“…the cumulative weight of poisoned nights and dirty-pale days”
Here’s a poem from just outside the nineteenth century (1906):
О, как я чувствую накопленное бремя
Отравленных ночей и грязно-бледных дней!
Вы, карты, есть ли что в одно и то же время
Приманчивее вас, пошлее и страшней!
Вы страшны нежностью похмелья, и науке,
Любви, поэзии — всему вас предпочтут.
Какие подлые не пожимал я руки,
Не соглашался с чем?.. Скорей! Колоды ждут…
Зеленое сукно — цвет малахитов тины,
Весь в пепле туз червей на сломанном мелке…
Подумай: жертву накануне гильотины
Дурманят картами и в каменном мешке.
I’m posting it because of line 11, which is strange for the same reason lines 3, 5, and 8 in Fedor Sologub’s “Men of the Eighties” (Восьмидесятники, 1892) are.* One more for my collection. Is this kind of rule-breaking everywhere, if I keep looking? Or just in early modernist poetry? Or in poems that call attention to formal elements (“Iambs” for a title) or have rebellion against classical education (and by extension neo-classical metrical rules) as a theme?
This poem is by Innokentii Annenskii (1855-1909), who I knew was much older than Viacheslav Ivanov, Kuzmin, or Blok, but I had forgotten was older than Chekhov. Here’s a quick prose translation:
O, how I feel the cumulative weight of poisoned nights and dirty-pale days! You, cards — is anything at once more alluring, more vulgar, and more terrible than you!
You are terrible in your tender hangover, and people prefer you to science, love, poetry — everything. What villainous hands have I not shaken, what have I not agreed to…? Quick! The decks are waiting…
The green cloth is the color of malachite pond-scum, the ash-covered ace of hearts is on top of a broken piece of chalk… Think: the night before the guillotine, the condemned man finds cards intoxicating in the very dungeon.
* I think накануне ‘on the eve’ was sometimes written as two words (на канунѣ) in pre-revolutionary orthography (though more often not), but it looks like that was almost gone by 1906. (Also, it seems that Google Ngrams will miss some old words if you leave out a word-final hard sign, but you can search for “е” and get results that cover both “е” and “ѣ.”) Still, I suppose Annenskii could have treated the break between на and кануне as sufficient for the caesura, and then my list would be back down to just Sologub.