Зима приближается (Winter Approaches) by Boris Pasternak

Winter approaches. And once again
The secret retreat of some bear
Will vanish under impassible mud
To a tearful child's despair.

Little huts will awaken in lakes
Reflecting their smoke like a path.
Encircled by autumn's cold slush,
Life-lovers will meet by the heath.

Inhabitants of the stern North,
Whose roof is the open air,
'In this sign conquer' is written
On each inaccessible lair.

I love you, provincial retreats,
Off the map, off the road, past the farm.
The more thumbed and grubby the book,
The greater for me its charm.

Slow lines of lumbering carts,
You spell out an alphabet leading
From meadow to meadow. Your pages
Were always my favourite reading.

And suddenly here it is written
Again, in the first snow – the spidery
Cursive italic of sleigh runners -
A page like a piece of embroidery.

A silvery-hazel October.
Pewter shine since the frosts began.
Autumnal twilight of Chekov,
Tchaikovsky and Levitan.

by Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к
(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)
(1943)
translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France
The poem read in Russian by the actor Aleksandr Feklistov

Below is the original Russian Cyrillic version of the poem:

Зима приближается


Зима приближается. Сызнова
Какой-нибудь угол медвежий
Под слезы ребенка капризного
Исчезнет в грязи непроезжей.

Домишки в озерах очутятся,
Над ними закурятся трубы.
В холодных объятьях распутицы
Сойдутся к огню жизнелюбы.

Обители севера строгого,
Накрытые небом, как крышей!
На вас, захолустные логова,
Написано: сим победиши.

Люблю вас, далекие пристани
В провинции или деревне.
Чем книга чернее и листанней,
Тем прелесть ее задушевней.

Обозы тяжелые двигая,
Раскинувши нив алфавиты,
Вы с детства любимою книгою
Как бы посредине открыты.

И вдруг она пишется заново
Ближайшею первой метелью,
Вся в росчерках полоза санного
И белая, как рукоделье.

Октябрь серебристо-ореховый.
Блеск заморозков оловянный.
Осенние сумерки Чехова,
Чайковского и Левитана.

Remembrance Day, Aberystwyth by Sally Robert Jones

Spray by the castle hurls across the rail;

The mermaid stares forever across the sea,

Dry-eyed; they lay their poppies at her feet,

But she looks away, to the movement of a sail

Far over breakers; knows not their fallen dead,

Hears not their autumn hymn or the signal guns.

Spray by the castle, spray in November air,

Yearn for the land as she for the empty waves,

(As the dead, perhaps, for their lost and silent home).

Everything empty: castle and crowd and wreaths

Seperate beings; and over them, kissing the rain,

The shape of a fish in bronze, without speech, without soul.

On Sundays remember the dead, but not here.

This is another country, another lord

Rules in its acres, who has no respect for love.

Always the sea sucks at the stones of the wall,

Always the mermaid leans to the distant sail;

Already the wreaths are limp and the children wail.

By Sally Roberts Jones


Additional information:

Aberystwyth ( literally “Mouth of the Ystwyth [river]“) is a historic market town, administrative centre, community, and holiday resort within Ceredigion, Wales, often colloquially known as Aber. It is located near the confluence of the rivers Ystwyth and Rheidol. Historically part of Cardiganshire, since the late 19th century, Aberystwyth has also been a major Welsh educational centre, with the establishment of a university college there in 1872.

The mermaid mentioned in this poem is a bronze statue at the base of the Aberystwyth town war memorial which is considered by some to be one of the finest in Britain. Contemporary reports record that the top figure represents Victory and the figure at the base, i.e. the mermaid, represents Humanity emerging from the effects of war.  It records the names of 111 Aberystwyth men who died as a result of action during the First World war and 78 men and women who died during the Second World War. It is one of a number in the town: others are in chapels, places of work and schools.

Aberystwyth Castle (Welsh: Castell Aberystwyth) is a Grade I listed Edwardian fortress located in Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Mid Wales. It was built in response to the First Welsh War in the late 13th century, replacing an earlier fortress located a mile to the south. During a national uprising by Owain Glyndŵr, the Welsh captured the castle in 1404, but it was recaptured by the English four years later. In 1637 it became a Royal mint by Charles I, and produced silver shillings. The castle was slighted by Oliver Cromwell in 1649.

