(born 1933) Soviet Union
Yevgeny Yevtushenko [yev gen'~e yev't~oo shen~k~o] is among the most acclaimed poets of the contemporary Soviet Union. A graduate of the Gorki Literary Institute in Moscow; Yevtushenko won fame in his homeland when he published his poetry volume Third Snow in 1955.
His reputation broadened as he began giving dramatic poetry recitals in Europe, Africa, and America. In much of his poetry-like his noted poems "Talk" and "Babi Yar'-'he protested Soviet policies and practices. Yevtushenko is also known for his simple, moving love poems.
Translated from the Russian by Robin Milner-Oulland and Peter Levi
When your face
appeared over my crumpled life
at first I understood
only the poverty of what I have.
Then its particular light
on woods, on rivers, on the sea,
became my beginning in the colored world
in which I had not yet had my beginning.
I am so frightened, I am so frightened,
of the unexpected sunrise finishing,
and tears and the excitement finishing.
I don't fight it, my love is this fear,
I nourish it who can nourish nothing,
love's slipshod watchman.
Fear hems me in.
I am conscious that these minutes are short
and that the colors in my eyes will vanish
when your face sets.
The Lines: Literal recalling
1. According to the opening lines, what did the speaker understand when his beloved's face first appeared? Then what happened?
2. What frightens the speaker? What does he nourish?
3. Of what is the speaker conscious in the last three lines?
Between the Lines: Interpreting
4. To what aspect of nature is the speaker comparing his beloved? What does the comparison suggest that his beloved has done for his life?
5. Explain in your own words what the speaker fears and why he does not fight that fear.
6. What does the poem suggest about the risks and rewards of commitment?
Beyond the Lines: Analyze & Evaluate
7. Carpe Diem is Latin for “seize the day”. Is it possible for one to act maturely yet still “seize the day?” Explain your answer.