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.

‘I Go Outside To Find The Way…’ by Mikhail Lermontov

I go outside to find the way.

Through broken mist I glimpse a flinty path.

I am alone. This empty place hears God;

and stars converse with stars.

 

The heavens are a miracle

and pale blue sleep lies over all the earth.

What’s wrong with me? Why does life seem so hard?

Do I still cherish hope? Or hurt?

 

No, no, I have no expectations.

I’ve said goodbye to my past joys and griefs.

Freedom and peace are all I wish for now;

I seek oblivion and sleep.

 

But not the cold sleep of the grave –

my dream is of a sweeter sleep that will

allow life’s force to rest within a breast

that breathes, that still can rise and fall.

 

I wish a voice to sing all day

and night to me of love, and a dark tree,

an oak with spreading boughs, to still my sleep

with the green rustle of its leaves.

 

by Михаил Юрьевич Лермонтов (Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov)

(1841)

translated by Robert Chandler

Curlew by Gillian Clarke

She dips her bill in the rim of the sea.

Her beak is the ellipse

of a world much smaller

than that far section of the sea’s

circumference. A curve enough to calculate

the field’s circle and its heart

of eggs in the cold grass.

 

All day while I scythed my territory

out of nettles, laid claim to my cantref,

she has cut her share of sky. Her song bubbles

long as a plane trail from her savage mouth.

I clean the blade with newspaper. Dusk blurs

circle within circle till there’s nothing left

but the egg pulsing in the dark against her ribs.

For each of us the possessed space contracts

to the nest’s heat, the blood’s small cicuit.

 

by Gillian Clarke

from The Sundial (Gwasg Gomer, 1978)


Fun fact: A cantref was a medieval Welsh land division, particularly important in the administration of Welsh law.

‘I Spent All Day At The Meeting’ by Olga Berggolts

I spent all day at the meeting,

either lying or voting.

I’m surprised I didn’t go grey

or die of shame.

I wandered about the streets,

where I could be myself again.

I had a smoke with a yardman –

then a drink in a cheap kiosk

along with two amputees,

who had fought at Krasny Bor.

Their complaints were something else –

their conversation was real.

One memory led to abother,

as we stirred the ash in our hearts:

penal battalions sent on reconnaissance

straight across minefields.

One man would return bemedalled;

others would lie down for ever,

their trumped-up sins now redeemed

with daredevil blood.

And I said in a drunken rage,

barely able to string thoughts together,

‘Oh how I hate our righteous ones,

Oh how I love our sinners!’

 

by Ольга Фёдоровна Берггольц (Olga Fyodorovna Berggolts)

a.k.a. Olga Fyodorovna Bergholz

(1948-9)

translated by Robert Chandler


Fun fact: The reference to Kransy Bor refers to the military action during the Seige of Leningrad of the Second World War (or ‘Great Patriotic War’ to Russians): “The Battle of Krasny Bor was part of the Soviet offensive Operation Polyarnaya Zvezda. It called for a pincer attack near Leningrad, to build on the success of Operation Iskra and completely lift the Siege of Leningrad, encircling a substantial part of the German 18th Army. The offensive near Krasny Bor, formed the western arm of the pincer. The Soviet offensive began on Wednesday, 10 February 1943. It produced noticeable gains on the first day, but rapidly turned into a stalemate. The strong defense of the 250th (Spanish) Infantry Division led by General Emilio Esteban Infantes and the 4th SS Police Division gave the German forces time to reinforce their positions. By February 13, the Soviet forces had stopped their offensive in this sector. In Spain, February 10 became known as “Black Wednesday”, due to the heavy losses of the Spanish Division, which lost over 70% of the men engaged in the action. It was the most costly battle for the Spanish volunteers during their time on the Eastern Front.”

To put the poem in context: remember that the men served in a penal battallion during the Stalinist era and therefore were probably falsely accussed of something or other by the authorities of the time. As the two men were in a penal battallion they were made to take part in more risky military manoeuvres in, what we would call, a suicide squad. Hence Olga’s reaction, after attending a Party meeting, where she had to lie about her real opinions or voted the entire time, drunkenly decrying the ‘righteous’, who were corrupt bureaucrats and staunch members of the Party, abusing their authoritive power to crush anything but complete compliance to their will, instead of practising any humanity towards their fellow man and those left behind broken by their leadership.