This death of a man, this sudden stop of life,
Such total end, or such a faring forth
Into what regions? Then, if so, what light
Returning on our world? We pause, we strain
To catch some signal from the furthest stars.
Where now are you, whose crumbling body lies
By Moscow, in the churchyard of your choice,
Turning to Russian earth? While from that earth
Mushrooms a power to probe the universe,
To prick the moon, lasso the sun, explode
In space, to break the bands of earth, burst free –
But not to bind the spirit of a man.
You said, The rule of numbers is at an end,
And when those numbers, fanged and fiery-eyed,
Came round you for the kill, across the snow,
You faced them with your back against a tree.
In the crescendo of collective birth
You grieved apart, and would not name messiah.
You said, But the beginning was not here,
Was in the life once nourished by a girl,
Not self-begotten, but a breath breathed in –
That was a word they could not bear to hear
And, angry, strove to tear you from your soil.
But then you stood, willing to be struck down
But not uprooted from the earth where sprang
Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, where you grew,
Where unextinguished under silent ash
Burned on in heart and hearth a sacred fire
The promise of your people and your land
To all mankind. So you believed, so stood.
The lightning faltered. You rode out the gale,
To fall entire, unbroken, at the end.
Stout heart, lie still; bold spirit, wander free
About this planet where your bones are laid,
Or else beyond the nebulae, beyond
The flagged moon and the rocket-riddled stars
Orbit, until the breaking of that eve When
History cries aloud, It is fulfilled,
All men made brothers by one only Man
And holy Russia lifting up the world.