I have let my household disperse, My dear ones have long been apart, And a familiar loneliness Fills all of nature and all my heart.
Here I am with you in the lodge. No one walks through the woods these days. As in the old song, undergrowth Has almost hidden the forest ways.
Forlornly, the timber walls Look down on the two of us here. We did not promise to leap obstacles, We shall fall at last in the clear.
We shall sit down from one till three, You with embroidery, I deep In a book, and at dawn shall not see When we kiss each other to sleep.
More richly and more recklessly, Leaves, leaves, give tongue and whirl away, Fill yesterday’s cup of bitterness With the sadness of today.
Impulse, enchantment, beauty! Let’s dissolve in September wind And enter the rustle of autumn! Be still, or go out of your mind!
As the coppice lets slip its leaves, You let your dress slip rustling down And throw yourself into my arms In your silk-tasselled dressing gown.
You are my joy on the brink Of disaster, when life becomes A plague, and beauty is daring, And draws us into each other’s arms.
By Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к (Boris Leonidovich Pasternak) (c.1947 or 1949) from Доктор Живаго (Doctor Zhivago – where it is presented as the work of the titular character) translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France
Я дал разъехаться домашним, Все близкие давно в разброде, И одиночеством всегдашним Полно всё в сердце и природе.
И вот я здесь с тобой в сторожке. В лесу безлюдно и пустынно. Как в песне, стежки и дорожки Позаросли наполовину.
Теперь на нас одних с печалью Глядят бревенчатые стены. Мы брать преград не обещали, Мы будем гибнуть откровенно.
Мы сядем в час и встанем в третьем, Я с книгою, ты с вышиваньем, И на рассвете не заметим, Как целоваться перестанем.
Еще пышней и бесшабашней Шумите, осыпайтесь, листья, И чашу горечи вчерашней Сегодняшней тоской превысьте.
Привязанность, влеченье, прелесть! Рассеемся в сентябрьском шуме! Заройся вся в осенний шелест! Замри или ополоумей!
Ты так же сбрасываешь платье, Как роща сбрасывает листья, Когда ты падаешь в объятье В халате с шелковою кистью.
Ты — благо гибельного шага, Когда житье тошней недуга, А корень красоты — отвага, И это тянет нас друг к другу.
Artillery was burying us. At first it killed us. But, with blatant hypocrisy, Now swears that it loved us.
It broke open its muzzles, But with all the charred nerves In the overworked hands of the medics. We didn’t readily believe it.
We could trust only morphine, In the very last resort – bromide. But those of us who were dead Trusted the earth, and no one else.
Here everyone still crawls, laying mines And receiving counterattacks. But there – already illumining, They draft memoirs…
And there, away from the destruction zone, They scrape and polish parquet. The Bolshoi Theater lofted on a quadrangle Follows the celebration skyrocket.
Soldiers lay about. At night the mint showers Them with regalia from time to time. But machine guns belch them out With explosive vomit.
One of them, accidentally surviving, Came to Moscow in autumn. He shuffled along the boulevard like a drunk, And passed among the living like an echo.
With his artificial leg He got in someone’s way in the trolley. By a string of petty absurdities He approached the Mausoleum.
He recalled the eroded hillocks, Scraps of plywood along the roadways, The soldier’s eyes, opened forever, Shown in calm reproach.
Pilots fell down on them from the sky, Bogged down in clouds of bones. But courage does not grow scarce, As sky doesn’t let one grow obsolete.
And the soldier knew that, for the Motherland, Those who were swallowed by the war, Are the equals of those who lie here buried In the wall itself or beneath the wall.
by Константин Ильич Левин (Konstantin Illyich Levin) (1946) translated by Albert C. Todd
Нас хоронила артиллерия…
Нас хоронила артиллерия. Сначала нас она убила, Но, не гнушаясь лицемерия, Теперь клялась, что нас любила.
Она выламывалась жерлами, Но мы не верили ей дружно Всеми обрубленными нервами В натруженных руках медслужбы.
Мы доверяли только морфию, По самой крайней мере — брому. А те из нас, что были мертвыми, — Земле, и никому другому.
Тут всё ещё ползут, минируют И принимают контрудары. А там — уже иллюминируют, Набрасывают мемуары…
И там, вдали от зоны гибельной, Циклюют и вощат паркеты. Большой театр квадригой вздыбленной Следит салютную ракету.
