Fears

Fears are dying out in Russia
like the ghosts of bygone years,
and only like old women, here and there,
they still beg for alms on the steps of a church.

But I remember them in their strength and power
at the court of triumphing falsehood.
Like shadows, fears crept in everywhere,
and penetrated to every floor.

Gradually, they made people subservient,
and set their seal upon all things:
they taught us to shout when we should have kept silent,
and to shut our mouths when we had need to shout.

Today all this has become remote.
It’s strange even to recall nowadays
the secret fear of being denounced,
the secret fear of a knock at the door.

And what of the fear of speaking to a foreigner?
A foreigner’s one thing, but what of speaking to one’s wife?
And what of the boundless fear of remaining
alone with silence after the brass bands have stopped?

We were not afraid of building in the blizzard,
or of going into battle while shells exploded,
but at times we were mortally afraid
of even talking to ourselves.

We were not corrupted or led astray;
and Russia, having conquered her fears,
gives rise-not without reason-to even
greater fear among her enemies!

I wish that men were possessed of the fear
of condemning a man without proper trial,
the fear of debasing ideas by means of untruth,
the fear of exalting oneself by means of untruth,

the fear of remaining indifferent to others,
when someone is in trouble or depressed,
the desperate fear of not being fearless
when painting on a canvas or drafting a sketch.

And as I write these lines-
and I am in too great a haste at times-
I have only one fear when writing them:
the fear of not writing with all my power.

by Yevgeny Yevtushenko

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