The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Sparrow Hills” is a lyric poem consisting of five stanzas of conventional quatrains, with the regular rhyming scheme abab. The title refers to a hilly section of Moscow situated on a bend of the Moscow River. At the time of the writing of this poem (1917), Sparrow Hills was an area on the edge of Moscow, but now it is completely inside the city limits, near Moscow University. The poem is written in the first person, with Boris Pasternak addressing directly either the reader or himself, now describing the scenery, now expressing his thoughts and feelings or giving a friendly suggestion, even a warning. The poem is set in the summer, which is especially luxuriant in both the open and the wooded countryside. The persona begins by exhorting the unknown listener or reader to submit himself to the charms of nature, to let his breast be kissed as if “under a tap,” for the summer will not always be so gallant and one will not be able to dance to accordion music night after night.

In stanza 2, the poet suddenly switches to musing about old age, saying that he has heard all kinds of terrible prophecies about it—“no face in the grass,/ No heart in the ponds, no God in the trees.” There will be nothing in old age to inspire one toward the stars. After he has conditioned the reader with this mild warning, in the third stanza the poet exhorts him all the more to liven up and partake of this beauty. “Where are your eyes?” he asks...

(The entire section is 423 words.)