© Copyright Osip Mandelstam
© Copyright english translation by Ilya Shambat (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: 14 Aug 2001
Origin: "Kamen. Tristia"
It's so my own and so familiar. What should
I do with this God-given flesh and blood?
For joys so quiet as to live and breathe,
Who will receive my gratitude for these?
I'm both the gardener and flower one,
In this world's dungeons I am not alone.
On the glass of the eternal one can see
The traces of my breath and of the warmth of me.
Henceforth it bears a pattern which is mine
Even to me unknown from recent times.
Let it be drained, the turmoil of the day -
The lovely pattern won't be crossed away.
She has not taken her first sigh -
She is the word and music both -
And thus of all that lives and grows
A timeless and unbroken tie.
Placidly breathe the breasts of sea
The day is bright, as if gone mad,
The sea foam's pallid lilacs stand
In vase of lapis lazuli.
O, would my lips accept the lure
Of muteness prime, now so remote,
Reminding of a crystal notes
That are innately truly pure.
Be foam, O Venus, stay as mists,
And words to music do return
And heart, at heart's own shame do burn,
Fused with the core of what exists!
An inexpressible sorrow
Two giant pupils opened wide,
A vase of flowers rose beside
And into air her crystals threw
The room was filled three meters deep
With dreaminess - hello sweet balm!
That such a liliputian realm
Could have consumed so much of sleep.
A bit of wine a bit of cake -
A bit of sunny May despite -
And thinnest fingers snowy white,
Alive at last, have stretched awake.
A snow hive cleaner than the air,
Crystal more see-through than the glass
A turquoise veil adorned with brass
Carelessly tossed upon a chair.
A cloth made drunk of her own glow
Caressed by tenderness of light
Experienced the summer bright
As though it were the winter snow.
And if through diamonds made of ice
Frosts of eternities were streaming
Here is the flutter of the dreaming
Fast-living blue-eyed dragonflies.
Blackened wind weaves patterns hollow
Under barely breathing leaves
And a trembling little swallow
In dark skies a circle weaves.
Quietly argue in the heart
Dear, dying, mine despite,
An impending dusk apart
Of an ebbing ray of light.
And above the woods of dusk
Has arisen copper moon;
Why so little song, I ask,
And such silence in the lone?
Why is the soul so lyrical
And so few are the names I love
And the ready rhythm but a miracle
Like Aquillon from above?
He will raise clouds of dust in a hurry
He will leaf through the paper stack
And he will not come back -- or maybe
As another he will come back?
Winds of Orpheus are embracing -
You will leave for the sea and sky -
And, the world not created praising,
I forgot the superfluous "I".
In a make-believe grove I have wandered
And into an azure cave delved..
Am I really real, I ponder,
And death will claim my true self?
Perhaps you not need me not this minute,
Night; from sea foams of the world -
A shell without a pearl within it -
Upon your shores I have been hurled.
With mists the ocean you embellish
And wordlessly you sing as well;
But you will love, and you will cherish
The pretense of a useless shell.
On ocean sands you lie next to her
In misty haze you dress her well
And with tight roping you tie to her
An oversized and brazen bell.
And then the seashell, fragile, empty,
A lonely heart that beats in vain,
You fill with sea foam's whispers plenty,
With fog with wind and with light rain.
Oh your image, haunting me yet blurred,
In the fog I could not touch or feel.
"Goodness me" by error slipped the word
Unawares, yet heeding its appeal.
Name of god, like a large bird, so intensely,
Took a flight right out of my chest.
Straight ahead the fog is steaming densely
And behind me, cage's emptiness.
White light falls in cold measure
In damp forest on summer day
In my heart I am slowly carrying
Sadness, like bird colored gray.
What to do with a bird that is wounded?
She went silent, then died as well.
From a fogged-over belltower
Someone has stolen the bell.
And here stands the silent
Muted and orphaned height
Like a tower white and empty
In foggy and quiet night.
Morning abysmally tender
Foggy ringing of thoughts,
Oblivion like a scream.
The dusk of autumn -- just like rusted metal
Sings, violates and eats through flesh
That falls like all temptation and Cresus's capital
Before the razor blade of your anguish.
My God! Like by a dancing snake I'm falling
Exhausted, and before her I am meek;
My soul's salvation I am not extolling
The reason or the muse I do not seek.
Enough untying with my wits or essence
A finely woven yarn of smart replies
There are no words for laments and confessions,
Heavy and shallow is my cup of lies.
Why do you breathe? On stones you will be dancing,
Sick python you, then curling in a ball;
Next moment swing and twist as if romancing,
And instantly in expiration fall.
And uselessly the day of execution,
Agape at all the sound and all the sight,
I listen as has fearlessly come completion,
The screech of metal and the wind's dark might!
Today is an ominous day:
Grasshoppers singing is down
And shadow of rocks far away
Is darker than coroner's gown.
There's jingle of shimmering arrows
And screams of crows grown wise,
I dream of terrible sorrows
Moment past moment flies.
Move skeins of events apart
Break through the earth's cage
Rebelling anthem impart
The copper of secret rage!
The pendulum on the clock
Of souls is strict, swings with hate,
And ominous is the knock
Of fate on the secret gate.
I feel a fear that I cannot defy
In presence of the secretive above.
Like swallow I am happy in the sky
And loftiness of towers I love.
It seems as though the ancient overpass
Over abyss on bending beams that groan
I hear. A snowball grows and gathers mass,
Eternity beats on the hours of stone.
When would it be! But it is not my role
To dance on faded leaves and scream and hiss
And sadness sings in me without control -
I feel an avalanche in heaven's bliss!
And in the bell tower you can find my soul
But music will not save from the Abyss!
No, not the moon, a luminous clock face
Shines from the sky, and what is my disgrace,
That I can feel the weak star's pallid force?
And loathsome to me is Batyushkov's rhyme:
They asked him here once what was the time
Eternity, he told them in response.
I cannot stand the rays
Of banal stars at night
Greetings, my madness old,
Gun tower's searing height.
Become a whirling stone
A cobweb become instead:
The empty heaven's chest
Wound with a thinning thread.
My time will come as well
Spreading the wings as I ought
But whereverfrom comes
Arrow of living thought?
Exhausting my way or my time
I'll be back again here;
There I could not love,
Here to love I fear.
I take no joy in the pleasures of the strife
And nature is a graying dot today
And only in light drunkenness I may
Experience the colors of my life.
The wind is playing with a cloud immersed
An anchor falls to bottom of the sea
And breathless like a canvas under me
Soul overhangs abysses of the cursed.
But I adore casino on the sea
The foggy window swinging avidly
On rippling cloth a ray of sun shines through
Surrounded by water green and blue
When like a rose a glass of wine is full
I see the flapping wings of a seagull!
Let's head to village of the Tsar
Where drunken, swept by wind and free
Young men are smiling right at me
Riding on horseback high and far.
Let's head to village of the Tsar!
Parks, castles, stables in a row
And on the trees are lumps of snow
And to the shouts -- "be well, hotshots"
The words "be well" ring back like shots -
Parks, castles, stables in a row.
One-story houses wide and far
Where generals of single mind
Shorten their lifetimes going blind
Reading Dumas and "Nieva":
Mansions -- not houses -- wide and far.
Train whistles. Riding in, a knight,
With retinue in pavilions full of light
A sword behind him sternly dragging
Officer leaves the cabin, ragging:
I do not doubt this is a knight!
And man is coming home again --
Where etiquette and decor reign
A fear-instilling chariot
A grey-haired fraulein on the spot
Knows, man is coming home again...
All day long the autumn's dampened air
In confoundment and angst I have inhaled.
I would like a supper - and the stars are
In a blackened purse and gold and pale!
And as with a yellow fog o'ergrown,
I descend into a tiny hole;
Nowhere such a restaurant have I known
Nor such company can I recall.
Petty bureaucrats, Japanese dealers,
Theologians of a foreign trust..
On the porch a man is feeling dollars
And they all are drunken to the last.
Be so kind to me, and change my money.
I am asking him persistently --
Only do not give me paper money,
I can't stand the crumpled bills of three.
What to do with all this drunken crowd?
How have I lucked in here, I enjoin?
If I have the right, I ask out loud,
Won't you change for me my golden coin?
It's dawn, sirens are wailing,
You that appear like Verlen,
Wake up old man!
Eyes childish, angling,
Green fire makes ash;
Upon the neck is hanging
A colored sash.
He curses, mutters, mumbles
Words lost within;
He wants to make confession
But first to sin.
A disappointed worker
A bitter one
The eye, beat up in melee,
Shines like the sun.
Thus having followed Sabbath,
He drags his feet:
Happy privation stares
From every street.
At home, flying with curse words
And white with rage,
A harsh wife meets and screams at
The drunken sage.
Above the federal buildings' yellow gown
A hazy flurry circles far and wide
Within the sled the coachman sits down
And with broad gesture hides his coat inside.
Ships fall asleep. And in the evening, rocking,
Thick cabin windows fill to brim with light.
And monstrously -- just like a fortress docking --
Russia is breathing heavily at night.
On the Nieva stand hundred embassies;
Admiralty, the sun, and silence glare.
The state's tight porphyry upon us sits,
Poor like an uncouth bodice made of hair.
Hard is the journey of the Northern snob -
Eugene Onegin's well-cliche'ed despair;
On Senate square are mounds of fallen snow
A bonfire's smoke, and chill of steel made bare.
The ducks are sipping water, and the gulls
In waving folds of sea are gently lurking
Where, selling lumps of beef or tender rolls,
Like opera singers peasant men are walking.
Into the fog a row of birds is flying:
Self-loving, modest march can't wait.
That goof Onegin, poverty decrying
Is breathing gasoline and cursing fate.
Foreigner sits in a stifling tavern
In the hour when all seems dead,
Leaving behind the dullard drunkards
I walk out and clear my head.
Courage of the midnight women
And the crazy stars' cold might,
And a bum is begging money
For a room to spend the night.
Who, please tell me, in this moment
With the grape will dull my wits,
If the dock is work of Peter
Copper horseman, granite streets.
I hear signals from the fortress
I feel warmth drift from the sea.
Shots of cannon through the cellars
Have been ringing probably.
And much deeper than the ringing
Of that inflamed head on me
Are the stars, stark conversation,
And a Nieva westerly.
On Sunday walk near Protestant cathedral
I came across a funeral in motion
The absent-minded passerby I noticed
Put all of them in a severe commotion.
The foreign language did not reach my ear
And only a thin whiplash shone clear
And the empty holiday thoroughfare
Reflected lazy horseshoes from the rear.
And in elastic darkness of the chariot
Where sadness, hypocrite, hid her face,
Wordless and tearless, lost for hellos,
In vase the autumn roses interlaced.
Foreigners followed in a black procession
And tear-drenched dames were walking in their stead
Blushed cheeks covered with veils, and with direction
The horseman ruled above them: Straight ahead!
Whoever you have been, deceased Lutheran,
Lightly they buried you and lightly sang.
The eyes were fogged over with decent tears
And with reserve above you church bells rang.
And then I thought: I need not proselytyze.
We are not prophets, not preachers if I may,
We don't like heaven, hell we do not fear,
We shine like candles in the middle of the day.
Hagia Sofia -- here to stop and stare
The Lord has ordered people and the tsars!
Your dome, as an eyewitness once described it,
As if by chains is hanging from the stars.
To all a shining light -- age of Justinian,
When to steal off for foreign gods unseen
Dedicated Diana the Ephesian
Hundred and seven marble columns green.
To what aspired your generous creator,
When high in spirit and in reason blessed,
He laid your features on the ground
And pointed them directions east and west?
The temple shines, in the world's aura bathing,
And forty windows -- triumph of the light;
On sails under the dome the four archangels
Finest of all and basking in delight.
This building will outlast people and ages
So wise and spherical and nobly built
And incandescent weeping of the angels
Will not corrode away the darkened gilt.
Where Roman magistrate once judged the foreign nation
Basilica stands. With muscles bursts
A light and cross-shaped bridge: Christ joyful, like the first
Adam, having spread his nerves out in elation.
But will reveal itself the hidden plan!
Here might of granite arches took good care
That ram-like daring overpass stood there
Yet loaded massive walls were good to stand.
A desert labyrinth, a forest timeless,
A rational abyss across the gothic soul,
Oak and kingdom to adorn the hall
Egyptian might and Christian shyness.
But what is more important, Notre Dame,
Your monstrous ribs I studied from the start
And oft I thought: I too will make fine art
From sturdy heaviness through which I came.
"How luxury of these wares and robes and lace
Is loathsome to me in my disgrace"
"In the stone Troezene
A famous sorrow will be
Stairs in the king's name
Will grow red from shame
Black sun will rise above
A mother in love"
"Oh if the hatred only in my chest had boiled
But recognition from my lips recoiled"
"Phaedra burns with a black flame in broad daylight
A funeral torch burns in broad daylight
Fear your mother, Hippolitus,
Phaedra the night guards you in broad daylight"
"With black love I blotched the sun's face
Death will cool my ash from a clean vase."
"We fear, we do not dare
Help relieve the king's despair.
Hearbroken with Theseus,
Night attacked him too
We, with a funeral song
Send the dead along
Passion sleepless and wild
Will have the black sun reviled."
A word of peace, rejected, stands
At start of an insulted era;
There's light inside a darkened cavern
And ether of the foreign lands;
Ether, of which we just could not,
Of which to breathe we did not want;
With voice of goats, deep and gaunt,
Priests are singing, hairy lot.
While goatlings and steer both
On foggy pastures were delaying
And friendly eagles were relaying
From shoulders of the sleepy rocks
Germans fed eagles on the rock
An Englishman a lion revered
And Gallic comb at once appeared
From out the mantle of a cock.
And now behold, the wild sage
Has grasped the steeple of Heracles,
And then the soil was shorn of sparkles,
Black and ungrateful like old age.
I'll take a dry stick in my palms
And wring from it a spark of fire,
Let into stream of night expire
The beasts aroused by my charms.
The cock, the lion, the brown, thin
Eagle and the tender bear --
We'll build a cage before the war
And warm with fire the animal skin.
And wine of time I also sing
The source of the Italian fable
As in the pre-aryan cradle
Tongues Slavic and Germanic ring.
You aren't too lazy, Italy,
To shake the chariots of Rome,
With gargling of domestic fowl
Having flown from menagerie?
And you, the hen, do not play rough:
The eagle here sits mean and hyped
What that for you and all your type
A heavy stone is not enough?
In the menagerie the beasts now reign,
We will get calmer for much longer,
And in its fullness will gush Volga,
As lighter water flows through Rhine.
And a wise man from days of yore
To foreigner will pay his honor
Like demi-god, in whirling fervor,
Dancing with river on her shore!
In multitude of choir polyhymnal
All tender churches sing in their own voice
And the stone vaults of the Dormition cathedral
Like eyebrows in still higher arch rejoice.
And from the rampart fortified by the archangels
I watched the city from a wondrous height
In the Acropolis sadness has deranged me
For Russian name and Russian beauty's sight.
That of the garden we dream it is no wonder,
Where doves do soar upon the hot blue beams
The nun sings Orthodox hymns, Dormition's wonder,
Florence in Moscow so tender seems
And the five-domed Moscow cathedrals
With soul Italian and Russian both
Remind me of Aurora's reappearance
With Russian surname and draped in fur clothes.
Upon a horse-sleigh laid to brim with straw
And covered barely with hides and birch,
We rode around the lumbering Moscow
From Sparrow Hills to a familiar church.
On Uglich street the kids are playing babki
And from a stove exudes bread's sweet smell
Through street without a hat they take me
Three candles burn in tower near a bell.
Not just three candles burned, but three encounters,
One of them God had blessed and known
Forth did not happen -- and the Rome still further -
And never did he love the ancient Rome.
The sled was diving into blackened snowdunes
And from the darkness people poured like weeds.
Thin peasant men and hateful-looking women
Right at the gate were separating seeds.
The distance, wet, had blackened with birds' trails,
And hands tied down inside the sleigh grew tired.
They drive the prince -- the body numbs and pales -
And then they set the orange straw on fire.
When, little Straw, you lie in giant bedroom
And, sleepless, wait, that solemn, true and high,
Heavy and calm -- what could be more despairing --
Forever on you will descend the sky -
A whistling Straw, a dry Straw, or Straw empty,
You drank death to the brim and made it raw.
A straw broke dear, lifeless and so tender:
No, not Salome, no, it was but the Straw.
In sleepless hour all objects grow in scale
As if in numbers few -- it is so quiet --
In mirror pillows flash, a little pale,
And in round haze the bed reflects at night.
No, not the Straw in her triumphant satin,
In giant room over Nieva's black streams,
Twelve months are singing of the hour of Satan,
And pale blue ice through scalding air steams.
The breath of triumphing December rises
As if heavy Nieva were in the room.
No, not the Straw, not that which the man despises:
I've learned you, blessed words, Ligeia, doom.
I've learned you, blessed words, that man despises,
Ligeia, Seraphita, Straw, Lenore,
In giant bedroom heavy Nieva rises
And blue blood gushes from the granite floor.
Over Nieva December shines white light.
Twelve months are singing of the hour of Satan.
No, not the Straw in her triumphant satin
Instills a slow and tortuous respite.
There lives in me December's own Ligeia
Whose love sleeps in sarcophagus and burns,
And you, my little Straw, perhaps Salome,
Were killed by pity and will not return.
* In Russian Solominka, or Little Straw, nickname for Lou-Andreas Solome.
"I lost a cameo I used for grooming
On shores of the Nieva, I know not where.
I pity a majestic Roman woman" -
You uttered this to me in near despair.
But what's the point, you gorgeous Georgian maiden,
Of shaking divine ashes from the sky?
One fluffy snowflake, its beauty fading,
Melted upon the lashes of your eye.
And then you bowed the neck so short and tender.
There are no Romans and no cameo.
I pity the dark-bodied Tinotina --
A Rome for maidens on the Nieva's shore.
Hellenes were readying for war
Over a gorgeous island Salamin.
Overtaken fully by the foe
From Athens' harbor it was seen.
And now the friends and islanders
Fill our ships with their toil.
Englishmen did not love earlier
The sweetness of Europe's soil.
O Europe, you, the new Hellene,
Guard Pirius and Acropolis.
We don't need presents from the island,
A whole forest of unwelcome ships.
I'm feeling chilly. The transparent spring
Dresses Petropolis in a verdant down
But, like a jellyfish, Nieva's blue waves
Revulse me slightly and bid me calm down.
Upon the northern shores of this great river
The headlights of the autos head out far
Dragonflies soar and steely-winged bugs shiver,
Above us sparkle golden heads of stars.
But not one star will murder probably
The heavy emerald waters of the sea.
In the Petropolis of shades we will expire
Proserpina reigns above us in her power
With every breath partaking dying air,
Closer to death with every passing hour.
The goddess of the sea, mighty Athena,
Do please take off the giant stone attire.
In the Petropolis of shades we will expire.
In this place reigns not you, but Proserpina.
In Sunday marvel disbelieving
We walked through cemetery stones
The land as you well know
Reminds me of these hills at dawn
Where Russia tears itself free
Over a black and deafening sea.
From monastery mount
Meadow runs long and still.
I don't want to head south
From wilds of Vladimir.
But in this darkened, wooden
And ugly country rubble
To stay with a drunk nun
Means only trouble.
I kiss the suntanned elbow
And waxen forehead skin.
I know -- under tanned yellow -
It still is white and thin.
I kiss the place where bracelet
Has left a stripe of pale.
Taurida's flaming summer
Creates such miracle.
How soon did you grow tanner
And came to mass to bow
You kissed the cross forever
Grew proud in Moscow
To us remains but naming:
Until the end
Take from my palms forever
The holy sand.
This night has gone beyond redemption
And it is daylight where you dream.
Today the black sun has arisen
Sun that is yellow is still scarier.
Goodnight, sleep tight,
Jews interred my mother's remnants
In the temple of the light
And without a divine blessing
And without a priest's sash
Judeans in a light temple
To the heaven sang her ash.
And then over my mother
Voices of Israelites rung
I awoke inside my cradle,
Shining with a blacker sun.
"To this the Senate serves as witness -
Such actions do not die"
Smoked a cigar and tucked his gown,
Chess players nearby.
The dreams of honor he exchanged for plot
In god-forsaken deep Siberian wilds
And elegant cigar at poisoned lips,
The truth of bitter world having revealed.
First German oaks rustle with their leaves
Then in the shadows Europe weeps and begs
At each triumphant angle of the curve
Quadrigae's stallions stand upon hind legs.
Once in our glass blue punch glowed
And with the sound much like a samovar
A girlfriend spoke quietly from afar,
The freedom-loving Rheinian guitar.
The voices of the living scream and cry
About the citizen's sweet liberty
But victims do not wish the open sky
But rather work and constancy.
All is confused, and nobody can hear
That it is getting colder every day
All is confused, and it is sweet to hear:
Russia, Lethe, and Lorelei.
Still far away are asphodels,
But in the meanwhile, here,
Sand rustles, and wave rings.
But now my soul has entered
Persephone's light charms
In kingdom of the dead there are
No tanned and gorgeous arms.
Why do we trust the boat
With coffin urn's dead weight
And over amethyst waters
Black roses celebrate
My soul strives through the ether
Beyond Cape Meganom
Black sail returns from there
Carrying funeral gloom.
How fast the clouds are running
Unlighted and so soon
And black rose leaves are flying
Under this windy moon
And bird of death and weeping
Drags through a mourning stern
Huge flag of reminiscence
Behind a cypress stern.
The fan of summers opens
With sadness in my hand,
In darkness and with weeping
Amulet lost in sand,
My soul aims for that country
Beyond Cape Meganom
And black sail is returning
Carrying funeral gloom.
When on the squares in silence
We slowly lose our minds
Cruel winter offers to us
The cold and clean rhine wine
It gives in silver bucket
The Valhalla's white wine
And of a northern man
With glimmer it reminds.
But northern skalds are rougher
They know no joy of game
And northern wilds are fonder
Of amber, feast and flame.
They dream of Southern air
And magic foreign sky
And still the stubborn girlfriend
Won't even give a try.
Among the priests a young Levite
As morning sentinel for long remained
Judean night grew denser over him,
A ruined temple stood in bitter pain.
He spoke: The yellow of the sky is menace
Run, Jews, over Euphrates it is night.
And old men thought: We should not take the blame here.
This joy of Judea, this black and yellow light.
He was with us, as on the riveshore
We draped the Saturday in precious linen
And with a heavy menorah he lit
Jerusalem's night and vapour of nonbeing.
A river of golden honey from the bottle was pouring
So long and so thick that the hostess had time to speak:
"To this sad Taurides, where life does not get boring,
We jouneyed through fortune" -- and looked over the neck.
There are Bacchus's services everywhere, as if in the whole world
There were dogs and janitors only. Walk -- and no one will notice.
And like heavy barrels, the days, calm and temperate, rolled.
From far in the mountains a voice: "You won't answer, or know this."
We entered a giant brown garden when done with the tea,
With curtains like eyelids the windows were sealed over
We walked past white columns to look at the grapes swinging free,
With air like with glass strands the enchanted mountains did shower.
I said that the grape plant, like an ancient battlefield, lives
Where curly-haired horsemen battle in frizzly order,
The stony Taurides remembers the science of Greece
These rusty rows, ten of each, noble and with gold sealed over.
And in a white room, silence stands like a hiding wall,
Smells are of vinegar, paint, and fresh wine from down under.
Remember, that in a Greek house the wife was beloved by all,
Not Helen but -- for as long as she wove - another.
Golden fleece, please tell me, where are you, golden fleece --
All the way rose and roared on the journey the heavy sea waves
And leaving the ship, having labored the canvas at seas,
Odysseus was coming back home, full of time, full of space.
The wooden organ did not roar this evening.
The cradle song of Schubert to us sang
The windmill blew and in the hurricane's singing
Laughing blue-eyed intoxication rang.
The world of ancient song is green and brown,
The world of ancient song, young for all age,
Where nightingale elms' towering crowns
The forest rocks with fierce and beastly rage.
And night's return, so terrible and mighty,
That song is wild and deep just like black wine -
This poltergeist is but a visage empty
That, thoughtless, knocks upon the windowpane.
Your fabulous enunciation -
Hot whistling of a bird of prey,
Create a true representation
Of silken eyelids, I dare say.
"What" -- and the head has fallen
"Why" -- I am asking you
And far away the leaves are calling:
We live upon this planet too.
So let them say that love is flighty -
Flightier hundred times is death.
The soul is striving still and mighty,
Our lips fly toward it with each breath.
And in your whisper, so much silk,
And so much air, and so much light,
That as if blinded we both drink
The sunless brew of windy night.
The essence of farewell I have extracted
From hatless laments of the sleepless night
As oxen chew, and waiting grows protracted,
And end of city vigil is in sight -
And I recall the rooster night with fear
When lost in doleful journey for too long
Into the void the tear-drenched eyes did peer
And woman's cry mingled with muse's song.
Who yet again can say farewell, unknowing
What longing and what sorrow waits for us,
What good is it to judge the rooster's crowing
When fire is burning in Acropolis;
And on the somewhere dawn of some new lifetime,
While in the shed the oxen calmly stall,
Why does the rooster, herald of new lifetime,
Flap his flamboyant wings on city wall?
And yet I love the way fate weaves her gown:
The shuttle runs, the spindle turns apace,
And straight ahead, look now, for like swan's down
The barefoot Delia is flying in your face!
Oh, of a life is but a shoddy structure
When tongue is starved so utterly for light!
All was before, all will repeat then rupture
And only recognition brings respite.
Thus it will be: A figurine, transparent,
Stands on an earthen dish that's clean and wide,
And like a snow-white winter squirrel pelt
A girl leans over wax and looks inside.
Ours not is to divine the Greek Erebus:
Wax is to her what bronze is to her mate.
Our dice falls only in the field of battle;
With divination women seal their fate.
Upon Pieria's great stone cascades
The muses were conducting their first choir
And just like bees, the blind musicians made
Gifts of Ionian honey from their lyres.
From a young woman's convex forehead
Cold air blew in gusts like rays of sun
That the archipelago's tender coffins
Would open for the far-off great-grand-son.
The springtime stomps across the meadows of Hellas,
The rainbow-booted Sappho runs along
Cicadas ring as if with tiny hammers
And interweave like tendrils with sweet song.
The carpenter has built a giant tower,
For wedding day they suffocated hens
And to create the shoes the clumsy cobbler
Has stretched and tattered all the five ox skins.
Unhurried and unkempt is turtoise-lyre
Like something legless barely crawling past
She lies under the sunshine of Epirus,
Her golden stomach warming not-too-fast.
Well, who in such a shape will care for her,
Who'll turn her over while she sleeps at night?
In dreams she is awaiting for Terpander
Sensing at dawn the drying fingers' flight.
Cold dew is feeding oaks with gentle ease
The unkempt grass with erudition speaks her view,
Honeycomb falls to the delight of bees -
Oh, holy isles, exactly where are you,
Where broken bread is never eaten,
Where there is only honey, wine and milk,
Where fiddle's labor does not reach the heaven,
And languorously turns the fortune's wheel.
Let's head to other places, other science,
Where dinner is kebab and cornish hen,
And where a placard advertising trousers
Gives knowledge of the tastes of local men.
A man's tuxedo -- headless striving, fearless,
The local barber's screaming violin
And mesmerizing iron -- gives appearance
Of heaven's washers and gravity's grin.
Here women grow old in stockings, yet
Think of foreign apparel, it so seems,
And admirals in angular berets
Look like the Queen Scheherezada's dreams.
There is some grape, sun gleams from far away
And a fresh wind relentlessly blows sternly.
Swimming is hard, but stars remain the same
In the vicinity of Baghdad and of Smyrna.
In crystal swampland there is such a violence!
Beyond, Sienian mountains stand sky-clad,
Gothic cathedrals of the rocks gone mad
Hang in the air, where there is fur and silence.
From hanging staircases of kings and prophets
Organ descends, filled with the holy ghost,
Barking of German shepherds, fierce repose,
The shepherds' mutton and the judges' outfits.
Here earth is motionless, and in her castle
I drink the Christendom's dear cold air
I trust in wine and in the psalmist's prayer,
In keys and cloth of churches of Apostle.
Which line could have passed on the Crystal vase
Fastened within an ether of high notes:
And like a song of Palestine the goodwill floats
From Christian Mountain through the transfixed space.
Nature is Rome, and is reflected there.
We see images of citizen's parades
Like in blue circus, in transparent air,
On forum of the fields and forest's collonades.
Nature is that same Rome, and once more
We do not need to worry Gods in guilt,
From animal entrails to divine of war,
To pray that slaves be quiet and stones be built.
Only children's books to read,
Only children's thoughts to debate,
To spread far all that is great,
From deep sadness to rise and heed.
I am deadly tired of life,
I won't take from her any more,
But I love this earth so poor,
For another has not arrived.
In a far-away garden green-blue
On a simple swing I swung free
And high and dark fur tree
I remember in foggy spew.
Return into the lap of incest
From where you have descended, Leah,
That yellow twilight you preferred
To golden sun of Ilion.
Go forward, not a hand will touch you,
To father's chest, when night is dead,
And let the night the incest-maker
Let drop your head.
But fateful change that lasts forever
Will take place in you all the same.
You will be Leah and not Helen -
Not, not because this is your name -
And not because it is much harder
Within the veins to pour king's blood -
No, you will love a Judean
Vanish in him -- and help you God.
Behold, this air, made drunk with haze
Upon Kremlin's black square -
Maniacs shake the world in craze,
And poplars smell of fear.
From wax cathedrals' shapes are wrung,
A thick belltower forest,
Just like a robber without tongue
In stone rafters lost.
And in imprinted cathedrals,
Where it is cold and dark
Like tender muddy amphoras
Russian wine plays with sparks.
Marvelously round Uspenskiy,
Glorious in heaven's arches
And then the green Blagoveshenskiy,
It seems, suddenly lurches.
Archangelsky and Resurrection -
Like palms they flare
And fire hides in pitchers -
There's burning everywhere.
In St. Petersburg again we come together,
As though Sun inside there we interred
As though for the first time and forever
We pronounced the blessed, thoughtless word.
In black velvet of a Soviet even,
In black velvet global emptiness,
Sing the darling eyes of blissful women,
Deathless flowers blossom and caress.
Like a wildcat the city her back arches
Over the bridge the patrol stands in line
An angry motor through the darkness marches
And like a cookoo-bird begins to whine.
I need no nightly pass across the bridge
I do not fear the nightly watchmen;
And this one time for blessed, thoughtless speech
I will make prayer on a Soviet even.
The light theaterical whispering sounds
A women's sighing and their gentle charm
And deathless roses in a giant mound
Lying upon white Kypris's gentle arm.
From boredom we are warming at a campfire,
Centuries will pass without harm,
And light ashes gather and inspire
The blessed, blissful women's darling arms.
Red garden rows of gallery somewhere,
In sumptious chiffon draped, boxes stand tall,
The windup doll of army officer -
Not for vile hypocrites and for black souls.
Well then, put out our candles with your finger,
Black velvet of world emptiness, sail free,
The blissful women's shoulders are singing
And the nocturnal sun you will not see.
On a pearl shuttle you spin
A thread of silk so fragile
Come forth, you fingers agile,
Lesson in charms begin.
Movements of arms about
Their ebbs and flows in flight -
To cause some solar fright
You cast a charm, no doubt
When your broad hand's on fire
Like shell grows still and fades,
Or quenches, runs toward shades,
Or morphs into pink fire.
We have gone mad from endless jubilation
Wine in the morning, hangover at night.
Your blush, oh drunken plague without respite,
How to contain the needless celebration?
Hand-shaking ceremonial and tortuous
And kisses on the street all through the night
When river's waves grow heavy with delight
And in the night the headlights burn like torches.
Like for a fairy wolf we wait for death
And he will be the first to die, I fear,
That has a startling mouth that's red with fear
And hair that falls upon the eyes like sheathe.
Fever rustles and lisps
Grasshopper hours are churning,
And dry stove crackles - This
Means that red silk is burning.
Why do mice whet with their molars
Thinning bottom of life spent -
There a swallow for her daughter
Has my shuttle's thread unbent.
On the roof the rain speaks clear --
There black silk is burning us alive
This the cherry tree will hear
And from bottom of the sea forgive.
Because it's helpless here
As the innocent are killed
Heart is in nightingale fever
And remains warm still.
My dry and dreary life
Fire has burned down
Not a stone but tree
I am singing now.
It is light and rough;
From a single piece
Come the fisher's oars
And the oak pith.
Nail the pilings tighter,
Knock, hammers, with all might,
About the wooden heaven
Where everything is light.
Of hunchbacked Tiflis I am dreaming
Sazandar coils and moans
On bridge with people teeming
As Kura runs below.
Restaurant from Caucasus
Where pilaf and wine abound,
A blushing waitress in her youth
Is now ready to serve you
Having served the table round.
Thick Cahetian red wine
It is sweet downstairs to drink
There it's cold, there divine
Drink in pleasure, drink two times:
You don't need alone to drink.