И там, по мановенью Файеров, Взлетают стаи Лепешинских, И фары плавят плечи фраеров И шубки женские в пушинках.
Бойцы лежат. Им льет регалии Монетный двор порой ночною. Но пулеметы обрыгали их Блевотиною разрывною!
Но тех, кто получил полсажени, Кого отпели суховеи, Не надо путать с персонажами Ремарка и Хемингуэя.
Один из них, случайно выживший, В Москву осеннюю приехал. Он по бульвару брел как выпивший И средь живых прошел как эхо.
Кому-то он мешал в троллейбусе Искусственной ногой своею. Сквозь эти мелкие нелепости Он приближался к Мавзолею.
Он вспомнил холмики размытые, Куски фанеры по дорогам, Глаза солдат, навек открытые, Спокойным светятся упреком.
На них пилоты с неба рушатся, Костями в тучах застревают… Но не оскудевает мужество, Как небо не устаревает.
И знал солдат, равны для Родины Те, что заглотаны войною, И те, что тут лежат, схоронены В самой стене и под стеною.
Included in the recital there is the following passage, as the third stanza, which is omitted from other versions I have sourced. Possibly it is due to the ‘improved’ version Yevtushenko states he requested be made by Levin briefly prior to his passing.
За нас молились леди Англии И маркитантки полковые. Нас интервьюировали б ангелы, Когда бы были таковые.
Translated it reads as:
Ladies of England prayed for us. And regimental vivandieres. We’d be interviewed by angels If they existed.
Additional information: It goes without saying but if you look up Konstanin Levin‘s name, for further information, in English you will probably come across page after page about the character of Konstantin ‘Kostya’ Levin from Lev Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina. For those who can read Russian or are willing to use Google translate there is the poetLevin‘s Wikipedia page but for everyone else I will share this biography from the Yad Vashem page about the poet and his wartime service they compiled as part of their ‘Jews in the Red Army, 1941–1945′ research project:
Konstantin Levin was born in 1924 in Ekaterinoslav (now Dnipro), Ukraine to a medical family. In 1941, following the family tradition, he entered a medical institute (medical university). A short time later, his institute was evacuated to Western Siberia. Having finished the first semester, Levin was drafted into the Red Army and sent to the Rostov School of Artillery (RSA), which specialized in anti-tank artillery. In 1942 the RSA was located not in Rostov-on-Don, which at this time was occupied by the enemy, but in the Urals. In the fall of 1943 Levin graduated from the RSA as a second lieutenant and was appointed the commander of a platoon of 45-mm cannons. These cannons were the most dangerous kind of artillery to operate: being ineffective against enemy tanks, after their first shot they became a good target for the enemy. Levin succeeded in surviving at the front for less than half a year.
In February 1944, while fighting in Ukraine, Levin was wounded for the first time, in the head. On April 29, 1944, participating in the battle of Târgu Frumos, in eastern Romania, Levin was hit by an enemy shell and he lost a leg. His former RSA comrade and a participant in the same operation Moisei Dorman noted: “At the end of April 1944, near Iaşi, a German tank crushed his cannon. A shell fragment cut Kostia’s leg right at the knee. The leg was hanging on by the tendons. Levin tried to cut it off with a penknife, but he was bleeding and did not have enough strength…. Almost fainting, he managed to get to his own side by crawling.” After this battle, Levin was awarded the Order of Patriotic War, 2nd Class. After his release from the Red Army, he was recommended for the Order of Patriotic War, 1st Class – for his fighting in Ukraine.
In 1945 after the war, Konstantin Levin entered the Literary Institute in Moscow. Although the admission committee found his poems depressing, he was admitted because he was a disabled veteran who had earned two military orders. He was a good student. Levin walked with a prosthesis, never using a cane or crutches. In 1946, after he wrote the poem “Artillery Buried Us,” he was almost expelled from the Institute. In the following year, he wrote a poem about himself, in which he let the reader know that he had been not simply a soldier, but a Jewish one. After that, poem Levin was, in fact, expelled from the Institute, and only the intervention of the Russian poet Aleksei Surkov helped him receive his diploma.
