You're not alone. You haven't died,
while you still,beggar-woman at your side,
take pleasure in the grandeur of the plain,
the gloom, the cold,the whirlwinds of snow.
In sumptuous penury, in mighty poverty
live comforted and at rest -
your days and nights are blest,
your sweet-voiced labour without sin.
Unhappy he, a shadow of himself,
whom a bark astounds and the wind mows down,
and to be pitied he, more dead than alive,
who begs handouts from a ghost.
by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam.)
His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)
translated by Andrew Davis
How will the lion remain a lion
if it eat straw like the ox?
Where will the little child lead them
who has not been there before?
With our right hand off, with what
shall we beg forgiveness in the kingdom?
How shall the hare know it has not won,
dying before the tortoise arrive?
Did Christ crying ‘Neither do I condemn thee’,
condemn the prostitute to be good for nothing?
If he who increases riches increases sorrow
why are his tears more like pearls than the swine’s tusks?
by R. S. Thomas
from Mass for Hard Times (1992)
I won’t beg for you love: it’s laid
Safely to rest, let the earth settle…
Don’t expect my jealous letters
Pouring in to plague your bride.
But let me, nevertheless, advise you:
Give her my poems to read in bed,
Give her my portraits to keep – it’s wise to
Be kind like that when newly-wed.
For it’s more needful to such geese
To know that they have won completely
Than to have converse light and sweet or
Honeymoons of remembered bliss…
When you have spent your kopeck’s worth
Of happiness with your new friend,
And like a taste that sates the mouth
Your soul has recognized the end –
Don’t come crawling like a whelp
Into my bed of lonliness.
I don’t know you. Nor could I help.
I’m not yet cured of happiness.
– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1914)
– from Четки (Rosary, 1914), translation by D. M. Thomas