In the tiniests of flasks
You will find a man in bliss
Teliani if you will ask
You will float on a flask,
And in fog will float Tiflis.
For 20 years an American woman
Must go to far-away Egypt
Forswearing the Titanic's guidance
She sleeps on bottom darker than the crypt
In America the trumpets sing out loud
And monoliths arise of red steel towers
And then give away to chilly clouds
Their lips that with black tar are dusted over.
In the Louvre the ocean's daughter stands - alas -
Beautiful like poplar in her bliss
To grind sugary marble into dust
Like a squirrel she climbs Acropolis.
Understanding not a single sentence
She is reading Faustus on the train
All the while bemoaning that King Louis
On the throne of France does not remain.
Sweetness and tenderness -- like sisters alike are your marks -
The wasp and the bee suckle honey then flutter as one -
Life ends, beach sand chills overnight, and the heaven gets dark,
And carried away on black litter is yesterday's sun.
Ah, tender rosebush, delicate emanation!
To know what you are is far harder than mountain to climb!
I have but one problem remaining in this incarnation:
To raise from the shoulders of man filthy burden of time!
I drink turbid air just like water with mildew diluted:
A visage appears in the sun, heart of darkness and clots:
Two roses that once were of earth but by man were polluted
Sweetness and tenderness, bound up in double knots!
Equally with all others
I want to serve you,
Drying from jealousy
My lips turned blue.
Word does not slake
A mouth dry from despair
Without you I am breathless
In empty air.
I am no longer jealous
But yet I want you, dear,
I carry me like sacrifice
And no I will not call you
Not love not glee;
The wild and foreign blood
Runs now through me.
Wait for one moment
And this I will tell you:
Not joy, but torment
I find in you.
And, like a sacrilege,
Bitten in frenzy
Your tender cherry mouth
Still calls to me.
Return to me at last, love,
It's awful without you
Never more strongly
Have I felt you.
And in the midnight drama,
I call your name out loud
Even as I shake.
A ghostlike scene is glimmering
Weak choirs of shades remain
With silk has draped Melpomene
Her temple's windowpanes
Frost crunches in the yard
Black chariots stand in row
People and objects are disheveled
Street crackles with hot snow.
Bit by bit the servants pick apart
The abandoned heap of bear furs
A butterfly flies over and departs,
And rose plants are draped in furs.
Gnats and boxes fashionably shimmer
From the theater light sweat moves in streams
On the street the flat lamps glimmer
And like clouds arises heavy steam.
Coachmen have grown tired of their voices
And the night is black as if with coal.
Do not worry, darling Eurydice,
That our winter is unearthly cold.
Sweeter than the song of the Italians
Is the sound of Russian tongue to me,
For the sounds of harps from foreign countries
Clamor in it with great mystery.
Smell of smoke rises from lean mutton
With the mounds of snow the street is ringed
From a blissful songlike semitone
Flying at us is immortal spring,
That this aria will sound forever:
"To green meadows you will return"
And to our feet falls a living sparrow
On the snow that is so hot, it burns.
To me the meaning of Venetian life is clear
Bleary though it be and fruitless;
Here she stares with smile instilling fear
Through the dirty bluish window glass.
Thinning air, blue veins through skin of arm,
A green brocade and the whitening snow
From the coat they take a corpse, sleepy and warm,
And on cypress stretcher lay it low.
And inside the basket candles burn
As if pigeon flew into the shrine,
And a man is dying in his turn
In the theater and on night divine.
May no rescue come from foe or lover,
More than platinum the rings of Saturn weighs.
Block is set under black velvet cover,
Face is beautiful and looks away.
Heavy, Venice, is your dress and belt,
There are mirrors in the cypress frames
Air is faceted. In bedroom mountains melt
Of that dirty bluish glass. Nothing remains.
Fingers hold an hourglass or roses.
Green of Adriatic sea, forgive,
Why are you so quiet, Venetian hostess,
From this holiday death row how do I leave?
The black Hesper flashes in the mirror,
All will pass. The truth is dark and dour.
Man is born. The pearl dies, barely clearer.
Susanna the elders must conjure.
It is a pity that the winter falls
Mosquitoes fly no more
But you, my dear, allowed me to recall
Dragonflies weave paths across the blue
And like a swallow, circles mode -
Is that there a basket over you
Or pompous ode?
I wish not to advise, comment, dissever -
Excuses mean as little as they feel.
The taste of whipped cream is forever
And smell of orange peel.
You push at me at random from behind
As a result of this nothing gets worse
What can I do: the most tender mind
Is fit entirely on the surface!
And then you try as with an angry spoon
The yolk of egg continually to stir.
It will get white, and now it will succumb
And still, a little more..
Everything teases, all things sing in you
As though it were roulade from Italy.
And then again your little cherry mouth
Begs for a drying grape from me.
So do not try to be smart as that
To you all is a whim, all is a minute,
There is a shadow here of your hat,
And a Venetian bautta is within it.
Here is the discus, like a golden sun -
A blessed moment - in the air it stands -
The world is held in time like apple in one's hands -
Here will be heard only the Grecian tongue.
A solemn zenith of the service to God's will,
Light of round cupolas glows in July,
That with full chest, outside of time we sigh
Of endless meadows where all time stands still.
Like noon eternal is the Eucharist -
All drink the cups, all play and sing aloud,
Before the eyes of all the cup of God
Pours with a gaiety that can't desist.
When Psyche that is life descends
After Persephone into transparent woods below
With a green branch and Stygian tenderness
Beneath her feet falls a blind swallow.
Ghosts crowd about the fugitive and hurry
To meet the new arrival with a prayer
They twist their withered weakened arms before her
Misunderstanding and with near despair.
