‘Вооруженный зреньем узких ос’ (‘Armed with wasp-vision. With the vision of wasps…’ by Osip Mandelstam

Armed with wasp-vision, with the vision of wasps
that suck, suck, suck the earth's axis,
I'm filled by the whole deep vein of my life
and hold it here in my heart
and in vain.

And I don't draw, don't sing,
don't draw a black-voiced bow over strings:
I only drink, drink, drink in life and I love
to envy wasp-
waisted wasps their mighty cunning.

O if I too
could be impelled past sleep, past death,
stung by the summer's cheer and chir,
by this new air
to hear earth's axis, axis, axis.


by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam.)
His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)
(8 February 1937)
translated by Robert Chandler
the poem read by Stanislav Komardin

Below is the original Russian Cyrillic version of the poem.

Вооруженный зреньем узких ос, 
Сосущих ось земную, ось земную,
Я чую всё, с чем свидеться пришлось,
И вспоминаю наизусть и всуе.

И не рисую я, и не пою,
И не вожу смычком черпоголосым,
Я только в жизнь впиваюсь и люблю
Завидовать могучим, хитрым осам.

О, если б и меня когда-нибудь могло
Заставить, сон и смерть минуя,
Стрекало Еоздуха и летнее тепло
Услышать ось земную, ось земную.

Extra information: The wasp-waist was a fashion regarding a women’s fashion silhouette, produced by a style of corset and girdle, that has experienced various periods of popularity in the 19th and 20th centuries. Its primary feature is the abrupt transition from a natural-width rib cage to an exceedingly small waist, with the hips curving out below. It takes its name from its similarity to a wasp’s segmented body. The sharply cinched waistline also exaggerates the hips and bust.

To put it bluntly Mandelstam is talking about admiring women, at least in part, in this poem.

Mandelstam was said to have had an affair with the poet Anna Akhmatova. She insisted throughout her life that their relationship had always been a very deep friendship, rather than a sexual affair. In the 1910s, he was in love, secretly and unrequitedly, with a Georgian princess and St. Petersburg socialite Salomea Andronikova, to whom Mandelstam dedicated his poem “Solominka” (1916).

In 1922, Mandelstam married Nadezhda Khazina in Kiev, Ukraine, where she lived with her family. He continued to be attracted to other women, sometimes seriously. Their marriage was threatened by his falling in love with other women, notably Olga Vaksel in 1924-25 and Mariya Petrovykh in 1933-34.

During Mandelstam’s years of imprisonment, 1934–38, Nadezhda accompanied him into exile. Given the real danger that all copies of Osip’s poetry would be destroyed, she worked to memorize his entire corpus, as well as to hide and preserve select paper manuscripts, all the while dodging her own arrest. In the 1960s and 1970s, as the political climate thawed, she was largely responsible for arranging clandestine republication of Mandelstam’s poetry.

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The Fair by R. S. Thomas

The idiot goes round and around
With his brother in a bumping car
At the fair. The famous idiot
Smile hangs over the car's edge,
Illuminating nothing. This is mankind
Being taken for a ride by a rich
Relation. The responses are fixed:
Bump, smile; bump, smile. And the current

Is generated by the smooth flow
Of the shillings. This is an orchestra
Of steel with the constant percussion
Of laughter. But where he should be laughing
Too, his features are split open, and look!
Out of the cracks come warm, human tears.


by R. S. Thomas
from H'm (1972)

Июль (July) by Boris Pasternak

A phantom roams through the house.
There are footsteps in upstairs rooms.
All day, shades flit through the attic.
Through the house a goblin roams.

He loafs about, gets in the way,
He interferes and causes trouble,
Creeps up to the bed in a dressing gown,
And pulls the cloth off the table.

He does not wipe his feet at the door,
But whirls in with the draft, unseen,
And hurls the curtain to the ceiling
Like a prima ballerina.


Who can this irritating oaf,
This ghost, this phantom be?
Of course, it is our summer guest,
Our visitor on the spree.

For all his little holiday
We let him have the whole house.
July with his tempestuous air
Has rented rooms from us.

July, who brings in thistledown
And burs that cling to his clothes;
July, who treats all windows as doors,
And sprinkles his talk with oaths.

Untidy urchin of the steppe,
Smelling of lime-trees, grass and rye,
Beet-tops, and fragrant fennel,
Meadowsweet breath of July.


by Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к
(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)
(1956)
from Когда разгуляется
(When The Weather Clears)
translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France
Pasternak’s poem ‘July’ recited in it’s original Russian form by Irina Saglay

Beneath is the original Russian Cyrillic version of the poem.

