Easter by R.S. Thomas

Easter. I go to church
to proclaim with my fellows
I believe in the Ressurection -
of what? Here everything
is electric and automatic.
In April a myriad bulbs
are switched on as flowers
incandesce; a new generation
of creatures rehearses
its genetic code. All this is easy.
Earth is a self-regulating
machine; everything happens
because it must. My faith
is in the inevitability
of creation. There will come a day -
dust under a dry sun,
ashes under its incineration...
is there somewhere in all
the emptiness of the universe
a fertile star where the old
metaphors wil apply, where
the bugling daffodil will sound
abroad not the last post, but
a gush of music out of an empty tomb?

by R.S. Thomas
from Unpublished Poems
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Весна (Spring) by Boris Pasternak

How many sticky buds, how many candle-ends
Are glued to the branches now! April
Is lit. The wind from the park reeks of puberty
And the woods are more blatant still.

A tight loop of feathered throats holds the wood's windpipe
Lassoed like a steer, and it groans
In nets as the gladiatorial organ
Steel-throated sonatas intones.

Now, Poetry, be a Greek sponge with suckers
And let the green succulence drench
You, under the trees on the sodden wood
Of a green-mottled garden bench.

Grow sumptuous flounces and furbelows,
Suck clouds and gullies in hour by hour,
And, Poetry, tonight I'll squeeze you out
To make the thirsty paper flower.

by Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к
(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)
(1916)
from Over the Barriers
translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France

This translation only covers the first part of the poem but below is the full original version in Cyrillic.

Весна


1

Что почек, что клейких заплывших огарков
Налеплено к веткам! Затеплен
Апрель. Возмужалостью тянет из парка,
И реплики леса окрепли.

Лес стянут по горлу петлею пернатых
Гортаней, как буйвол арканом,
И стонет в сетях, как стенает в сонатах
Стальной гладиатор органа.

Поэзия! Греческой губкой в присосках
Будь ты, и меж зелени клейкой
Тебя б положил я на мокрую доску
Зеленой садовой скамейки.

Расти себе пышные брыжжи и фижмы,
Вбирай облака и овраги,
А ночью, поэзия, я тебя выжму
Во здравие жадной бумаги.

2

Весна! Не отлучайтесь
Сегодня в город. Стаями
По городу, как чайки,
Льды раскричались, таючи.

Земля, земля волнуется,
И катятся, как волны,
Чернеющие улицы,-
Им, ветреницам, холодно.

По ним плывут, как спички,
Сгорая и захлебываясь,
Сады и электрички,-
Им, ветреницам, холодно.

От кружки плывут, как спички,
Сгорая и захлебываясь,
Сады и электрички,-
Им, ветреницам, холодно.

От кружки синевы со льдом,
От пены буревестников
Вам дурно станет. Впрочем, дом
Кругом затоплен песнью.

И бросьте размышлять о тех,
Кто выехал рыбачить.
По городу гуляет грех
И ходят слезы падших.

3

Разве только грязь видна вам,
А не скачет таль в глазах?
Не играет по канавам -
Словно в яблоках рысак?

Разве только птицы цедят,
В синем небе щебеча,
Ледяной лимон обеден
Сквозь соломину луча?

Оглянись, и ты увидишь
До зари, весь день, везде,
С головой Москва, как Китеж,-
В светло-голубой воде.

Отчего прозрачны крыши
И хрустальны колера?
Как камыш, кирпич колыша,
Дни несутся в вечера.

Город, как болото, топок,
Струпья снега на счету,
И февраль горит, как хлопок,
Захлебнувшийся в спирту.

Белым пламенем измучив
Зоркость чердаков, в косом
Переплете птиц и сучьев -
Воздух гол и невесом.

В эти дни теряешь имя,
Толпы лиц сшибают с ног.
Знай, твоя подруга с ними,
Но и ты не одинок.

