‘The Colossal Old Fellow’ (Hegel)

by Nikolai Bukharin

Old fellow of immense, unequalled erudition
Whose powers excelled his peers'
A hundredfold, a man who was truly great,
A gigantic snowy peak above plain mountain ranges.

...With his all-encompassing conception
Of Nature's being and of Spirit's nature,
In the cosmos' concrete building blocks
He found the universal, and the transition
From nonexistence to essential being (which is, becoming),
Eternal motion, built-in contradiction,
All things being born and passing away,
The interpenetration of opposites,
The roaring play of all of these
At the cosmos' multicoloured feast.

He first revealed with godlike profundity
The universal laws of relation and connection,
And he spread wide the cloak of necessity
To cover also the accidental,
The small change of particular occasions.

But deeply immersed in the epic of the Spirit,
He made of Spirit the central principle.
He traced the world's beginnings back to it,
And in his philosophic symphony
Raised it to the rank of dominant chord.

He crucified the boundless cosmos, turning it upside down,
Assigning priority to ideas and concepts,
Inserting every object made of matter,
Into idealism's jar of abstractions.

But Marx with his colossal mind corrected him.
Once more the world could dance on its own legs.
Yet as we walk the riddle-strewn paths of knowledge
Hegel will long be dear to us. We'll hold him in our hearts.

(14 August 1937)

SOURCE: Bukharin, Nikolai. “‘The Colossal Old Fellow’ (Hegel),” in The Prison Poems of Nikolai Bukharin: Transformation of the World (Verse about the Ages, and about People), translated by George Shriver (Seagull Books, Calcutta India, 2009).

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