ODE TO THE DEITY
By Gabriel Derzhavin
(Gabriel Romanowiez Derzhavin, born in 1743, was a Minister of Justice under Catherine the Great. The following Ode, which earned him the title of the "Russian Pindar," is from the Russian Anthology. It was translated into Japanese by order of the Emperor, and is hung up, embroidered with gold, in the Temple of Jedds. It has been translated into the Chinese and Tartar languages, written upon silk, and suspended in the Imperial Palace at Pekin. The Ode has also been translated into Latin. The following English translation is from the pen of Dr. Bowring.)
Oh! Thou Eternal One!
Whose presence bright
All space doth occupy—all motion guide;
Unchang'd through time's
Thou, only God! There is no God beside.
Being above all beings! Mighty One,
Whom 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 subline research,
Philosophy may measure out the ocean deep—
May count the sands or the sun's rays—
But God! for Thee
There is no weight nor measure;
None can mount up to Thy mysteries.
Reason's brightest spark,
Though aided 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.
The unmeasur'd Universe surround;
Upheld by Thee, by Thee inspired with breath!
Thou the Beginning
—With the End—hast bound,
And beautifully mingled Life with 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, thro' 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?
Heaven's unnumbered host,
Though multiplied by myriads,
And array'd in all the glory
Of sublimest thought,
Is but an atom in the balance,
Weigh'd against Thy goodness!
—Is a cipher brought against Infinity!
What am I then? Naught!
Naught!—But the effulgence
Of Thy light divine,
Pervading worlds, hath reach'd my bosom, too;
Yes! In my being doth Thy Being shine
As shines the sunbeam in a drop of dew.
Naught!—but I live, and on Hope's pinions fly,
Eager, toward 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 wand'ring heart.
Tho' 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 boundary of the Spirit-land.
The chain of being is complete in me;
In me is matter's last gradation lost,
And the next step is Spirit—Deity!
I can command the lightning, and am dust,
A monarch, and a slave; a worm, a god;
Whence came I here? and how?
—So marvelously constructed
This clod lives
Surely through some higher energy,
For, of 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
Fill'd me with an immortal soul,
To spring O'er the abyss of death,
And bade it wear the garments of eternal day,
And wing Its heavenly flight
Beyond this little sphere,
E'en in its source to Thee, its Author, there.
Oh, thought ineffable! Oh, visions blest!
Though worthless our conceptions all of Thee,
Yet shall Thy shadow'd 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.
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