The Bullfinch (Derzhavin)

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The Bullfinch  (1800) 
by Gavrila Romanovich Derzhavin, translated by Dmitri Smirnov
On the sixth of May, 1800, Alexander Suvorov died in the presence of Derzhavin. Derzhavin, returning home, went into his study. The trained bullfinch fluttered in its cage and, as was its habit, immediately sang one phrase of a military march.

Why do you strike up song military
Fife-like, o, bullfinch, my friend?
Who'll take the lead in our fight with Hell's forces?
Who will command us? What Hercules?
Where is Suvorov, strong, swift and fearless?
Now Northern thunder lies dead in the grave.

Who will ride fiery, ahead of the legions,
Nag for a steed, and crusts for meal,
Temper his sword in the heat and in ice storms,
Sleep on straw pallets, labor 'til dawn,
Bring down the armies, the walls and the forts
With but a handful of stout Russian men?

Who will excel in unwavering courage,
Conquering fate with a prayer and with faith,
Evil with bayonets, envy with jests?
Capturing scepters, remaining a slave,
Who will keep striving for valor alone,
Live for our Tsars, while consuming himself?

Glorious heroes like this one are gone now
Bullfinch cease singing your songs military!
Music of war brings us no more enjoyment.
Sad laments everywhere sound from the lyres:
Heart of a lion and wings of an eagle
Now and forever gone-how will we fight?


May 1800

This is a translation and has a separate copyright status from the original text. The license for the translation applies to this edition only.
Original:
This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.
 
Translation:
This work is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.