This volume heaps the anthological Pelion upon the Ossa of translation. It aims to present the lyrical poetry of Russia for the last hundred years by a selection of poems translated by the editors. Within the fences thus set up lay a wide foreign field to pick from: the old-fashioned garden overrun by the rank growth of exotic flowers, beautiful weeds outflanking the hothouse plants. The principle of selection was, so far as might be, æsthetic. Poems were chosen less for their representative quality than for their immediate worth and, of course, their ability to stand the test of translation. In view of the pioneer character of this work, however, some concession was made to historical considerations, and, therefore, part of the material included may appear rather jejune and vieux jeu. The effort was to give a brief general glimpse of the classic poets and to treat in greater detail the moderns and contemporaries who are, to the translators, as to the readers, more of a living actuality.
The difficulties of selection are obvious. You may add, you may alter the choice how you will, but the sin of omission will cling round it still. In this case the problem was sharpened by the rigors of translation. These were not mere flowers for the plucking. They had to be transplanted into strange soil, which was not hospitable to them all. Translation has been likened to "the wrong side of a Turkey carpet." The question was