Skip to content

An old man’s prayer

April 25, 2014

What nineteenth-century Russian poet wrote this?

              Я слышал — в келии простой
              Старик молитвою чудесной
              Молился — тихо предо мной:
              “Отец людей, отец небесный!
              Да Имя вечное Твое
              Святится нашими сердцами!
              Да прийдет царствие Твое!
              Да будет воля Твоя с нами.
              Как в небесах, так на земли.
              Насущный хлеб нам ниспошли
              Твоею щедрою рукою! —
              И как прощаем мы людей,
              Так нас, ничтожных пред Тобою,
              Прости, Отец, своих детей!
              Не ввергни нас во искушенья!
              И от лукавого прельщенья
              Избави нас!..”
              Перед крестом
              Так он молился! Свет лампады
              Мерцал чуть-чуть издалека…
              А сердце чаяло отрады
              От той молитвы старика!

A quick prose translation: “Quietly before me — an unassuming old man was praying a wondrous prayer in a monastic cell — I heard, ‘Father of people, heavenly father! May Your eternal Name be held sacred in our hearts! May Your kingdom come! May Your will be done among us. As in heaven, so on earth. Give us our daily bread with Your generous hand! — And just as we forgive other people, forgive us Your children, Father, us who are so insignificant next to You! Subject us not to temptations! And from the trickery of the Evil One save us…!’ Thus he prayed in front of a cross! The light of the icon-lamp flickered slightly in the distance… and my heart knew joy from that prayer of the old man’s!”

Answer on next page.

Pages: 1 2

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 28, 2014 7:19 am

    I thought Fet was a skeptic when it came to religion. Perhaps he had a different view as a young man? Bukhshtab claims Fet was an “atheist” as a student but B. wrote for a Soviet edition where everyone had better be an atheist.

    Sergey M. Soloviev had some seriously unkind words for Platon Shirinsky-Shikhmatov as minister of education.

  2. April 28, 2014 1:09 pm

    That’s something I’d like to know more about. The poet in Чем доле я живу, чем больше пережил seems to be describing a transition toward greater religious faith with age, and Fet was apparently in his 50s or 60s when he wrote it. I could imagine him becoming less of a skeptic over time as a way of moving away from loud atheist contemporaries he found distasteful, but again, I don’t know.

    The Lord’s Prayer / Our Father is perhaps an ambiguous choice, since it could work as a statement of / call for religious faith (as I imagine the writer of Я слышал — в келии простой meant it) or as a minimalistic attempt to strip away all but the fundamental aspects of religion (I believe it functions this way in Matthew 6:5-13). So Fet’s Чем доле я живу sounds different depending if you imagine it’s addressed to atheists or to those believers who want complexity and elaborate ritual in their Christianity.

    • April 30, 2014 4:18 am

      It sounds like an acceptance of the wisdom and power of the Lord’s prayer – not yet a transition towards faith. It is perhaps akin to Brahms’ love of Luther’s Bible.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: