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Tyutchev's "When...": A Warning to Grumpy Old Men

by John Cobley

Wednesday Feb 28th, 2024



Basically, this Tyutchev’s poem is a warning to grumpy old men. It is written in five quatrains with abab, cdcd, etc. rhyming. The poem is notable for its repetition of  “from” five times in the last four stanzas—all of them starting lines. None of the translations I could find is faithful to this repetition, except for Eugene Kayden’s very loose translation in his Poems of Night and Day. And in this translation Kayden replaces “from” with “by”: “I pray we’ll keep ourselves untainted by…” instead of  my “Save us then, good genius, from.”


Tyutchev gave no title to this poem. I have added one.





When our declining strength

Begins to fail us,

We must, as elders,

Make way for newcomers.


Save us then, good genius,

From cowardly reproaches, 

From slander, from bitterness 

Towards our changing life;


From feelings of private malice

Toward the evolving world

Where new guests are seated

For the feast prepared for them;


From the bile of bitter awareness

That the flow no longer carries us

And that others have a vocation,

Others are called forward;


From everything more impassioned

And deeper that’s been hidden so long—

And the more shameful senile love, 

Quarrelsome senile fervor.


Fyodor Tyutchev   1866




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