Sunday Poetry – Afanasy Afanasievich Fet

The final poet in this anthology is A A Fet. Illegally adopted by his mother’s husband, Shenshin, he was brought up as gentry until he was fourteen when the illegality of his mother’s marriage & his adoption was discovered. It meant that he was no longer gentry & not even a Russian citizen as his mother was German. He was sent to school in Estonia, only returning to Moscow to study at the university some years later. He joined the Army as a private, his goal being to regain his gentry status by becoming an officer. Eventually he left the Army & became a wealthy landowner & poet. At the age of 53, he was reinstated to his former status by Imperial decree & allowed to use his adopted father’s name. In the last ten years of his life, he published four collections of poetry, although this poem is from earlier in his career & was published in 1859.

The stars glowed red in leaf-still weather
And it was thus
We two gazed at the stars together
And they at us.

When all the host of heaven come stealing
Into the breast,
Cannot the breast withhold, concealing
Something at least?

All that preserves or prompts life’s ferment
From infancy,
All that is borne off to interment
In secrecy,

Then stars more pure, than dark more tender,
Black night more dread,
All this, in eye-to-eye surrender
Was what we said.

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