By: Valery Bryusov
April 26, 2024

A (pro- or anti-) science-, mathematics-, technology-, space-, apocalypse-, dehumanization-, disenchantment-, and/or future-oriented poem published during sf’s emergent Radium Age (c. 1900–1935). Research and selection by Joshua Glenn.

“Trample their Paradise, Attila!”
— Vyacheslav Ivanov.

Where do you stray, heavy Huns,
Who weigh on the world like a cloud?
Far, under Asian suns,
Your cast-iron tread is loud.

Swoop down in a drunken horde
From your dark encampments, rise
In a tide of crimson poured
Over this land that dies.

O slaves of freedom, pitch
Your tent by the palace gate.
Plow deep, dig wide the ditch
Where the throne shone on your hate.

Heap books to build a fire!
Dance in their ruddy light.
Foul altar steps with mire:
You are children in our sight.

And we, the poets, the wise,
From the onslaught that darkens and
Defending the torch you despise,
Shall hold it in deserts and caves.

Under the scattering storm,
The tempests that raven and tear,
What will the hazards of harm
From our long labor spare?

All that we only knew
Shall perish and sink and grow dim.
But you who shall slay me, you
I salute with hosanna and hymn.

— 1904–1905. Translated by Babette Deutsch and Avrahm Yarmolinsky

This poem provides crucial context for Bryusov’s proto-sf story “The Republic of the Southern Cross” (reprinted in More Voices from the Radium Age).

The epigraph is from Vyacheslav Ivanov’s “Nomads of Beauty” (1904), which compares artists to nomadic huns. The final quatrain: “Trample their Edens, plow them, / Oh, Atilla, with scars. / And grow — to Beauty vow them — / Your steppe flowers like stars.”

Beginning in 1905 Ivanov’s apartment in St. Petersburg, known as “The Tower,” was the center of communication for poets, artists, scholars, and scientists, who met every Wednesday for their celebrated gatherings.


RADIUM AGE PROTO-SF POETRY: Stephen Spender’s THE PYLONS | George Sterling’s THE TESTIMONY OF THE SUNS | Archibald MacLeish’s EINSTEIN | Thomas Thornely’s THE ATOM | C.S. Lewis’s DYMER | Stephen Vincent Benét’s METROPOLITAN NIGHTMARE | Robert Frost’s FIRE AND ICE | Aldous Huxley’s FIFTH PHILOSOPHER’S SONG | Sara Teasdale’s “THERE WILL COME SOFT RAINS” | Edith Södergran’s ON FOOT I HAD TO… | Robert Graves’s WELSH INCIDENT | Nancy Cunard’s ZEPPELINS | D.H. Lawrence’s WELLSIAN FUTURES | & many more.


Poetry, Radium Age SF