Modern Russian Poetry/Yarila

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First to sharpen the ax-flint they bent,
On the green they had gathered, unpent,
They had gathered beneath the green tent.
There where whitens a pale tree-trunk, naked,
There where whitens a pale linden trunk.
By the linden tree, by the young linden,
By the linden tree, by the young linden,
The linden trunk
White and naked.

At the fore, shaggy, lean, hoar of head,
Moves the wizard, as old as his runes;
He has lived over two thousand moons.
And the ax he inhumed.
From the far lakes he loomed
Long ago.
It is his: at the trunk
The first blow.

And two priestesses in their tenth Spring
To the old one they bring.
In their eyes
Terror lies.
Like the trunk their young bodies are bright,
Their wan white
Hath she only, the tender young linden.

One he took, one he led,
To the trunk roughly wed,
A white bride.
And the ax rose and hissed—
And a voice was upraised
And then died.
Thus the first blow was dealt to the trunk.

Others followed him, others upraised
That age-old bloody ax,
That keen flint-bladed ax:
The flesh once,
The tree twice
Fiercely cleaving.

And the trunk reddened fast
And it took on a face.
Lo,—his notch—is a nose,
This—an eye, for the nonce.
The flesh once,
The trunk twice—
Till all reddened the rise
And the grass crimsoned deep.
On the sod
In the red stains there lies
A new god.

  1. The Russian Dionysos.