They came over the snow to the bread's
pure snow, fumbled it in their huge
hands, put their lips to it
like beasts, stared into the dark chalice
where the wine shone, felt it sharp
on their tongue, shivered as at a sin
remembered, and heard love cry
momentarily in their hearts' manager.
They rose and went back to their poor
holdings, naked in the bleak light
of December. Their horizon contracted
to the one small, stone-riddled field
with its tree, where the weather was nailing
the appalled body that had not asked to be born.
by R. S. Thomas
from Laboratories of the Spirit (1975)
Everything here will outlive me,
Even the houses of the stare
And this air I breathe, the spring air,
Ending its flight across the sea.
The voice of eternity is calling,
And the light moon’s light is falling
Over the blossoming cherry-tree.
It doesn’t seem a difficult road,
White, in the chalice of emerald,
Where it’s leading I won’t say…
There between the trunks, a streak
Of light reminds one of the walk
By the pond at Tsarkoye.
by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)
from Седьмая книга (The Seventh Book)
translation by D. M. Thomas
Fun Facts: Here is a blog account, with photos, of the walk along the shores of the great pond in Tsarskoye.
Akhmatova reciting her poem:
Original Russian cyrillic version of the poem:
Здесь все меня переживет,
Все, даже ветхие скворешни
И этот воздух, воздух вешний,
Морской свершивший перелет.
И голос вечности зовет
С неодолимостью нездешней,
И над цветущею черешней
Сиянье легкий месяц льет.
И кажется такой нетрудной,
Белея в чаще изумрудной,
Дорога не скажу куда…
Там средь стволов еще светлее,
И все похоже на аллею
У царскосельского пруда.
You are there also
at the foot of the precipice
of water that was too steep
for the drowned: their breath broke
and they fell. You have made an altar
out of the deck of the lost
trawler whose spars
are your cross. The sand crumbles
like bread; the wine is
the light quietly lying
in its own chalice. There is
a sacrament there more beauty
than terror whose ministrant
you are and the aisles are full
of the sea shapes coming to its celebration.
by R. S. Thomas
from Frequencies (1978)