Ugly Duckling Presse

A Science Not for the Earth: Selected Poems & Letters
A Science Not for the Earth: Selected Poems & Letters

Yevgeny Baratynsky

translated by Rawley Grau

Poetry/Letters | $25 $20
Fall 2015
"Baratynsky is an oddity." — Joseph Brodsky

It is only in the past quarter-century or so that Yevgeny Abramovich Baratynsky (1800–1844) has gained wide recognition in Russia as one of the great poets of the 19th century. While the psychologically acute love elegies and meditations he wrote in the early 1820s earned him some fame during his lifetime, his later lyric verse was ignored or misunderstood by most of his contemporaries. Yet it is this body of work in particular, where he explores fundamental questions about the meaning of existence from an analytical epistemological perspective, that today seems remarkably modern. The poet’s radical skepticism, as well as his increasing sense of isolation from the literary world, is reflected most profoundly in his lyric masterpiece, the book Dusk (Sumerki, 1842) — translated in its entirety in this volume — a work that is notable, among other things, for being the first collection of poems published in Russia as a coherent literary cycle (a practice that would become standard only 60 years later).

Featuring some 75 poems, from the early elegies to poems from his final years, Baratynsky’s A Science Not for the Earth will be the first representative collection of the poet’s lyric verse in English translation.

The translations by Rawley Grau aim to be as semantically close to the original as possible while still conveying a strong sense of the formal aspects of the verse. A selection of Baratynsky’s letters, reflecting his critical thoughts on writing as well as his personal struggles, is also included. The book is guest-edited by Russian-American poet Ilya Bernstein.
Excerpt ˇ



His deep gaze fixed upon the stone,
the artist saw the Nymph inside,
and fire raced through every vein
and in his heart he flew to her.

But soon, consumed with endless yearning,
he’s master of himself again:
the gradual chisel without hurry
removes one layer and then another
from the goddess concealed within.

In a sweet fog of concentration
an hour, a day, a year goes by,
but the final veil falls not away from
the one foreguessed, the one desired,

until, the passion recognizing
beneath the chisel’s sly caress,
Galatea answers with her eyes and
flushed with desire, draws the wise one
on to the victory of bliss.

(1841)Close ˆ

About the Author

Yevgeny Baratynsky
Yevgeny Baratynsky (1800–1844) achieved fame with his earliest poems, psychologically acute love elegies and meditations written in the first half of the 1820s. In this early period, he was closely identified with the movement in Russian poetry that coalesced around Pushkin. Largely neglected by critics in the latter half of the 19th century, Baratynsky’s work received a new appreciation only with the Symbolist poets in the early 20th century and later with Akhmatova and Mandelstam; most recently, Joseph Brodsky and Aleksandr Kushner have especially underscored the importance of Baratynsky for their own writing.

About the Translator

Rawley Grau studied Russian at the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Toronto. Among his translations from Slovenian is The Hidden Handshake (Rowman and Littlefield, 2004), a collection of essays by the poet Aleš Debeljak. 

Other Contributors

Ilya Bernstein's collection of poetry is called Attention and Man (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2003). His poetry, prose, and translations have appeared in Ars Interpres,Circumference, Fulcrum, 6x6, Persephone, Moon City Review, and Res. He is the editor of Osip Mandelstam: New Translations (UDP, 2006). He translates for a living and lives in New York City.

Advance Praise

In one of my last travels [...] to the far eastern part of the country, I got a volume of a poet of Pushkin’s circle, though in ways much better than Pushkin—his name is Baratynsky. Reading him forced me to abandon the whole silly traveling thing and to get more seriously into writing. So this is what I started to do.—Joseph Brodsky
Yevgeny Baratynsky was the most daring and dark of the nineteenth-century poets, the only one of Pushkin’s contemporaries who can justly be compared to him. These translations do justice to the power of the originals and will be a revelation to readers coming to Baratynsky for the first time. —Michael Wachtel