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By Night, a Street, a Lamp, a Pharmacy

Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Blok (1880-1921) was a Russian poet and playwright associated with the Symbolist movement in Russian literature. His early poetry was characterized by a sense of spiritual longing and a fascination with the mystical and supernatural. In 1907, he published his most famous work, the poem "The Twelve," which was a response to the events of the 1905 Revolution. During World War I and the Russian Revolution, Blok struggled with depression and alcoholism, and his work took on a more apocalyptic and pessimistic tone. He died in 1921 from heart failure, likely brought on by his alcoholism and the stresses of the revolution. Despite his relatively short career, Blok is considered one of the greatest poets of the Silver Age of Russian literature, and his work continues to be widely read and admired in Russia today.

Since August will be the 102nd anniversary of the Russian poet's death, I propose translating one of my favourite poems "Ночь, улица, фонарь, аптека" (By night, a Street, a Lamp, a Pharmacy):

Ночь, улица, фонарь, аптека, Бессмысленный и тусклый свет. Живи еще хоть четверть века - Все будет так. Исхода нет. Умрешь - начнешь опять сначала И повторится все, как встарь: Ночь, ледяная рябь канала, Аптека, улица, фонарь.
By night, a street, a lamp, a pharmacy, A meaningless and dull light. Living still another quarter of century. All will be the same. There is no way out. Die and start over again And all will repeat itself, as it used: By night, the icy ripples in the canal A pharmacy, a street, a lamp.

The poem was published in 1912 and is considered to be one of Blok's most well-known works. The poem is a vivid and atmospheric portrayal of a city at night, with the speaker walking alone on a deserted street. The streetlamp illuminates the darkness, casting shadows and creating a sense of eerie loneliness. The speaker is haunted by memories of a past love, and the loneliness of the night only intensifies his feelings of loss and longing.

The poem is characterized by Blok's use of rich and evocative language, with powerful images that bring the city to life. The use of symbolism is also prominent, with the streetlamp representing both the source of light and hope in the darkness, as well as a symbol of the fleeting nature of life.


Александр Блок. 1969. Избранное. Москва: Детская Литература 1969.

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