Words lying empty, without breathing –
that don’t know why they exist at all.
Words with no goal, words with no meaning,
that shelter no one from the cold
and haven’t fed a single soul.
Words of impotence – of the weak!
Words that don’t dare, too shy to speak.
They give no heat, they shed no light,
but, with an orphan’s grief, go mute,
not knowing they are mutilated.
by Мария Сергеевна Петровых (Maria Sergeyevna Petrovykh)
translated by Boris Dralyuk
So we know
she must have said something
to him – What language,
life? Oh, what language?
Thousands of years later
I inhabit a house
whose stone is the language
of its builders. Here
by the sea they said little.
But their message to the future
was: Build well. In the fire
of an evening I catch faces
staring at me. In April,
when light quickens and clouds
thin, boneless presences
flit through my room.
Will they inherit me
one day? What certainties
have I to hand on
like the punctuality
with which, at the moon’s
rising, the bay breaks
into a smile as though meaning
were not the difficulty at all?
by R. S. Thomas
from Experimenting with an Amen (1986)
Freshness of words, simplicity of emotions,
If we lost these, would it not be as though
Blindness had stricken Fra Angelico,
Or an actor lost his power of voice and motion?
But don’t behave as if you own
What has been given you by the Saviour:
We ourselves know, we are condemned to squander
Our wealth, and not to save. Alone
Go out and heal the cataract,
And later, witness your own disciples’
Malice and jeers, and see the people’s
Stolid indifference to the act.
– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1915)
– from Белая стая (White Flock, 1917) translation by D. M. Thomas