‘No, not the moon – the bright face of a clock’ by Osip Mandelstam

No, not the moon – the bright face of a clock

glimmers to me. How is it my fault

that I perceive the feeble stars as milky?

And I hate Batyushkov’s unbounding arrogance:

What time is it? Someone simply asked –

and he replied to them: eternity!

 

by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam. His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)

(1912)

translated by Boris Dralyuk


Fun fact: Such an exchange did occur between Konstanin Batyushkov and his doctor and in his poem ‘For The Tombstone of a Little Girl’ he imagined a dead baby saying to her parents ‘Dear ones, don’t cry! / Envy my ephemerality; / I did not know this life, / And know eternity’ (translation by Peter France).

 

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Dances of Death [Excerpt] by Alexander Blok

Night, lantern, side street, drugstore,

a mindless, pallid light.

Live on for twenty years or more –

it’ll be the same; there’s no way out.

 

Try being reborn – start life anew.

All’s still as boring and banal.

Lantern, side street, drugstore, a few

shivering ripples on the canal.

 

by Александр Александрович Блок (Alexander Alexandrovich Blok)

(1912)

translated by Robert Chandler

The Pillow’s Just As Hot by Anna Akhmatova

The pillow’s just as hot

when I turn it over.

And now a second candle

is guttering, and crows

are cawing louder than ever.

Not a wink… And it’s too late

even to think of sleep.

White, blindingly white –

a blind on a white window.

Good morning!

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

(1909)

from Вечер (Evening, 1912)

translation by Robert Chandler


An alternate version of the same poem as D. M. Thomas’ translation The Pillow Hot…

Song of a Last Encounter by Anna Akhmatova

I walked without dragging my feet

but felt heavy at heart and frightened;

and I pulled onto my left hand

the glove that belonged to the right.

 

There seemed to be countless steps,

though I knew there were only three,

and an autumn voice from maples

whispered, ‘Die with me!

 

I have been undone by a fate

that is cheerless, flighty and cruel.’

I repied, ‘So have I, my dearest –

let me die one death with you…’

 

The song of a last encounter:

I glanced up at a dark wall:

from the bedroom indifferent candles

glowed yellow… And that was all.

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

(1911, Tsarkoye Selo)

from Вечер (Evening, 1912)

translation by Robert Chandler


This is an alternative version of same poem translated as Song of the Last Meeting by D. M. Thomas.

‘I Came To Him As A Guest…’ by Anna Akhmatova

For Alexander Blok

 

I came to him as a guest.

Precisely at noon. Sunday.

In the large room there was quiet,

And beyond the window, frost

 

And a sun like raspberry

Over the bluish-grey smoke-tangles.

How the reticent master

Concentrates as he looks!

 

His eyes are of the kind that

Nobody can forget. I’d

Better look out, better

Not look at them at all.

 

But I remember our talk,

Smoky noon of a Sunday,

In the poet’s high grey house

By the sea-gates of the Neva.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (January, 1914)

– from Четки (Rosary, 1914), translation by D. M. Thomas

‘We’re All Drunkards Here…’ by Anna Akhmatova

We’re all drunkards here. Harlots.

Joylessly we’re stuck together.

On the walls, scarlet

Flowers, birds of a feather,

 

Pine for clouds. Your black pipe

Makes strange shapes rise.

I wear my skirt tight

To my slim thighs.

 

Windows tightly shut.

What’s that? Frost? Thunder?

Did you steal your eyes, I wonder,

From a cautious cat?

 

O my heart, how you yearn

For your dying hour…

And that woman dancing there

Will eternally burn.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1 January, 1913)

– from Четки (Rosary, 1914), translation by D. M. Thomas

‘It Goes On Without End…’ by Anna Akhmatova

For M. Lozinsky

It goes on without end – the day, hevy and amber!

How impossible is grief, how vain the waiting!

And with a silver voice, again the deer

Speaks in the deer-park of the Northern Lights.

And I believe that there is cool snow,

And a blue font for those whose hands are empty,

And a small sledge is being wildly ridden,

Under the ancient chimes of distant bells.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1912)

– from Четки (Rosary, 1914), translation by D. M. Thomas