Epigram about Stalin [extract] by Osip Mandelstam

Horseshoe-heavy, he hurls his decrees low and high:

In the groin, in the forehead, the eyebrow, the eye.

Executions are what he likes best.

Broad is the highlander’s chest.

 

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

(Autumn, 1933)

translated by Alexandra Berlina


Interesting additon: In  the Autumn of 1933 Mandelstam composed an epigram about Stalin, which he performed at seven small gatherings in Moscow, which ends with the above lines. Mandelstam was arrested six months later but instead of being executed (by being shot) he was exiled to the Northern Urals. Why was this considering ‘executions’ are what [Stalin] loves best’? A cruel irony or possibly that this relative leniency was due to Stalin taking a personal interest in Mandelstam’s case and being concerned about his own place in Russian literary history? After Mandelstam’s attempted suicide the usual sentence was commuted to one of being banished from the largest cities in Russia. Mandelstam and his wife, Nadezhda, settled in Voronezh where he went on to write the three Voronezh Notebooks. In May 1938 he was arrested again and sentenced to five years in the Gulag. He died in a transit camp near Vladivostok on 27 December 1938.

‘And so I keep going’ by Varlam Shalamov

And so I keep going;

death remains close;

I carry my life

in a blue envelope.

 

The letter’s been ready

ever since autumn:

just one little word –

it couldn’t be shorter.

 

But I still don’t know

where I should send it;

if I had the address,

my life might have ended.

 

by Варлам Тихонович Шаламов (Varlam Tikhonovich Shalamov)

(1955?)

translated by Robert Chandler

‘The air is split into black branches’ by Velimir Khlebnikov

The air is split into black branches,

like old glass.

Pray to Our Lady of Autumn!

The windows of autumn’s chapel,

smashed by a hurtling bullet,

are wrinkling.

A tree was burning,

a bright spill in the golden air.

It bends; it bows down.

Autumn’s flint and steel angrily

struck the sparks of golden days.

A forest at prayer. All at once

golden smells fell to the ground.

Trees stretch out – rakes

gathering armfuls of the sun’s hay.

Autumn’s tree resonantly evokes

a sketch of Russia’s railroads.

The golden autumn wind

has scattered me everywhere.

 

by Велимир Хлебников (Velimir Khlebnikov)

a.k.a. Виктор Владимирович Хлебников

(Viktor Vladimirovich Khlebnikov)

(1921)

translated by Robert Chandler

‘Tears of humanity, tears of humanity’ by Fyodor Tyutchev

Tears of humanity, tears of humanity,

flowing eternally early and late…

Flowing invisibly, flowing in secrecy,

ever abundantly, ever unceasingly –

flowing as rain flows with autumn finality

all through the night like a river in spate.

 

by Фёдор Иванович Тютчев (Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev)

(Autumn 1849)

translated by Peter Tempest


Fun fact: Counted amongst the admirers of Tyutchev’s works were Dostoevsky and Tolstoy along with Nekrasov and Fet. Then later Osip Mandelstam who, in a passage approved of by Shalamov, believed that a Russian poet should not have copy of Tyutchev in his personal library – he should know all of Tyutchev off by heart.

Flies Like Thoughts by Innokenty Annensky

Flies, like black thoughts, have not quit me all day…

A. N. Apukhtin (1840 – 93)

 

I’ve grown weary of sleeplessness, dreams.

Locks of hair hang over my eyes:

I would like, with the poison of rhymes,

to drug thoughts I cannot abide.

 

I would like to unravel these knots…

Or is the whole thing a mistake?

In late autumn the flies are such pests –

their cold wings so horribly sticky.

 

Fly-thoughts crawl about, as in dreams,

they cover the paper in black…

Oh, how dead, and how dreadful they seem…

Tear them up, burn them up – quick!

 

by Иннокентий Фёдорович Анненский (Innokenty Fyodorovich Annensky)

(1904)

translated by Boris Dralyuk