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…

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…

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.

Не выходи из комнаты (Don’t Leave The Room) by Joseph Brodsky

Don’t leave the room, don’t blunder, do not go on.
If you’re smoking Shipka, what good is the Sun?
Outside, all is meaningless, especially – the cry of joy.
To the lavatory and back straightaway, old boy.

O, don’t leave the room, don’t call for a cab, my friend.
Because Space is a corridor that will end
with a meter. And, if your dear, delight expressing,
walks inside, kick her out without undressing.

Don’t leave the room; pretend that you have a cold.
Four walls and a chair entice like nothing else in the world.
Why leave the place that you’ll surely return to late in
the night, as you were, only more – mutilated?

O, don’t leave the room. Enchanted, dance bossa nova
in shoes worn on bare feet, in a coat draped over
your naked body. The hall reeks of ski wax and cabbage.
You’ve written a lot; more would be extra baggage.

Don’t leave the room. Let only the room imagine a little
what you might look like. And besides, incognito
ergo sum, as form itself learned from substance once.
Don’t leave the room! Outside, you will not find France.

Don’t be a fool! Be what others weren’t. Remain.
Don’t leave the room! Let the furniture have free reign,
blend in with wallpaper. Bolt the door, barricade in place
with a dresser from chronos, cosmos, eros, virus, race.

.

by Иосиф Александрович Бродский

(Joseph Aleksandrovich Brodsky a.k.a. Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky)

(1970)

translated by ??? (I’ve lost track of who did this translation so any aid in attributing the appropriate credit would be greatly appreciated)

Brodsky reciting his poem in Russian

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

Не выходи из комнаты

Не выходи из комнаты, не совершай ошибку.
Зачем тебе Солнце, если ты куришь Шипку?
За дверью бессмысленно все, особенно — возглас счастья.
Только в уборную — и сразу же возвращайся.

О, не выходи из комнаты, не вызывай мотора.
Потому что пространство сделано из коридора
и кончается счетчиком. А если войдет живая
милка, пасть разевая, выгони не раздевая.

Не выходи из комнаты; считай, что тебя продуло.
Что интересней на свете стены и стула?
Зачем выходить оттуда, куда вернешься вечером
таким же, каким ты был, тем более — изувеченным?

О, не выходи из комнаты. Танцуй, поймав, боссанову
в пальто на голое тело, в туфлях на босу ногу.
В прихожей пахнет капустой и мазью лыжной.
Ты написал много букв; еще одна будет лишней.

Не выходи из комнаты. О, пускай только комната
догадывается, как ты выглядишь. И вообще инкогнито
эрго сум, как заметила форме в сердцах субстанция.
Не выходи из комнаты! На улице, чай, не Франция.

Не будь дураком! Будь тем, чем другие не были.
Не выходи из комнаты! То есть дай волю мебели,
слейся лицом с обоями. Запрись и забаррикадируйся
шкафом от хроноса, космоса, эроса, расы, вируса.

Another recital of the poem by the Russian actor and activist Алексей Девотченко (Alexei Devotchenko)

Additional Information:

Here is an interesting article, with an alternative translation of this poem, by Alexandra Berlina regarding Brodsky and the timeliness of this poem at the moment.

In particular this translation note, from the article, where she discusses the choices faced in expressing wordplay successfully to an audience unlikely to be familiar with the original cultural context:

the original second line says ‘Why should you need the sun (solntse) if you smoke Shipka?’ Both Solntse and Shipka were brands of Bulgarian cigarettes. I decided against attempts along the lines of ‘You read The Guardian, why should you need the sun?’, Brodsky being a Russian chain smoker rather than a British liberal.

Alexandra Berlina

Плачущий сад (The Weeping Garden) by Boris Pasternak

It’s terrible: dripping and listening

If it’s as much alone as ever –

Crumpling a lacy branch at the window –

Or if there’s an eavesdropper.

.

But audibly the porous earth

Is choking with so much growth

And in the distance, as in August,

Midnight ripens with the harvest.

.

No sound. And no one hiding.

Having made sure it’s on its own

It returns to its old game – sliding

From gable to gutter and down.

.

I’ll raise it to my lips and listen

If I’m as much alone as ever –

Ready to sob if I have to –

Or if there’s an eavesdropper.

.

But all is quiet. Not a leaf stirs.

Nothing anywhere to be seen,

Except the gulps and splashing galoshes

And sighs and tears in between.

.

.

by Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к

(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)

from Сестра мояжизнь (My Sister, Life)

(1917)

translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France

A recital of the poem in Russian by Pavel Besedin

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

Плачущий сад

Ужасный! — Капнет и вслушается,

Все он ли один на свете

Мнет ветку в окне, как кружевце,

Или есть свидетель.

.

Но давится внятно от тягости

Отеков — земля ноздревая,

И слышно: далеко, как в августе,

Полуночь в полях назревает.

.

Ни звука. И нет соглядатаев.

В пустынности удостоверясь,

Берется за старое — скатывается

По кровле, за желоб и через.

.

К губам поднесу и прислушаюсь,

Все я ли один на свете, —

Готовый навзрыд при случае, —

Или есть свидетель.

.

Но тишь. И листок не шелохнется.

Ни признака зги, кроме жутких

Глотков и плескания в шлепанцах

И вздохов и слез в промежутке.

.

.

Additional information: As a teenager, Boris Pasternak fell in love with Ida Vysotskaya, the daughter of a wealthy Moscow tea merchant. Almost 5 years have passed since they met, before the aspiring poet ventured to propose to her and was refused. Memories of unsuccessful matchmaking long tormented Pasternak, who continued to have very tender feelings for Ide Vysotskaya. He tried not to mention this in his poems, but from time to time works appeared in which the pain, longing and disappointment of the poet were easily interpreted.

In 1917, resting in the country, Pasternak wrote an initial rough draft of the poem “The Weeping Garden”. The author himself, after many years, admitted that this work was written in one breath under the influence of a momentary impulse. Moreover, the poet at first did not think to draw a parallel between the usual summer rain and his own state of mind. This happened somewhat spontaneously, even unexpectedly, for the author himself. He felt anguish when looking out upon the night garden from his window. He felt that nature experiences exactly the same feeling of loneliness and longing as he did at times.

In his special manner, Pasternak conveys the sounds, rustles and even smells of a night garden, humanizing it and endowing it with the features of a lonely man. The hero of his work is constantly listening, “If it’s as much alone as ever“, and at the same time secretly dreams of attracting attention to himself. The garden weeps with warm summer rain, and the drops of moisture either freeze or slide “sliding / From gable to gutter and down“.

The poet himself is also “Ready to sob if I have to”, but looks around, looking for involuntary witnesses of his grief. Subconsciously, he wants to tell at least someone about what has become painful, to share his thoughts with feelings and feelings. However, the author is just as lonely as the night summer garden, and he has nowhere to wait for words of sympathy or comfort . “Nothing anywhere to be seen, / Except the gulps and splashing galoshes / And sighs and tears in between” the author notes, secretly regretting that at this moment there is no truly close person next to him. Pasternak still does not realize that life itself is preparing a cure for unrequited love for him, and very soon he will be able to find, albeit short-lived, but still happiness, next to another woman – artist Eugenia Vladimirovna Lurie.