Gavrila Derzhavin

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Gavrila Romanovich Derzhavin in 1811

Gavriil (Gavrila) Romanovich Derzhavin (Гаврии́л (Гаври́ла) Рома́нович Держа́вин, July 14, 1743July 20, 1816) was the greatest Russian poet before Alexander Pushkin, as well as a statesman. Although his works are traditionally considered literary classicism, his best verse is rich with antitheses and conflicting sounds in a way reminiscent of John Donne and other metaphysical poets.


  • Thou art! directing, guiding all, Thou art!
    Direct my understanding then to Thee;
    Control my spirit, guide my wandering heart:
    Though but an atom midst immensity.
    • Poemː God
    • Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 283.
  • Рѣка временъ въ своемъ стремленьи
    Уноситъ всѣ дѣла людей
    И топитъ въ пропасти забвенья
    Народы, царства и царей.

    А если что и остается
    Чрезъ звуки лиры и трубы,
    То вѣчности жерломъ пожрется
    И общей не уйдетъ судьбы!
    • The current of Time's river
      Will carry off all human deeds
      And sink into oblivion
      All peoples, kingdoms and their kings.

      And if there's something that remains
      Through sounds of horn and lyre,
      It too will disappear into the maw of time
      And not avoid the common pyre... [lines broken]
    • Lines found at Derzhavin's table after his death.
    • For another translation, see Time's river in its rushing current
  • Who will ride fiery, ahead of the legions,
    Nag for a steed, and crusts for meal,
    Temper his sword in the heat and in ice storms,
    Sleep on straw pallets, labor 'til dawn,
    Bring down the armies, the walls and the forts
    With but a handful of stout Russian men?

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