По дому бродит привиденье.
Весь день шаги над головой.
На чердаке мелькают тени.
По дому бродит домовой.

Везде болтается некстати,
Мешается во все дела,
В халате крадется к кровати,
Срывает скатерть со стола.

Ног у порога не обтерши,
Вбегает в вихре сквозняка
И с занавеской, как с танцоршей,
Взвивается до потолка.

Кто этот баловник-невежа
И этот призрак и двойник?
Да это наш жилец приезжий,
Наш летний дачник-отпускник.

На весь его недолгий роздых
Мы целый дом ему сдаем.
Июль с грозой, июльский воздух
Снял комнаты у нас внаем.

Июль, таскающий в одёже
Пух одуванчиков, лопух,
Июль, домой сквозь окна вхожий,
Всё громко говорящий вслух.

Степной нечесаный растрепа,
Пропахший липой и травой,
Ботвой и запахом укропа,
Июльский воздух луговой.

St Thomas’s Day by Gillian Clarke

It's the darkest morning of the year.
Day breaks in water runnels
In the yard: a flutter
Of light on a tiled roof;
The loosening of night's
Stonehold on tap and bolt.

Rain on my face wakes me
From recent sleep.I cross
The yard, shovel bumping
In the barrow, fingers
Stiff as hinges.Catrin
Brings bran and fresh hay.

A snort in the dark, a shove
For supremacy.
My hands are warmed
In the steam of his welcome.
Midwinter, only here
Do the fields still summer,
Thistlehead and flower
Powdered by hoof and tooth.

by Gillian Clarke
from Letter from a far country (1982)

‘Как бронзовой золой жаровень’ (‘The sleepy garden scatters beetles’) by Boris Pasternak

The sleepy garden scatters beetles
Like bronze cinders from braziers.
Level with me and with my candle
There hangs a flowering universe.

As if into a new religion
I cross the threshold of this night,
Where the grey decaying poplar
Has veiled the moon's bright edge from sight,

Where the orchard surf whispers of apples,
Where the pond is an opened secret,
Where the garden hangs, as if on piles,
And holds the sky in front of it.


by Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к
(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)
(1912 or 1913 depending on which source is cited)
translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France

Below is a recital of the poem in it’s original Russian:

Recital of the poem in Russian

Below is the poem in it’s original Russian cyrillic form:

Как бронзовой золой жаровень,
Жуками сыплет сонный сад.
Со мной, с моей свечою вровень
Миры расцветшие висят.

И, как в неслыханную веру,
Я в эту ночь перехожу,
Где тополь обветшало-серый
Завесил лунную межу.

Где пруд - как явленная тайна,
Где шепчет яблони прибой,
Где сад висит постройкой свайной
И держит небо пред собой.

Petition by R. S. Thomas

And I standing in the shade
Have seen it a thousand times
Happen: first theft, then murder;
Rape; the rueful acts
Of the blind hand. I have said
New prayers, or said the old
In a new way. Seeking the poem
In the pain, I have learned
Silence is best, praying for it
With my conscience. I am eyes
Merely, witnessing virtue's
Defeat; seeing the young born
Fair, knowing the cancer
Awaits them. One thing I have asked
Of the disposer of the issues
Of life: that truth should defer
To beauty. It was not granted.


by R. S. Thomas
from H'm (1972)

‘Услышишь гром и вспомнишь обо мне’ a.k.a. ‘You will hear thunder and remember me’ by Anna Akhmatova

You will hear thunder and remember me,
And think: she wanted storms. The rim
Of the sky will be the colour of hard crimson,
And your heart, as it was then, will be on fire.

That day in Moscow, it will all come true,
When, for the last time, I take my leave,
And hasten to the heights that I have longed for,
Leaving my shadow still to be with you.


by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)
(1961 - 1963)
from Седьмая книга (The Seventh Book)
translation by D. M. Thomas

Below is the original Russian version in cyrillic.

Услышишь гром и вспомнишь обо мне,
Подумаешь: она грозы желала...
Полоска неба будет твердо-алой,
А сердце будет как тогда - в огне.
Случится это в тот московский день,
Когда я город навсегда покину
И устремлюсь к желанному притину,
Свою меж вас еще оставив тень.