Poem- "God" by Gavriil (Gavrila) Romanovich Derzhavin


The Living Force
While looking for something else, I ran into a June article on the 'Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation' site of a calligraphic art exhibit featuring the poem "Бог" (God) by the Russian Gavrilli Derzhavin from 1784. Here is the article if you wish to read it, emphases mine.

The Grand “Ode to God” in Calligraphy

8 June, 2022

An exhibition by artist Pyotr Chobitko and his students opened at the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation

On June 7, at the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation there was an opening of the exhibition “‘You Are the Light Whence the Light Came.’ The Grand ‘Ode to God’ in the Calligraphy of Petr Chobitko and His Students.” The exposition includes calligraphic compositions of the ode translated into different languages.

The exhibition was opened by Tatyana Kuyukina, member of the Commission of the Civic Chamber of the Russia Federation on Culture Development and Spiritual Heritage Preservation. She said that the ode was written by Gavriil Derzhavin in 1784. During the poet’s lifetime it was translated into many languages and was included in the golden collection of the world cultural heritage.

“The fact that the Civic Chamber is hosting such an exhibition is wonderful because so many hopes and feelings come together here: the attitudes to faith, and to words, and to art. I must say that the exhibition is very well put together and is, it seems to me, infinite. This exhibition is traveling around to Russian cities, and in each city there is practically another new translation added. That’s how people unite around such a remarkable work of art,” she said.

Alfiya Rakhmatulina, the initiator and leader of the creative project “The ‘Ode to God’ in Poetry and Calligraphy” and Honored Cultural Worker of the Republic of Tatarstan, thanked those present for their interest in the works of calligraphers.

“On these walls you can see the texts in different languages of the world and the peoples of our country. How nice that the religions of nations meet on the divine meadow of Gavriil Romanovich Derzhavin’s poetry. I congratulate you all on this beautiful exhibition,” she said.

The event featured an Uzbek translation of the ode by Karim Bakhriev and Rakhimzhan Sultanov, graduates of the Journalism Faculty of Moscow State University.

“This unique project develops the tradition of linking two types of art, poetry and calligraphy, and serves as an important tool for strengthening intercultural understanding between the peoples of Eurasia, the CIS and Russia. The centerpiece of the program was the presentation of a translation of Derzhavin’s ‘Ode to God’ into Uzbek and its recitation by students of Moscow State Linguistic University who represented many ethnicities, including Russians, Ukrainians, Moldavians and Central Asians. Such ethnic diversity shows that our traditions of intercultural dialogue are developing and growing stronger. This is a good resource for further strengthening interethnic harmony in Russia and around it,” stressed Vladimir Zorin, Chair of the Commission of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation on Harmonization of Interethnic and Interreligious Relations.

He expressed special thanks to Alfiya Rakhmatulina for organizing the project.

The opening of the exhibition was concluded with a performance by the Moscow Ethnoproject creative group under the direction of Madina Ilgamova.

God Poem.jpg

An English translated version can be found along side the original Russia poem on this site. Here is the English:

O Thou, who's infinite in space,
Alive in ever-moving matter,
Eternal in the flow of time,
God faceless, with a trinity of faces!
Soul unified and omnipresent,
Who needs no place or reason,
Whom none can ever comprehend,
Whose being permeates all things,
Encompassing, creating, guarding,
Thou, called by us God.

Although a great mind might contrive
To fix the ocean's depths,
To count the sands, the rays of stars,
Thou can't be summed or fixed!
Enlightened souls who have emerged
From your creative light
Cannot begin to grasp your ways:
Our thought alone aspires to thee,
But in your magnitude is lost,
A moment in eternity.

From depths eternal thou invoked
Primordial substances of chaos
Within thine very self thou birthed
Eternity before all time.
And before time from thine self alone
Thou shinest forth within thyself.
All light originates in thee.
Creating all with but a single word
And reaching forth in new creation,
Thou wast, thou art, and thou will ever be!

Thou incarnate the chain of life,
Thou nourish and sustain it.
Thou joinest starts with ends.
Thou bringest life to all through death.
New suns are born from thee
In flowing streams of sparks.
As on a clear and freezing day,
A hoarfrost dusting shines,
And floats, and churns and sparkles,
As do the stars beneath thy vault.

A multitude of shining spheres
Floats off into infinity.
They all fulfill thy laws,
And cast their vivifying rays.
But all these brilliant lanterns-
This mass of glowing crystal-
This roiling crowd of golden waves-
These burning elements-
Or all these gleaming worlds as one-
Compare to thee like night to day.

Compared to thee the earthly realm
Is like a droplet in the sea.
What is this universe I see?
And what am I, compared to thee?
If, in this airy sea, I wish
To multiply a million worlds
By other worlds a hundred times-
Then venture to compare the sum to thee,
All this would be a tiny speck;
So I, compared to thee, am naught.

I'm Naught! But thou shinest through me
With all the splendor of your virtue;
Thou showest yourself through me
Like sun inside a tiny water drop.
I'm Naught! But still I can feel life,
Like something hungering I fly,
I'm always soaring high above.
To be with you is my soul's wish,
It contemplates, reflects and thinks:
If I exist-thou art as well.

Thou art! As nature's order shows,
My heart affirms the same to me,
My reason's sure of it:
Tho art-And I'm no longer naught!
A fraction of the universe's whole,
It seems that I repose in nature's
Critical center where you started
With the creation of corporeal beasts,
And ended with the heav'nly spirits:
Through me, you fused the chain of life.

I am the link of all existing worlds,
I am the outer brink of matter,
I am the focal point of living things,
I am the starting place of the divine;
Although my flesh rots into ash,
My mind commands the thunderbolts,
I'm king-I'm slave - I'm worm-I'm God!
But though I am miraculous,
Whence did I come?-that no one knows.
I could not by myself have risen.

Creator, I am your invention!
I am a creature of your wisdom.
O, source of life, bestower of blessings,
My soul and king!
According to your iron laws
My self eternal must needs pass
Across the borne of death;
My spirit's clothed in mortal garb
And I return through death alone,-
To your eternity - O, father!-

Thou art inscrutable, transcendent!
I understand that all my soul's
Imaginings are powerless
Your shadow to describe;
But when thou must be glorified
To pay such tribute we frail men
One course alone can follow.
We venture upwards to thy realm,
To lose ourselves in thy vast otherness
And shed our tears of gratitude.
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