For the rest of his life Konstantin Levin earned his living by routine literary work. He died in 1984. The first collection of his poems was published posthumously in 1989.
The poem therefore appears to be autobiographical though Levin uses the third person when recounting the events of it when referring to himself as “one of them, accidentally surviving/…/with his artificial leg”.
Levin’s renowned poem “Artillery was burying us…” passed from hand to hand throughout literary Moscow in the years following World War II, along with Naum Korzhavin’s poems against Stalin. Levin worked as a literary consultant and never tried to publish his poetry. Just prior to his death the compiler of this anthology persuaded him to make a new, even better version of his masterpiece. Boris Slutsky considered him one of the finest poets in the front-line generation.
Biographical information about Levin, p.736, ‘Twentieth Century Russian Poetry’ (1993), compiled by Yevgeny Yevtushenko (ed. Albert C. Todd and Max Hayward) , published by Fourth Estate Limited by arrangement with Doubleday of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc. (transcribed as found in the original text).
It was my thirtieth year to heaven Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood And the mussel pooled and the heron Priested shore The morning beckon With water praying and call of seagull and rook And the knock of sailing boats on the net webbed wall Myself to set foot That second In the still sleeping town and set forth.
My birthday began with the water- Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name Above the farms and the white horses And I rose In rainy autumn And walked abroad in a shower of all my days. High tide and the heron dived when I took the road Over the border And the gates Of the town closed as the town awoke.
A springful of larks in a rolling Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling Blackbirds and the sun of October Summery On the hill’s shoulder, Here were fond climates and sweet singers suddenly Come in the morning where I wandered and listened To the rain wringing Wind blow cold In the wood faraway under me.
Pale rain over the dwindling harbour And over the sea wet church the size of a snail With its horns through mist and the castle Brown as owls But all the gardens Of spring and summer were blooming in the tall tales Beyond the border and under the lark full cloud. There could I marvel My birthday Away but the weather turned around.
It turned away from the blithe country And down the other air and the blue altered sky Streamed again a wonder of summer With apples Pears and red currants And I saw in the turning so clearly a child’s Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother Through the parables Of sun light And the legends of the green chapels
And the twice told fields of infancy That his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine. These were the woods the river and sea Where a boy In the listening Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide. And the mystery Sang alive Still in the water and singingbirds.
And there could I marvel my birthday Away but the weather turned around. And the true Joy of the long dead child sang burning In the sun. It was my thirtieth Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon Though the town below lay leaved with October blood. O may my heart’s truth Still be sung On this high hill in a year’s turning.
by Dylan Thomas (August 1944)
Additional information: One of Dylan Thomas‘ many birthday poems.
Where is your cat, walking On its own, Lapping the milky mist Amid September?
Where its leopard tread, Its phosphorescence, Where is your cat and your truth Where on this earth?
Where is the cat, still not found, Where the roof and the leak in it? Where is the hoarse speech Broken by the speed of sound?
Where is your clairvoyant autumn and corn-bins of dreams? Where is your phosphorescent cat and you yourself?
by Инна Львовна Лиснянская (Inna Lvovna Lisnyanskaya) (1983) from В пригороде Содома (In the Suburb of Sodom) / Вдали от Содома (Far from Sodom) translated by Daniel Weissbort
Где кошка твоя, гуляющая Сама по себе, Молочный туман лакающая В густом сентябре?
Где поступь её леопардовая И фосфор во мгле, Где кошка твоя и где правда твоя На этой земле?
Где кошка, ещё не отловленная, Где крыша и течь? Где скоростью звука надломленная Охриплая речь?
Где осень твоя ясновидческая И снов закрома? Где кошка твоя фосфорическая И где ты сама?
Additional information:Inna Lisnianskaya was the wife of Semyon Lipkin. There isn’t much about her in English so if you want to know more you may have to research her husband initially and work from there for biographical details. However one collection of her poetic works titled ‘Far from Sodom‘ is available in English should you wish to read more of her writing.
She was born in Baku and published her first collection in 1957 then moved to Moscow three years later. In 1979 she and her husband resigned from the Union of Soviet Writers in protest to the expulsion of Viktor Yerofeyev and Yevgeny Popov from it. The following seven years her works were only published abroad though from 1986 she was able to publish regularly and was awarded several important prizes.
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