21 October 2008

A Prince of a Poet

Volodya was an extraordinary being, a living instrument of rare sensitiveness, which could of itself produce sounds of startling melody and purity, and create a world of bright images and harmonies. In years and experience he was still a child, but his spirit had penetrated into regions reached only by a few. He had genius...
~ Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna


I
am in love. With a man known for his kindness, charity, piety and devotion to his faith. A writer of exquisite poetry, he published two books of poetry by the time he was 19, some of which was composed whilst he was fighting in the trenches of World War One. A fighter who was unafraid of death and a devoted son and cousin who chose to die rather than renounce his family.

He was Prince Vladimir Pavlovich Paley [Владимир Павлович Палей], a distant member of the Romanov family, martyred during the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and considered a saint in the Russian Orthodox Church. I have always been a fan of the Romanov family and their tragic history and when my friend Ashmut recently sent me one of Vlad’s (as I affectionately now call him) poems, I was immediately intrigued. In his poetry one finds passion and purity, faithfulness and struggle, light and shadow. And the workings of a brilliant mind and artistic soul. In my research into his life, I came across this entry on the website for the Russian Orthodox Church in Baltimore:
Prince Vladimir Paley, member of the Russian Imperial family and cousin to the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, spiritually inherited the divine gift of poetry from another royal poet – the Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich Romanov – known under the initials “K.R.” On July 5/18, 1917, together with the latter’s sons – Ioann, Igor and Konstantin Konstantinovichi, and the Grand Duchess Elizabeth and nun Barbara, Prince Vladimir Paley was thrown by the godless into the mine at Alapayevsk, thus earning for himself the crown of a New Martyr.

Ashmut tried to mock my new found infatuation, but since he happens to have a thing for Ella, (the Grand Duchess Elizabeth), he really should not be throwing stones from his glass house. (Ahem!) My favorite poem is God in Every Place and Thing:

God is in every place and thing,
Not only in our lucky star,
Not only in the fragrant flower,
Not just in joys sweet dreamings bring,
But also in the dark of poverty,
The sightless terror of our vanity,
In hurtful things, where light is not,
In things to bear which is our lot…
God’s in the tears of our pain,
The wordless sorrow of goodbyes,
The faithless seekings of our brain,
In suffering itself is God.
It is through life upon this sod
That we must reach the unknown land,
Where with the crimson trail of nails
Lord Christ will touch the wounds of man.
And that is why all flesh must die,
And why God is in all that is.
Translated by Kosara Gavrilovic
If you can read that and remain unmoved, you must have stone in place of a soul and I really do not know what we shall do with you. As for me, I will continue to search for those two volumes of poetry and if anyone comes across them anywhere, do let me know. I do not read a lick of Russian (although dearest Papa does) but who cares!? Just to hold them would be incredible and I am sure I could get them translated. For now, I will have to content myself with the few poems that have been translated into English and reading a biography of his life, A Poet Among the Romanovs by Jorge Carbonell. This I shall do whilst drinking Russian tea and eating piroshky. Do pull up a chair and have some with me, my dears!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
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