How hard always to face the world
With an obligatory smile,
While inwardly you seethe and hold
Your peace a while.
Life’s anguish and the grin of fate
Once ever turned your eye to death,
Yet still with back bent by the state
You hold your breath.
With sorrow as the far north sea
And fear as wide the gulag’s plain,
You twist your mouth in feinted glee
And swallow pain.
Your lip-service: a shallow smile
Contrasting two fathomless eyes,
And merry goes the burlesque while
The hero dies.
Once hatefully those lips drew back
And smote the universe with mirth;
In passing, now, the grin goes slack,
And care of earth.
IMAGE: Dmitri Shostakovich, 1972