Nursery Rhyme by Kevin Brewer

Ring-a-ring of funeral bells

Throw the pussies down the wells

Ninety people fell and drowned

When London bridge came falling down

.

Ba-ba black sheep’s locked outside

Now the farm’s gone apartheid

Today’s pressures just too much

Humpty Dumpty’s cracking up

.

Jack Horner rings the Sunday Times

Utters a few warning lines

Slams down receiver then he’s gone

Sticks in a thumb explodes a bomb

.

Sitting drinking ginger ale

Duke of York turns ghostly pale

Ten thousand men go up in smoke

Their ashes settle round his cloak

.

Mary Mary quite contrary

Jumps from the eleventh story

Meets the pavement face to face

But makes an impact on that place

.

Pavement artist then takes part

Makes Mary Mary objects d’art

Splattered stone stands in the Tate

With Mary Mary on a plate

.

Sing a song of 50p

Mummy say one more to me

No more no more good night good night

God reaching down turns off the light.

.

.

By Kevin Brewer

Маяковский в 1913 году (Mayakovsky in the Year 1913) by Anna Akhmatova

Although I didn’t know your days of glory

I was present at your tempestuous dawn

and today I’ll take a small step back in history

to remember, as I’m entitled to, times gone.

With every line, your words increased in power!

Unheard of voices gathering in swarms!

Those were no idle hands that threw up such towering

and menacing new forms!

Everything you touched suddenly seemed

somehow altered, different from before,

and whatever you destroyed, remained

that way, and in every syllable the roar

of judgement. Often dissatisfied, alone,

driven on by an impatient fate,

you knew how fast the time was nearing when

you’d leap, excited, joyful, to the fight.

We could hear, as we listened to you read,

the reverberating thunder of the waters

and the downpour squinted angrily as you slid

into your wild confrontations with the city.

Your name, in those days unfamiliar, flashed

like streaks of lightning through the stuffy hall.

It’s with us still today, remembered, cherished

throughout the land, a thundering battle call.

.

.

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

(1940)

translated by Peter Oram

The poem recited by the actress Vera Voronkova (Вера Воронкова)

Additional information: The subject of this poem is the poet and playwright Vladimir Mayakovsky.

Beneath is the original, Russian, version of the poem in Cyrillic.

Маяковский в 1913 году

.

Я тебя в твоей не знала славе,

Помню только бурный твой расцвет,

Но, быть может, я сегодня вправе

Вспомнить день тех отдаленных лет.

Как в стихах твоих крепчали звуки,

Новые роились голоса…

Не ленились молодые руки,

Грозные ты возводил леса.

Все, чего касался ты, казалось

Не таким, как было до тех пор,

То, что разрушал ты,- разрушалось,

В каждом слове бился приговор.

Одинок и часто недоволен,

С нетерпеньем торопил судьбу,

Знал, что скоро выйдешь весел, волен

На свою великую борьбу.

И уже отзывный гул прилива

Слышался, когда ты нам читал,

Дождь косил свои глаза гневливо,

С городом ты в буйный спор вступал.

И еще не слышанное имя

Молнией влетело в душный зал,

Чтобы ныне, всей страной хранимо,

Зазвучать, как боевой сигнал.

Rain by Winifred Grace Turner

It rained last night, what a lovely sound,

With kisses so welcome, it softened the ground.

A raindrop sparkles on a leaf by my door

Iridescent and trembling waiting for more.

A spiders web shimmers, gossamer lace.

With fairy like fingers it caresses my face.

A snail leaves a trail as it moves slowly along

The rain freshened air fills with the birds lovely song.

The world is awakening, the sun will arise

Flame coloured banners will colour the skies,

New buds will open and flowers bloom again

Welcoming new life, brought by Gods blessing of rain.

.

.

By Winifred Grace Turner

О, этот воздух, смутой пьяный… (‘On the black square of the Kremlin…’) by Osip Mandelstam

On the black square of the Kremlin

the air is drunk with mutiny.

A shaky ‘peace’ is rocked by rebels,

the poplars puff seditiously.

.

The wax faces of the cathedrals

and the dense forest of the bells

tell us – inside the stony rafters

a tongueless brigand is concealed.

.

But inside the sealed-up cathedrals

the air we breathe is cool and dark,

as though a Russian wine is coursing

through Greece’s earthenware jars.

.

Assumption’s paradise of arches

soars up in an astonished curve;

and now the green Annunciation

awakens, cooing like a dove.

.

The Archangel and Resurrection

let in the light like glowing palms –

everything is secretly burning,

the jugs are full of hidden flames.

.

.

by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam.)

His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)

(April 1916)

translated by Thomas de Waal

Mandelstam’s poem set to music composed and performed by the singer-songwriter Larisa Novoseltseva. Performed at the House of Journalists, Moscow, on February 24, 2010. She is composer and performer of songs and ballads on poems by more than forty Russian poets, mostly of the Silver Age. Check out more of her work on YouTube!

