Fugitive Verses
Popular Reprinted Poetry from Nineteenth Century Newspapers

God

The following poem, translated from the Russian of Derzhavin, is scarcely equalled in grandeur and sublimity by any poem in any language. We take it from a work entitled 'Specimens of the Russian Poets,' translated by John Bowring.—Conn. Ob.


  • O thou eternal One! whose presence bright
  • All space doth occupy, all motion guide;
  • Unchanged thro’ time’s all devastating flight.
  • Thou only God! There is no God beside!
  • Being above all beings! Mighty One!
  • Who none can comprehend and none explore;
  • Who fill’st existence with Thyself alone:
  • Embracing all,—supporting—ruling o’er—
  • Being whom we call God—and know no more.

  • In its sublime research, philosophy
  • May measure out the ocean—deep—may count
  • The sands of the sun’s ray—but, God! for Thee
  • There is no weight nor measure:—none can mount
  • Up to Thy mysteries; Reason’s brightest spark,
  • Though kindled by Thy light, in vain would try
  • To trace Thy counsels, infinite and dark:
  • And thought is lost ere thought can soar so high;
  • Even like past moments in eternity.

  • Thou from primeval nothingness didst call
  • First chaos, their existence;—Lord! on Thee
  • Eternity had its foundation:—all
  • Sprung forth from Thee:—of light, and joy, harmony,
  • Sole origin:—all life, all beauty Thine.
  • Thy word created all, and doth create;
  • Thy splendor fills all space with rays divine.
  • Thou art, and wert, and shalt be! Glorious! Great
  • Light-giving, life-sustaining Potentate!

  • Thy chains the unmeasured universe surround:
  • Upheld by Thee, by Thee inspired with breath!
  • Thou the beginning with the end hast bound,
  • And beautifully mingled life and death!
  • As sparks mount upward from the fiery blaze,
  • So suns are born, so worlds spring forth from Thee;
  • And as the spangles in the sunny rays
  • Shine round the silver snow, the pageantry
  • Of heaven’s bright army glitters in Thy praise.

  • A million torches lighted by Thy hand
  • Wander unwearied through the blue abyss:
  • They own Thy power, accomplish thy command;
  • All gay with life, all eloquent with bliss.
  • What shall we call them! Piles of crystal light—
  • A glorious company of golden streams—
  • Lamps of celestial ether burning bright—
  • Suns lighting systems with their joyous beams?
  • But Thou to these art as the noon to night.

  • Yes! As a drop of water in the sea,
  • All this magnificence in Thee is lost:
  • What are ten thousand worlds compared to Thee?
  • And what am I then? Heavens unnumbered host,
  • Though multiplied by myriads, and arrayed
  • In all the glory of sublimest thought,
  • Is but an atom in the balance weighed
  • Against thy greatness, is a cypher brought
  • Against infinity! What am I then? Nought!

  • Nought! But the effluence of thy light divine,
  • Pervading worlds, hath reach’d my bosom too;
  • Yes! in my spirit doth Thy spirit shine
  • As shines the sun-beam in a drop of dew.
  • Now but I live, and one hope’s pinions fly
  • Eager towards thy presence; for in Thee
  • I live, and breathe, and dwell; aspiring high.
  • Even to the throne of Thy divinity
  • I am, O God! and surely Thou must be!

  • Thou art! directing, guiding all, Thou art!
  • Direct my understanding then to Thee;
  • Control my spirit, guide my wandering heart:
  • Though but an atom ‘midst immensity,
  • Still I am something, fashioned by Thy hand!
  • I hold a middle rank ‘twixt heaven and earth,
  • On the last verge of mortal being stand,
  • Close to the realms where angels have their birth,
  • Just on the boundaries of the spirit land!

  • The chain of the being is complete in me;
  • In me is matter’s last gradation lost,
  • And the next step is spirit—Deity!
  • I can command the lightening, and I am dust!
  • A monarch, and a slave; a worm, a God!
  • Whence came I here and how? so marvellously
  • Constructed and conceived? unknown! this clod
  • Lives surely through some energy;
  • For from itself alone it could not be!

  • Creator, yes! Thy wisdom and Thy word
  • Created me! Thou source of life and good!
  • Thou spirit of my spirit, and my Lord!
  • Thy light, Thy love, in their bright plenitude,
  • Filled me with an immortal soul to spring
  • Over the abyss of death, and bade it wear
  • The garments of eternal day, and wing
  • Its heavenly flight beyond this little sphere,
  • Even to its source—to—Thee—it’s Author there.

  • O thoughts ineffable! O visions blest!
  • Though worthless our conceptions all of Thee,
  • Yet shall Thy shadowed image fill our breast,
  • And waft its homage to Thy Deity.
  • God! thus alone my lowly thoughts can soar;
  • Thus seek Thy presence—Being wise and good!
  • Midst Thy vast works admire, obey, adore;
  • And when the tongue is eloquent no more,
  • The soul shall speak in tears of gratitude.