"[I seek for rhythmic whisperings]" by Zinaida Gippius, translated by Babette Deutsch and Avrahm Yarmolinsky

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July 30, 2022 
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[I seek for rhythmic whisperings]

Zinaida Gippius
translated by Babette Deutsch and Avrahm Yarmolinsky

I seek for rhythmic whisperings
Where noises bandy—
For life I listen wistfully
In footless banter.

I cast wide nets and tentative
In lakes of sorrow.
I go toward final tenderness
By pathways sordid.

I look for dewdrops glistering
In falsehood’s gardens.
I save truth’s globules glistening,
From dust-heaps garnered.

I fain would fathom fortitude
Through years of wormwood—
And pierce the mortal fortalice,
Yet live, a worldling.

My cup, through ways impassable,
To bear, untainted;
By tenebrous bleak passages
To joy attaining.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 30, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

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“[I seek for rhythmic whisperings]” was translated and published by Babette Deutsch and her husband, Avrahm Yarmolinsky, in Modern Russian Poetry: An Anthology (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1921). In their introduction to Zinaida Gippius’s poetry, Deutsch and Yarmolinksy write, “She has the quality of burning ice, hiding under contemptuous ennui her passion for the impossible. In any event, she is a virtuoso of verse, whose mastery of tone-color and metric pattern is wholly admirable.”

Zinaida Nikolayevna Gippius, born on November 20, 1869 in Belyov, Russia, was a poet, playwright, and novelist affiliated with Russian Symbolism. The author of many titles, including The Green Ring (Ogni Publishers, 1916), she was married to the Russian writer Dmitry Merezhkovsky for the majority of her life. She died on September 9, 1945.
Babette Deutsch, born on September 22, 1895 in New York City, was a poet, critic, editor, translator, and novelist. She was the author of many books, including Banners (George H. Doran, 1919) and Poetry Handbook: A Dictionary of Terms (Funk and Wagnalls, 1957). She died on November 13, 1982.

Avrahm Yarmolinsky, born on January 13, 1890 in Haisin, Ukraine, was a translator, biographer, and editor who served as chief of the Slavonic division of the New York Public Library. He was the author of several books, including a translation of Alexander Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin (Heritage Press, 1943) that he co-translated with his wife, Babette Deutsch. He died on September 28, 1975.

Modern Russian Poetry
(Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1921)

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Thanks to Erica Hunt, author of Jump the Clock (Nightboat Books, 2020), who curated Poem-a-Day for this month’s weekdays. Read or listen to a Q&A about Hunt’s curatorial approach and find out more about our guest editors for the year
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