Beneath is the original Russian language version of the poem in Cyrillic.

О, этот воздух, смутой пьяный…

О, этот воздух, смутой пьяный,

На черной площади Кремля.

Качают шаткий «мир» смутьяны,

Тревожно пахнут тополя.

.

Соборов восковые лики,

Колоколов дремучий лес,

Как бы разбойник безъязыкий

В стропилах каменных исчез.

.

А в запечатанных соборах,

Где и прохладно и темно,

Как в нежных глиняных амфорах,

Играет русское вино.

.

Успенский, дивно округленный,

Весь удивленье райских дуг,

И Благовещенский, зеленый,

И, мнится, заворкует вдруг.

.

Архангельский и Воскресенья

Просвечивают, как ладонь,—

Повсюду скрытое горенье,

В кувшинах спрятанный огонь…

Autumn Gold by William Hayles

Golden leaves beneath my feet,

Autumn winds through my hair,

Flowers fade in slow retreat,

Foxes sleeping in their lair.

.

Ashen skies of nimbus flocks,

Shrieking geese flee from the east,

Falling showers of icy drops,

Soaking land, man and beasts.

.

Short days fly from dawn to dusk,

Chill nights sheltered by crackling fire,

Cattle in byre, fed on husks,

Springs green pastures their desire.

.

Boughs of apples creak and groan,

Hazels hardening on the tree,

Fields of stubble, freshly mown,

Swallows gone beyond the seas.

.

Orion’s sword arm held on high,

His flashing belt diamond bright,

The autumn stars invade the sky,

And silvery moon lights up the night.

.

It’s chestnut roasting, marshmallow toasting,

Hot toddies and mulled ales downed,

In the hedgerow robins boasting,

Leafy carpet covers the ground.

.

Autumn, herald for the winter,

All brown and red burnished gold,

Time is passing like a sprinter,

Now the year is growing old.

.

.

By William Hayles

Дождь (Rain) by Boris Pasternak

Inscription on the ‘Book of the Steppe’

.

She’s here with me. Come strum, pour, laugh,

Tear the twilight through and through!

Drown, flow down, an epigraph

To a love like you!

.

Scurry like a silk-worm

And beat the window’s drum.

Combine, entwine,

And let the darkness come!

.

Noon midnight, cloudburst – come for her!

Walking home, soaked to the skin!

Whole tree-loads of water

On eyes, cheeks, jasmin!

.

Hosanna to Egyptian darkness!

Drops chuckle, slide, collide,

And suddenly the air smells new

As to patients who’ve come through.

.

Let’s run and pluck – as from guitars

Guitarists pluck a phrase –

The garden Saint-Gothard

Washed with a lime-tree haze.

.

.

By Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к

(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)

from Сестра моя — жизнь (My Sister, Life)

(Summer 1917)

translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France

.

Beneath is the original Russian version of the poem in Cyrillic.

.

Дождь

Надпись на “Книге степи”

Она со мной. Наигрывай,
Лей, смейся, сумрак рви!
Топи, теки эпиграфом
К такой, как ты, любви!

Снуй шелкопрядом тутовым
И бейся об окно.
Окутывай, опутывай,
Еще не всклянь темно!

– Ночь в полдень, ливень — гребень ей!
На щебне, взмок — возьми!
И — целыми деревьями
В глаза, в виски, в жасмин!

Осанна тьме египетской!
Хохочут, сшиблись, — ниц!
И вдруг пахнуло выпиской
Из тысячи больниц.

Теперь бежим сощипывать,
Как стон со ста гитар,
Омытый мглою липовой
Садовый Сен-Готард.

The Birthday Card by Frances Cummins

The shaking hand that traced the wiry letters

traced the future:

that caressed my hair when I was young

now grips my heart with grief.

And I am left to wonder –

Did you know too?

.

Hands more eloquent than words their joints gnarled

like old branches

their sinews stretched with time

tell the story of a life long-lived.

And I am left to wonder –

Do you know too?

.

The emptiness of future anniversaries

flashed before me;

Words of love, not for this day alone

but for all the days to come.

And I no longer wonder –

You do know too.

.

.

by Frances Cummins

(1992)

Домби и сын (Dombey and Son) by Osip Mandelstam

The shrillness of the English language

and Oliver’s dejected look

have merged: I see the youngster languish

among a pile of office books.

.

Charles Dickens – ask him; he will tell you

what was in London long ago:

the City, Dombey, assets’ value,

the River Thames’s rusty flow.

.

‘Mid rain and tears and counted money,

Paul Dombey’s curly-haired son

cannot believe that clerks are funny

and laughs at neither joke nor pun.

.

The office chairs are sorry splinters;

each broken farthing put to use,

and numbers swarm in springs and winters,

like bees perniciously let loose.

.

