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March 28, 2010
Ангел, и лев, и телец, и орел —
Все шестикрылые — держат престол,
А над престолом, над тем, кто сидит,
Радуга ярким смарагдом горит.
Молнии с громом по небу летят,
И раздается из них: «Свят, свят, свят!»
Вот приносящийся ангел трубит,
С треском звезда к нам на землю летит,
Землю прошибла до бездны глухой,
Вырвался дым, как из печи большой.
Медными крыльями грозно стуча,
Вышла из дыма с коня саранча.
Львиные зубы, коса как у жен,
Хвост скорпионовым жалом снабжен.
Царь ее гордой сияет красой,
То Аваддон, ангел бездны земной.
Будут терзать вас и жалить — и вот
Смерть призовете, и смерть не придет;
Пусть же изведает всякая плоть,
Что испытания хочет господь!


Dactylic tetrameter, aabbcc…

B. Ia. Bukhshtab remarks that the poem is based on Revelation 4:2-8 and 9:1-11.  Fet categorized it under “Imitation of the Oriental” – a short section of his collected works after the much longer “Elegies and Meditations” and before the four poems grouped as “To Ophelia.”  I would not have expected this sort of New Testament theme to be classified as восточное by a Russian poet, though of course it makes as much sense as defining Islam or Judaism as Oriental.  (Cf. the first poem of the section, which includes the lines От кобыл Мугаммеда его жеребец —/ Что небесный огонь этот конь.)  All five poems in this category are tentatively dated either 1847 or during the period 1882-87.  The longest of the five, “Соловей и роза,” Fet published first in 1847 and again in the 1880s with significant changes.

The angel in the first line of the poem seems to replace the third of the four beasts in Rev. 4:6-9, even though it comes first.  Fet has “angel and lion and calf and eagle…” for “And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.”

The angel in line 7, on the other hand, is the fifth of the seven angels who are given trumpets after the Lamb opens the seventh seal on the book in the right hand of the one seated on the throne.  Why the fifth?

For one thing, we never get to learn the whole story of the seventh angel (see Rev. 10).

Also, angels 5-7 are treated almost as a separate series.  Angels 1-4 are pretty significant (“the name of the star is called Wormwood” comes under angel three), but what they do is mainly focused on animals, plants, and heavenly bodies, and hurts people only indirectly.  After the fourth angel, an extra angel appears just to say how terrible the remaining three angels are going to be (Rev. 8:13).

That leaves angels 5 and 6: the horrors they unleash are fully described (unlike 7) and directed at people, at least at “those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads” (unlike 1-4).  Angel 6 has four sub-angels and an army of horsemen, and their purpose is to kill a third of the population.  But that story does not have the “angel of the bottomless pit” Abaddon, nor the locusts that cause people so much pain for five months that they wish they could die.  And this is the focus of Fet’s poem: God wants people to suffer pain.  Not just to die, or mend their ways.

Three interesting changes in perspective from Revelation to Fet’s poem:

1. The poet says к нам на землю as if stationed on the earth, but the writer of Revelation sees all these things from above (“Come up hither” – Rev. 4:1)

2. Who would be most likely to use the simile как из печи большой to describe smoke?  It seems to quietly introduce a Russian element.

3. In the poem “you” suffer, not just “men” (cf. Rev. 9:6, “And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it, and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them”).

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