Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin
Translated by Rachel Douglas
"Ptichka" (“The Little Bird”) dates from 1822, when the young Pushkin, Baron Anton Delvig, and other poet friends contrived a poetic contest—“a sort of wager, or a steeple-chase, by our young poets,” as Countess Yevdoksiya Rostopchina later noted down the recollection of Pushkin’s brother—on the theme of “the little bird, set free.” The image came, as Pushkin wrote in a letter to Nikolai Gnedich, from “the Russian peasant’s touching custom of setting free a little bird on Easter.”
Away from home, I reverently observe
The age-old custom of my native land:
At Eastertide, the bright feast of rebirth,
I set a little bird free, by my hand.
And thus I have access to consolation;
For why ‘gainst God should I e’er grumble so,
If on one little being of His creation
I was allowed its freedom to bestow!