Attorneys study every letter;

in smoke and stench they hone their stings,

and, from a noose, the luckless debtor –

a piece of bast – in silence swings.

.

His foes enjoy their lawful robbing,

lost are for him all earthly boons,

and lo! His only daughter, sobbing,

embraces checkered pantaloons.

.

.

by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam.)

His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)

(1913)

translated by Anatoly Liberman

from the poetry collection камен (Stone)

.

‘This is a hauntingly beautiful lyric, though all the references are wrong; Oliver Twist does not spend a minute in the office, Paul Dombey never deals with his father’s clerks, no one cracks jokes in his presence, no debtor hangs himself in that novel, and the Thames is not Yellow.’

– Anatoly Liberman
The poem recited in Russian by Stanislav Komardin.

Beneath is the original, Russian Cyrillic, version of the poem.

Домби и сын

Когда, пронзительнее свиста,

Я слышу английский язык —

Я вижу Оливера Твиста

Над кипами конторских книг.

.

У Чарльза Диккенса спросите,

Что было в Лондоне тогда:

Контора Домби в старом Сити

И Темзы желтая вода…

.

Дожди и слезы. Белокурый

И нежный мальчик — Домби-сын;

Веселых клэрков каламбуры

Не понимает он один.

.

В конторе сломанные стулья,

На шиллинги и пенсы счет;

Как пчелы, вылетев из улья,

Роятся цифры круглый год.

.

А грязных адвокатов жало

Работает в табачной мгле —

И вот, как старая мочала,

Банкрот болтается в петле.

.

На стороне врагов законы:

Ему ничем нельзя помочь!

И клетчатые панталоны,

Рыдая, обнимает дочь…

Psychodahlia by Mike Jenkins

Down in the darkest corridors of municipalia

is where the seed must’ve come from,

nurtured no doubt by a quirky computer

about the time of the Garden Festival.

.

It was to be Merthyr’s own shrub:

a plant ideally suited to the area,

only needing to be oiled every ten years,

never losing its metallic beetroot colour.

.

‘What should we call it?’

discussed the Parks committee:

‘Mini triffid?’ ‘Spike drunkard?’

‘ow about an ever ‘ard?’

.

Without realising their irony,

because a stalwart councillor, after too many beers,

slipped on his way to a spaghetti

and skewered himself on the castiron cactus!

.

‘DESTROY KILLER PLANTS!’ screamed the local press,

but law and order merchants were impressed

by its vicious leaves and bought thousands

to surround the Civic Centre, school and institutions.

.

Soon the forked flora had spread everywhere

threatening the soles of stray vandals,

so the Council named it ‘Psychodahlia’

and the computer was made into mayor.

.

.

by Mike Jenkins

from This House, My Ghetto

Additional information: Mike Jenkins (born 1953) is a Welsh poet, story writer and novelist writing in English. He taught English at Radyr Comprehensive School in Cardiff for nearly a decade and Penydre High School, Gurnos, Merthyr Tydfil, for some two decades before that. At the end of the 2008–2009 academic year Jenkins took voluntary redundancy. He now writes full-time, capitalising on experiences gleaned from former pupils. He continues to live in Merthyr Tydfil, and has done so for over 30 years. He is also the father of Plaid Cymru politician Bethan Sayed née Jenkins MS and journalist Ciaran Jenkins.

Мужья со своими делами, нервами… (‘Always busy, plagued by anxiety…’ a.k.a ‘Husbands with their doings and nerves…’) by Boris Slutsky

Always busy, plagued by anxiety,

guilt-ridden, duty to be done –

husbands should be the first to die;

never the ones who’re left alone.

.

Wives should grow old slowly. Aim

for the four-score-and-twenty mark, even;

not every day, but from time to time

remembering their men.

.

You should not have left the way

you did. That was wrong.

With a kind smile on your face

you should have lived on,

you should have lived long.

.

Until their hair turns white –

for wives, that’s the way to wait,

.

getting on with things around the home,

breaking the odd heart if they can,

and even (well, where’s the harm?)

toasting the memory of their old man.

.

.

by Борис Абрамович Слуцкий

(Boris Abramovich Slutsky)

(1977)

translated by G. S. Smith

.

Here is an alternative translation of this poem by Gerald S. Smith.

Beneath is the original Russian version of the poem in Cyrillic.

.

Мужья со своими делами, нервами…

Мужья со своими делами, нервами,
чувством долга, чувством вины
должны умирать первыми, первыми,
вторыми они умирать не должны.

Жены должны стареть понемногу,
хоть до столетних дойдя рубежей,
изредка, впрочем, снова и снова
вспоминая своих мужей.

Ты не должна была делать так,
как ты сделала. Ты не должна была.
С доброй улыбкою на устах
жить ты должна была,
долго должна была.

Жить до старости, до седины
жены обязаны и должны,

делая в доме свои дела,
чьи-нибудь сердца разбивая
или даже — была не была —
чарку — в память мужей — распивая.