‘Gotta keep living, though I’ve died twice’ Osip Mandelstam

Gotta keep living, though I’ve died twice,

and water’s driving the city crazy:

how beautiful, what high cheekbones, how happy,

how sweet the fat earth to the plough,

how the steppe extends in an April upheaval,

and the sky, the sky – pure Michelangelo…

 

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

(1935)

translated by Andrew Davis

Come to our Revival Meeting by Idris Davies

And this is the sordid dream of the drunkard creeping to prayer,

And the maddened mob drowning the noise of the birds

Frightened and fluttering in the dusty trees,

And all the hysterical converts insulting the heavens,

The brown pond sticky with the thighs of the damned;

And here comes a fellow to shake your liver

For out of his nightmare he leapt

When the moon crept up behind the Iron Bridge

And the garage heap, where the trollop sat waiting

To sell her filth to the fool. And I saw

All this shabby mockery of April

As a neurotic’s delirium, his hallucination

Of apes and angels and dog-headed ghosts

Mingling and whirling and circling and dancing

Among the decaying boughs that laced like serpents

The ripped edges of the darkening sky.

 

O Lord God, save us from tinned donkey,

From Soviet scientific magazines,

From the Scottish Sabbath, from American war films,

From the demagogues of Aberdare and abadan,

And above all, O Lord God, save us from the Pentecostals.

 

by Idris Davies


Fun facts: There are a number of iron bridges in the Aberdare area due to its industrial heritage but it is perhaps the one across the Aberdare Canal being referred to.

The Scottish Sabbath is the practise of doing nothing on a Sunday including all shops and other businesses being closed to keep the sabbath sacred.

Aberdare is a town in the Cynon Valley area of Rhondda Cynon Taf, Wales, at the confluence of the Rivers Dare (Dâr) and Cynon. Aberdare is 4 miles (6 km) south-west of Merthyr Tydfil, 20 miles (32 km) north-west of Cardiff and 22 miles (35 km) east-north-east of Swansea. During the 19th century it became a thriving industrial settlement, which was also notable for the vitality of its cultural life and as an important publishing centre.

Abadan, famous for its oil refinery, was the site of the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran, also known as the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Persia, was the joint invasion of Iran in 1941 during the Second World War by the British Commonwealth and the Soviet Union. The invasion lasted from 25 August to 17 September 1941 and was codenamed Operation Countenance. Its purpose was to secure Iranian oil fields and ensure Allied supply lines (through the Persian Corridor) for the USSR, fighting against Axis forces on the Eastern Front.

Pentecostalism or Classical Pentecostalism is a renewal movement within Protestant Christianity that places special emphasis on a direct personal experience of God through baptism with the Holy Spirit. The term Pentecostal is derived from Pentecost, the Greek name for the Jewish Feast of Weeks. For Christians, this event commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the followers of Jesus Christ, as described in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.

Rhymney by Idris Davies

For Ceinfryn and Gwyn

 

When April came to Rhymney

With shower and sun and shower,

The green hills and the brown hills

Could sport some simple flower,

And sweet it was to fancy

That even the blackest mound

Was proud of its single daisy

Rooted in bitter ground.

 

And old men would remember

And young men would be vain,

And the hawthorn by the pithead

Would blossom in the rain,

And the drabbest streets of evening,

They had their magic hour,

When April came to Rhymney

With shower and sun and shower.

 

by Idris Davies

Spring by Afanasy Fet

I come again with greetings new,

to tell you day is well begun;

to say the leaves are fresh with dew

and dappled in the early sun;

 

to tell you how the forest stirs

in every branch of every brake,

and what an April thirst is hers,

with every whistling bird awake;

 

to say, as yesterday, once more,

with love as passionate and true,

my heart is ready as before

for serving happiness and you;

 

to tell how over every thing

delight is blowing on the air –

I know not yet what I shall sing;

I only know the song is there.

 

by Афанасий Афанасьевич Фет (Afanasy Afanasyevich Fet)

a.k.a. Шеншин (Shenshin)

(1843)

translated by Frances Cornford and Esther Polianowsky Salaman

Sarn Rhiw by R. S. Thomas

So we know

she must have said something

to him – What language,

life? Oh, what language?

 

Thousands of years later

I inhabit a house

whose stone is the language

of its builders. Here

 

by the sea they said little.

But their message to the future

was: Build well. In the fire

of an evening I catch faces

 

staring at me. In April,

when light quickens and clouds

thin, boneless presences

flit through my room.

 

Will they inherit me

one day? What certainties

have I to hand on

like the punctuality

 

with which, at the moon’s

rising, the bay breaks

into a smile as though meaning

were not the difficulty at all?

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Experimenting with an Amen (1986)