На пороге ночи (Fall of Night) by Novella Matveyeva

In the evening the path

Is violet-grey,

A sulphuric, lilac shade.

And, like a nut

That ripens and

Comes loose from its own walls,

The moon comes away from the walls of the sky,

And from the moisture-filled clouds,

And sets out for the weightless firmament,

Lonely and cast adrift…

.

The gypsy shadows of the trees

Sweep the road with their curls…

Far off, aside, a desolate

Pond smokes and glitters,

Like the drowsy fire in a pipe,

Dull, quenched, half-dead,

Stuffed into the sleeve, under the damp fur

Of a sheepskin-coat.

.

From there, from that damp, sad place,

Into the dry-leafed coppice an owl bowls, head over heels,

Its wings bulky yet nimble –

Fluttering millstones.

It flies shaggily,

Ridiculously;

It flies like something sewn up in a grey sack,

With oblique slits for eyes.

Its clumsy dance in the fresh air

Is like a rudderless, compassless boat’s…

Be off, absurd creature, be off!

Beyond the ditch, black as an abyss,

Bushes shine glassily, like vessels filled with some

Medicinal infusion.

.

It is the prelude to night…

.

Night.

Like uprights and arcs,

Above the warm,

Lonely expanse

Are motionless sounds…

.

by Новелла Николаевна Матвеева

(Novella Nikolayevna Matveyeva)

(1965?)

translated by Daniel Weissbort

.

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

.

На пороге ночи

У тропки вечерней сиренево-серный
И серо-лиловый оттенок.
И, словно орех, который, созрев,
Отходит от собственных стенок,
Отходит луна от небес волокна,
От облачного потока,
И к легкому своду уходит она
Отколото, одиноко...

Деревьев цыганские тени кудрями дорогу метут...
Вдали, в запустенье, дымится и светится пруд,
Как жар, потухающий в трубке цыгана,
Мечтательно замерший наполовину,
Попав под рукав, под сырую овчину
Тумана...

Оттуда, из сырости грустной,
В лесок сухокудрый летит, кувыркаясь, сова:
Я слышу, я слышу крыла ее грузные,
О, эти порхающие жернова!
Летит она прозорливо и слепо, -
Движением тяжким и скорым, как шок.
Летит клочковато, летит нелепо,
Летит, как зашитая в серый мешок
С косыми прорезями для глаз...

Как пляска ладьи, где отшибло и руль и компас,
В воздухе свежем танец ее корявый...
Прочь, абсурдная,
Прочь!

...За черной, как пропасть, канавой
Стеклянно блистают кусты, как сосуды с целебным настоем, -
Это вступление в ночь...
Ночь.

Как столбики и как дуги,
Над теплым,
Над сиротливым простором
Стоят неподвижные звуки.

Threshold by R S Thomas

I emerge from the mind’s

cave into the worse darkness

outside, where things pass and

the Lord is in none of them.

.

I have heard the still, small voice

and it was that of the bacteria

demolishing my cosmos. I

have lingered too long on

.

this threshold, but where can I go?

To look back is to lose the soul

I was leading upward towards

the light. To look forward? Ah,

.

what balance is needed at

the edges of such an abyss.

I am alone on the surface

of a turning planet. What

.

to do but, like Michelangelo’s

Adam, put my hand

out into unknown space,

hoping for the reciprocating touch?

.

by R. S. Thomas

from Later Poems (1983)

On Transcience by Gavrila Derzhavin

Time’s river in its rushing course

carries away all human things,

drowns in oblivion’s abyss

peoples and kingdoms and their kings.

 

And if the trumpet or the lyre

should rescue something, small or great,

eternity will gulp it down

and it will share the common fate.

 

by Гавриил ”Гаврила” Романович Державин (Gavriil ”Gavrila” Romanovich Derzhavin)

July 1816 – written on a slate a few days or possibly only hours before Derzhavin’s death on 20 July 1816.

Translated by Peter France


 

Fun fact: Read as an acrostic the first letter of each line forms the phrase ‘руина чти‘ which translates as ‘ruin of honour’, ‘honour the ruin’ or ‘read the ruin’.

Although his works are traditionally considered literary classicism, his best verse is rich with antitheses and conflicting sounds in a way reminiscent of John Donne and other metaphysical poets.

An alternate translation of this, presumably, unfinished fragment found on his table after his death is:

The current of Time’s river
Will carry off all human deeds
And sink into oblivion
All peoples, kingdoms and their kings.
And if there’s something that remains
Through sounds of horn and lyre,
It too will disappear into the maw of time
And not avoid the common pyre… <lines broken>

In A Restaurant by Alexander Blok

Will I ever forget it, that mythical night:

in the blaze of the setting sun

an abyss divided the sky in two

and the street lamps came on one by one.

 

I sat in a crowd by the window while somewhere

an orchestra sang about love;

I sent you a rose in a glass of champagne

as gold as the heavens above.

 

Returning your arrogant look with a mixture

of pride and confusion, I bowed;

with studied disdain you turned to your escort:

‘That one, too, is in love with me now.’

 

All at once the ecstatic strings thundered out

in response… But still I could see

from your show of contempt, from the tremor that shook

your hand, that your thoughts were with me.

 

You jumped up from your place with the speed of a bird

that’s been startled; your languid perfume,

the swirl of your dress as you passed, died away

like a vision that’s over too soon.

 

But out of its depths a mirror reflected

your glance as you cried: ‘Now’s your chance!’

And a gypsy, jangled her beads, sang of love

to the dawn and started to dance.

 

by Александр Александрович Блок (Alexander Alexandrovich Blok)

(1910)

translated by Stephen Capus

Just Supposing by Eric Finney

Supposing…

A sinister spacecraft came down on the field,

And a hatch in the saucer slid back and revealed –

A nightmare of Martians, all grey and green streaks,

And they each had three legs and three eyes and three beaks!

Then, wobbling weirdly, one came right across

And in Martian demanded to speak to the boss.

So we led him in school, to the headmaster’s door,

And we knocked, and he opened, and then when he saw –

His eyeballs fell out with a plop on the floor!

 

Or supposing…

A crack opened up in the soccer field grass,

And rapidly grew to a yawning crevasse,

And the school was engulfed in the awful abyss:

The goalposts, the classrooms, the teachers – all this

Went helplessly into that opening jaw,

All hurting down towards earth’s fiery core,

And everything burned to a crisp – except me,

I escaped from the furnace. But how? Let me see…

I felt the inferno; came close to heart-failure!

But I fell through the world and came out in Australia!

 

by Eric Finney