Sergei Yesenin

Return To My Homeland

I visit again the places of my childhood, that village where I grew up, where a belfry without a cross now threw up its birch-wood watch-tower. How much had changed here, in their wretched, ugly lives. How many new discoveries followed hot upon my footsteps. I could not pick out our old family home. No tell-tale maple waved at the window, and my mother no longer sat in the porch feeding chicks with mealy bran. She must be old, yes, old. And I looked round the neighbourhood in grief. How unfamiliar it had become to me! Only the white mountain was the same, and the tall grey rock on the mountain. And here was the graveyard, with the crosses crooked, as if the dead had frozen gesticulating in vicious hand to hand fight. Along the path, came an old man, sweeping the dust with a broom. 'O Stranger! Tell me, old fellow, where's Tatyana Esenin's house?' 'Tatyana?.. Over there, behind that hut. And what are you to her? Relative? Can it be - not, not her lost son?' 'Yes, I'm her son. But what's the matter, dad ? Tell me why are you so offended?' 'Ah, surely, son, you recognize your grandfather?' 'Ah, grandad, is it you?' And the sad talk overflowed the path, splashing the dusty flowers with warm tears. 'You must be getting on for thirty? And I'm ninety already, soon in the ground. You should have come back long ago,' he said, all the while wrinkling his brow. 'Yes... Time! You're not a Communist?' 'No!' 'Your sisters are Young Communists. Nasty business. As well cut your own throat. Yesterday they took the ikons from the shelves, the Commissar's taken the cross from the belfry. Now there's nowhere to pray to God. I slip off into the woods myself, and pray to the pines. Maybe He likes it... Well, well, come along home and see for yourself.' And we go along between the fields, I smile at the woods and ploughed land, And the old man looks at the belfry in despair. . . . T'm well, mother, very well.' And again I wipe my eyes, and indeed a cow might weep to see their squalid little nook. Lenin adorns a calendar on the wall. This life belongs to my sisters, not to me. But still I'm ready to go down on my knees to see you again, my beloved country. The neighbours come round, a woman with a child. Already no one recognizes me. Except our old bitch meets me at the gate, yelping madly, as in Byron. And sweet land, this is not you, this is not you. And I of course am something different. The more my mother saddens and despairs, the more gaily my sisters laugh. Lenin of course is no ikon to me - I know the world too well by half. I love my family, and this is why I still sit down and with an inclination of the head, bid my sister have her say. And she lays on, opening a fat Das Kapital, like a Bible, of Marx and Engels. I of course have no wise read these estimable gentlemen. And now it's funny to me how that bright girl turned my whole world upside down. . . . And our old bitch meets me at the gate, yelping madly as in Byron.

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