Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Nikolai Bukharin, prison poet

from: The Prison Poems of Nikolai Bukharin: Transformation of the World (Verse about the Ages, and about People), translated by George Shriver (Seagull Books, Calcutta India, 2009), pp. 239-240.

by Nikolai Bukharin

Old fellow of immense, unequalled erudition
Whose powers excelled his peers'
A hundredfold, a man who was truly great,
A gigantic snowy peak above plain mountain ranges.

...With his all-encompassing conception
Of Nature's being and of Spirit's nature,
In the cosmos' concrete building blocks
He found the universal, and the transition
From nonexistence to essential being (which is, becoming),
Eternal motion, built-in contradiction,
All things being born and passing away,
The interpenetration of opposites,
The roaring play of all of these
At the cosmos' multicoloured feast.

He first revealed with godlike profundity
The universal laws of relation and connection,
And he spread wide the cloak of necessity
To cover also the accidental,
The small change of particular occasions.

But deeply immersed in the epic of the Spirit,
He made of Spirit the central principle.
He traced the world's beginnings back to it,
And in his philosophic symphony
Raised it to the rank of dominant chord.

He crucified the boundless cosmos, turning it upside down,
Assigning priority to ideas and concepts,
Inserting every object made of matter,
Into idealism's jar of abstractions.

But Marx with his colossal mind corrected him.
Once more the world could dance on its own legs.
Yet as we walk the riddle-strewn paths of knowledge
Hegel will long be dear to us. We'll hold him in our hearts.

(14 August 1937)

Mad Prophet (Friedrich Nietzsche)

by Nikolai Bukharin

Prophet in thrall to the mania dark
Behind King Capital’s gilded crown,
How perfidious it is that Fate
Made madness your primal principle.

From under hanging, bushy brows
With gloomy look at us you glare,
Your forehead filled with wrinkled bridges
As though death sentences lurked there.

Your sanguinary delirium
About the ‘will to power’
Morality of the master caste,
The blonde menagerie
That subjugates the people;
Above smoke and blood and bonfires,
About wars without end;
And the Dionysian orgies
Of the predatory beasts.

Your ravings about the ‘Superman’
Above the slaves, ‘the herd’
Of those who under him will kiss
The dust from aeon to aeon.

All of Zarathustra’s aphorisms,
The Virgin soil of paradox,
Are elegant, subtle sophisms
Turning everything to blood.

And it’s no accident that now
War, robbery and every vice
In your high pride are blessed by you,
Prophet of the Lunatic Asylum.

Amor Dei Intellectualis (Baruch Spinoza)

by Nikolai Bukharin

The quiet flame
Of his glowing dark eyes.
The deep soul's voice,
. . . Full worthy of greatness.

His mathematical, crystal-clear mind
Aspired to mountainous heights.
He destroyed the grey blocks of false belief
With his high-ranging thought's resplendent logic.

He revealed that Substance is one
In the multiplicity of things,
Reconciling Spirit and Matter
To benefit future generations.

The sharpened daggers of his thought
Still glitter brightly to this day,
Gifts of true genius that scraped
Away the scabs of superstition.

Hounded he was from every side
By the dogs of synagogue and church,
Still with his pale and slender hands
He kept to his work of grinding lenses,
To live, to think, to go on fighting—
He's not about to let them crush his thoughts.

In solitude proud he ends his days,
Still master of his spiritual forces.
His spirit, clear-eyed and majestic,
Stands covered with quiet glory.

(13 August 1937)

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