. Here is a translation of his poem “Ode to Liberty”. (NOTE: the definition of “Ode” means  a lyric poem expressing exaltation or enthusiastic emotion. As a suffix it means “way” or “road”)

Flee, begone, vanish from my sight,
Oh, ye feeble princess of Cythera
Thou, lofty muse of Liberty,
Where art thou, bane of kings, come nearer!
A garland of flowers from me wrench,
Smash down with hands the coddled lyre…
I sing of Freedom’s victorious fire
Chastised vice enthroned on royal bench.

Reveal to me the noble path
Of the self aggrandized Gaul
In whom amidst famed catastrophe
Thou inspired hymns audacious
Nurslings of frivolous Destiny,
Tyrants of the world! Tremble!
And ye, take heart and pay attention,
Rise up, trampled slaves!

Alas! Wherever I cast (my) gaze
Everywhere scourges, everywhere irons,
The laws’ destructive mockery,
Serfdom’s helpless tears;
Everywhere lawless sovereignty
The heavy fog of prejudice
Has confirmed – slavery’s dreaded Genius
And Glory’s baneful intensity.

There only upon the royal head
The nation’s quilt has not come to lie
Where potent with sacred Liberty
Is powerful laws’ association
Where to all is offered their firm shield
Where, grasped by steadfast hands
Rise up protecting citizens, of equal heads
Their sword glissades without choice

To attack the breach from on high
With righteous force;
Where honesty is their hand
By either eager greed or fear.
Monarchs! To your crown and throne
The law delivers – and not nature;
Ye stand superior above the nation,
Higher still than ye infinite Law.

And woe, misery to the family
Where it hotheadedly slumbers,
Where for nations or for kings
It is feasible to override the laws!
Thee I assemble you all to witness,
Oh, martyr of infamous fallacies,
Who for an ancestry in rebellious storms
Lay down his sovereign head.

Up steps Louis to his death
In full view of voiceless progeny,
Without his crown he bowed his head
To the bloody scaffold of Mutiny.
Mute the Law –mute the nation,
There swings the unlawful ax…
And lo – a corrupted purple
Lies like all shackled Gaul.

Autocratic Miscreant!
Thee, thy throne I detest,
Descent means thy children’s death
With savage delight I see.
Nations perceive upon thy brow
The sign of execration,
Thou [art] the horror of the world, a disgrace of nature,
A rebuke to God on earth.

When on the murky Neva
The star of midnight shone
And the worry free head
Subdued sleep weighs down
The thoughtful singer gazes
Upon the threatened sleeping midst the haze
Abandoned monument of the tyrant,
The palace deserted to oblivion –

Echoes of terror, Cleo’s voice erupts
Behind fortresses a summons tolling
Caligula’s last hour beckons us
Before he sees a vivid fate unrolling,
He sees, in ribbons and in stars
By poison and with wine befuddled,
The secretive assassins huddled
Insolent faces over fear filled hearts.

And silence visits the disloyal watchman,
To drop the drawbridge at midnight season,
In secret gloom the gate unbarred
By hired hands of mercenary treason.
Oh, shame, Oh, horror lately found!
The Janissaries thrust in, appalling
Like beasts, irreverent blows befalling…
Till butchered lies the miscreant crowned.

Henceforth, oh, kings learn, and know this true:
That neither flattery nor halters
Make sturdy barricades for you,
Neither prison walls, nor holy altars.
Be ye first to bow your head down
Beneath the canopy of Law eternal.
The people joyous, their freedom vernal
Will forever save the nation’s crown.

– Alexander Pushkin
Translation by M.A. DuVernet