Souls are like women and their trifles love:
Some hold a mirror, some perfumes that fizzle:
There's leafless wood of voices from above,
Dry lamentations fall in drops, like drizzle.
In light stampede not knowing where to start,
Soul does not recognize transparent grove of sage,
Breathes into mirror and then tarries to impart
The copper coin across the foggy passage.
Take from my open hands for your delight
A bit of honey and a bit of sun
As willed to us the bees of Proserpina.
Not to untie again an unmoored boat,
And not to know a shadow shod in fur,
Nor yet to conquer fear of dreary lifetime:
To us remain but kisses in the night,
Fuzzy and shivering like little bees
That fall and die as they depart the hive.
They shimmer in transparent nigthtime breeze,
Their home is haunted forest of Taigetos,
They feast on mint, and honeycomb, and spacetime.
Take then my wild gift for your delight,
A simple wreath of withered little bees
That died as they changed honey into sun.
Brothers, let's celebrate the dusk of liberty,
Let's celebrate this great and dusky Yule.
In boiling waters of the night like sea
The heavy wood has been submerged and pulls
In these dead years you rise above me
O sun, to judge us all and rule.
Let's celebrate the fated burden,
Which people's leader takes with tears.
Let's celebrate the twilight burden
Of power, it is very dear.
If you have heart, time, our warden,
While your ship sinks, you will hear.
In battle legions we have bound
The swallows, and now
Sun can't be seen, and all around
Things sparkle, chirp, and grow
And through dense net of dusk unbound
I cannot see the sun, and the earth flows.
But we will try: A giant, clumsy,
A screeching turning of the steering wheel.
Earth flows. Get strong, men, don't be lazy
As with a plow part the ocean. Kneel,
We will remember in Lethean frenzy
That earth has cost us ten heavens still.
On fearsome height stands wandering fire
But does star glimmer thus, or are eyes lying?
Transparent star, wandering fire
Your brother, Petropole, is dying.
On fearsome height the earthly dreams all burn
And a green star is flying.
Oh, if you be a star -- brother of earth and heaven --
Your brother, Petropole, is dying.
A monstrous ship upon a fearsome height
Wings outspread, is flying.
Green star, you, in a gorgeous plight,
Your brother, Petropole, is dying.
Transparent spring upon Nieva turned black
Has broken. Wax of immortality melts as if crying.
Oh, if you be a star -- Petropole, look back!
Your brother, Petropole, is dying.
I have forgot the word that I had meant to say.
To palace of the shades flies a blind swallow
Upon clipped wings with shadows to play.
Night's song is in oblivion sung below.
Immortelle does not bloom. I cannot hear bird's song.
Transparent are the mantles of night's horse herd
In a dry creek an empty shuttle swims along
And even grasshoppers can't hear the lost word.
Slowly like curtain it grows, or temple yet,
Suddenly Antigone seems mad and lurches
Like a blind swallow she falls toward my feet
With Stygian tenderness and with green branches.
O, if but to return the shame of see-through hands
And convex joy of dawning recognition,
I am afraid of weeping Aonids
Of fog, of ringing and of gaping apparition.
The mortal's power is to love and seek,
For him the sound into the palms will pour
But I forgot the word that I had meant to speak
And fruitless thought returns to palace dour.
Not of the same the shadow speaks in turn
The girlfriend, Antigone, the swallow..
And on the lips, just like black ice, still burns
The memory of Stygian ringing from below.
For this that your arms I could not more tightly keep -
For this that your tender saltwater lips I've foresaken -
As much as abhorrent to me is this ruin half-asleep -
I must in Acropolis wait till the city awakens.
The Aegeans ready the horse in the darkness profound,
With sharp-toothed blades into cracks they invade and rupture
Dry rustle of blood in the ears simply would not die down
Of you not a whisper remains, not a sight, not a sculpture.
How could I have thought you'd return to me, how did I dare?
Why did I abandon so early without a warning?
The rooster had not sang his song, nor the hills been laid bare,
And into the woodwork the axe had not torn yet this morning.
Like transparent tears on the walls have appeared drops of sap
And city is feeling its forested ribcage with fire
Through valves blood has rushed into life and then turned on the tap
And three times to men have the mermaids called out of the mire.
Where is my dear Troy, where's the palace, the women's hall?
The tall starling-coop of King Priam is lying in shatters
And like a dry rain wooden arrows continue to fall
And more arrows just like a nutgrove arise in tatters.
The sting of last starfleck shall painlessly flicker away,
And morning will tap on the windowpane like a gray swallow,
And slowly the day, like an ox once awakened in hay,
Will rustle awake on sharp steps, and the light will follow.
Under a coxcomb of a milky white
Isaac has built a graying pigeon cage
The crozier irritates the graying quiet
Gradations of the air the heart can gauge.
There's wandering ghost of century-old requiem
Then the grand bearing of the shroud
Genessarian* darkness in decrepit seine
Of Lenten week, a voice that weeps aloud.
Upon warm altars smoke glows
And then a priest exudes an orphaned cry
A regal man: there is clean snow
On the shoulders, and savage porphyry.
Sophie's and Peter's Grand Cathedrals that withstood
Centuries; warehouses of air and light
Grain hangars of the universal good
And corn-kilns of New Testament.
In the harsh troubled year, not to your side
The spirit drags across the steps in peace,
The wolf's trail of disaster reaches wide
And will not change over the centuries.
Free is the slave who once has conquered fear
And who beyond all measure kept, through grief,
In deep cornbins, in chilly granaries
The grain of utter and complete belief.
* Gennesarian: ref. Luke 5:1, Matthew 14:34, and Mark 6:53, a Biblical town.
Osip Mandelstam. Tristia (tranlsation by Ilya Shambat)