The Lady Unknown | A poem by Alexander Blok, 1907

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Finding his way home while loaded.
Wallace Irwin – The book of spice, 1906

Of evenings hangs above the restaurant
A humid, wild and heavy air.
The Springtide spirit, brooding, pestilent,
Commands the drunken outcries there.

Far off, above the alley’s mustiness,
Where bored gray summerhouses lie,
The baker’s sign swings gold through dustiness,
And loud and shrill the children cry.

Beyond the city stroll the exquisites,
At every dusk and all the same:
Their derbies tilted back, the pretty wits
Are playing at the ancient game.

Upon the lake but feebly furious
Soft screams and creaking oar-locks sound.
And in the sky, blasé, incurious,
The moon beholds the earthly round.

And every evening, dazed and serious,
I watch the same procession pass;
In liquor, raw and yet mysterious,
One friend is mirrored in my glass.

Beside the scattered tables, somnolent
And dreary waiters stick around.
“In vino veritas!” shout violent
And red-eyed fools in liquor drowned.

And every evening, strange, immutable,
(Is it a dream no waking proves?)
As to a rendezvous inscrutable
A silken lady darkly moves.

She slowly passes by the drunken ones
And lonely by the window sits;
And from her robes, above the sunken ones,
A misty fainting perfume flits.

Her silks’ resilience, and the tapering
Of her ringed fingers, and her plumes,
Stir vaguely like dim incense vaporing,
Deep ancient faiths their mystery illumes.

I try, held in this strange captivity,
To pierce the veil that darkling falls—
I see enchanted shores’ declivity,
And an enchanted distance calls.

I guard dark secrets’ tortuosities.
A sun is given me to hold.
An acrid wine finds out the sinuosities
That in my soul were locked of old.

And in my brain the soft slow flittering
Of ostrich feathers waves once more;
And fathomless the azure glittering
Where two eyes blossom on the shore.

My soul holds fast its treasure renitent,
The key is safe and solely mine.
Ah, you are right, drunken impenitent!
I also know: truth lies in wine.

Alexander Blok, The Lady Unknown, 1907


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