Boris Pasternak: “To a Friend” (Translated by Babette Deutsch)

Vintage Soviet poster

Come, don’t I know that, stumbling against shadows,
Darkness could never have arrived at light?
Do I rate happy hundreds over millions
Of happy men? Am I a monster quite?

Isn’t the Five-Year-Plan a yardstick for me,
Its rise and fall my own? But I don’t quiz
In asking: What shall I do with my thorax
And with what’s slower than inertia is?

The great Soviet gives to the highest passions
In these brave days each one its rightful place,
Yet vainly leaves one vacant for the poet.
When that’s not empty, look for danger’s face.

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