A simple man,
He liked the crease on the water
His cast made, but had no pity
For the broken backbone
Of water or fish.
One of his pleasures, thirsty,
Was to ask a drink
At the hot farms;
Leaving with a casual thank you,
As though they owed it him.
I could have told of the living water
That springs pure.
He would have smiled then,
Dancing his speckled fly in the shallows,
by R. S. Thomas
from Not That He Brought Flowers (1968)
Buds will swell just as in the past,
Sprouts of green will spurt and rage,
but your backbone has been smashed,
my grand and pitiful age.
And so, with a meaningless smile,
you glance back, cruel and weak,
like a beast once quick and agile,
at the prints of your own feet.
by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam. His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)
translated by Robert Chandler