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
He strokes my neck like the barrel of a rifle
he might have killed that German with,
his boots by the door, susceptible to the cold.
I glow by the fire in tandem with
the rosewood dresser, impartial to flames,
me with a passion for granite, him
with his head shaved against the night,
shedding his armour plate by plate.
I sleep under his shield, enfolded
in an English flag I think will
become my shroud. While I thrill
among the lilies, placing a chestnut
on the grate like a move in chess,
I see the incentive of lace
defeat artillery hands down.
by Samantha Wynne Rhydderch
Interesting info: Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch, sometimes referred to as S. W. Rhydderch, has published two collections, Rockclimbing in Silk (Seren, 2001), and Not in These Shoes (Picador, 2008), which was shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year 2009.
The forties, fateful,
with funeral notices,
The hum of the rails.
All is cold, high and barren.
Their houses have burned –
they’re heading east.
That’s me at the station
in my scruffy wool cap.
The star’s not standard issue –
it’s cut from a can.
Yes, here I am in the world,
skinny, happy, carefree.
I’ve got tobacco in my pouch –
I have a stash of rolling papers.
I joke with the girls,
and limp a little overmuch.
I break my rationed bread in half,
and I know everything on earth.
Imagine! What coincidence –
war, horror, dreams and youth!
And all of it sank deep inside me…
and only later did it wake.
The forties, fateful,
lead and gun smoke…
War wanders through the land.
And we are all so young!
by Давид Самойлов (David Samoylov)
pseudonym of Давид Самуилович Кауфман (David Samuilovich Kaufman)
translated by Boris Dralyuk
Additional information: David Samoylov (Давид Самойлов), pseudonym of David Samuilovich Kaufman ( Давид Самуилович Кауфман; 1 June 1920 in Moscow — 23 February 1990 in Tallinn) was a notable poet of the War generation of Russian poets, considered one of the most important Russian poets of the post-World War II era as well.
A recital of the poem in its original Russian:
The original Cyrillic Russian version of the poem:
Военные и фронтовые,
Где извещенья похоронные
И перестуки эшелонные.
Гудят накатанные рельсы.
Просторно. Холодно. Высоко.
И погорельцы, погорельцы
Кочуют с запада к востоку…
А это я на полустанке
В своей замурзанной ушанке,
Где звездочка не уставная,
А вырезанная из банки.
Да, это я на белом свете,
Худой, веселый и задорный.
И у меня табак в кисете,
И у меня мундштук наборный.
И я с девчонкой балагурю,
И больше нужного хромаю,
И пайку надвое ломаю,
И все на свете понимаю.
Как это было! Как совпало –
Война, беда, мечта и юность!
И это все в меня запало
И лишь потом во мне очнулось!..
Война гуляет по России,
А мы такие молодые!
City of splendour, city of poor,
spirit of grace and servitude,
heaven’s vault of palest lime,
boredom, granite, bitter cold –
still I miss you rather, for
down your streets from time to time
one may spy a tiny foot,
one may glimpse a lock of gold.
by Александр Сергеевич Пушкин (Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin)
a.k.a. Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin
translated by Anthony Wood
Fun fact: Pushkin is most likely alluding to St Petersburg prior to his exile.
While the dolphin and the sea-horse
Played silly games together,
The ocean beat against the cliffs
And washed the cliffs with its water.
The scary water moaned and cried.
The stars shone. Years went by.
Then the horrid hour came:
I am no more, and so are you,
The sea is gone, the cliffs, the mountains,
And the stars gone, too;
Only the choir sounds out of the dead void.
And for simplicity’s sake, our wrathful God
Sprung up and blew away the dust of centuries,
And now, freed from the shackles of time
He flies alone, his own and only dearest friend.
Cold everywhere, and darkness blind.
by ‘Dandan‘ a pseudonym used by Даниил Иванович Хармс (Daniil Ivanovich Kharms)
a.k.a. Даниил Иванович Ювачёв (Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachov)
(15 October 1934)
translated by Matvei Yankelevich
Fun fact: A dandan or dendan is a mythical sea creature that appears in volume 9 of ‘The Book of One Thousand and One Nights’ (or more commonly ‘Arabian Nights’). It appears in the tale “Abdullah the Fisherman and Abdullah the Merman”, where the merman tells the fisherman that the dandan is the largest fish in the sea and is the enemy of the mermen. A dendan is capable of swallowing a ship and all its crew in a single gulp. Kharms was probably aware of this and thus played on it for one of his pseudonyms.
I dreamed a gallop across sand
in and out the scallop of the tide
on a colourless horse as cold as a seal.
My hair and the mane of the horse
are the long white manes of the sea.
Every breath is a gulp of salt.
Now we are ocean. His hoof-prints
are pools, his quivering skin
the silk in the trough of the wave.
His muscular ellipses are
the sinuous long water of the sea
and I swim with the waves in my arms.
by Gillian Clarke
from New Poems