Путем зерна (The Grain’s Path) by Vladislav Khodasevich

The sower walks down the even furrows;

his fathers all furrowed the path he follows.

 

The young seed glitters gold in his hand,

but it must fall into the black ground.

 

There, amid the tunnels of the blind worm,

it will die on its due day – and grow again.

 

So now my soul treads the path of the grain –

down into darkness – and spring’s return.

 

And you, my people, and you, my native land,

you will die and live, when the dark months end,

 

for we have been granted only this one truth:

whatever lives must follow the grain’s path.

 

by Владислав Фелицианович Ходасевич (Vladislav Felitsianovich Khodasevich)

(1917)

translated by Robert Chandler

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The Lay Preacher Ponders by Idris Davies

‘Isn’t the violet a dear little flower? And the daisy, too.

What nice little thoughts arise from a daisy!

If I were a poet now – but no, not a poet,

For a poet is a wild and blasphemous man;

He talks about wine and women too much for me

And he makes mad songs about old pagans, look you.

Poets are dangerous men to have in chapel,

And it is bad enough in chapel as it is

with all the quarelling over the organ and the deacons;

The deacons are not too nice to saintly young men like me.

(Look at Jenkins John Jones, the old damn scoundrel!)

They know I can pray for hours and hours,

They know what a righteous young man I am,

They know how my Bible is always in my pocket

And Abraham and Jonah like brothers to me,

But they prefer the proper preacher with his collar turned around;

They say he is more cultured than I am,

And what is culture but palaver and swank?

I turn up my nose at culture.

I stand up for faith, and very simple faith,

And knowledge I hate because it is poison.

Think of this devilish thing they call science,

It is Satan’s new trick to poison men’s minds.

When I shall be local councillor and a famous man –

I  look forward to the day when I shall be mayor –

I will put my foot down on clever palaver,

And show what a righteous young man I am.

And they ought to know I am that already,

For I give all my spare cash to the chapel

And all my spare time to God.’

 

by Idris Davies

Россия (Russia) [extract] by Max Voloshin

Great Peter was the first true Bolshevik;

his project: to project his Russia, against

all her customs, all her inclinations,

hundreds of years into some distant vista.

And like us all, he knew no other way

save execution, torture and diktat

to realize truth and justice upon earth.

If not a butcher, you could call the Tsar

a sculptor – his material not marble

but flesh, hacking out a Galatea

and flinging scraps aside. But no man builds

alone. What else was our nobility

but our first Communists? Our nobility

was – all in one – the Party, secret police

and Ivan the Terrible’s Oprichniki,

a hothouse for the breeding of strange cultures.

[…] Bakunin reflects the Russian countenance

in every way – what intellectual boldness,

what sweep of thought, what soaring flights and falls!

Our creativity lies in anarchy.

All Europe took the path of fire – but we

bear in our hearts a culture of explosion.

Fire needs machines and cities, factories,

blast furnaces; an explosion, unless it aims

to pulverize itself, needs the containment

of steel rifling, the matrix of a heavy gun.

This is why Soviet hoops all bind so tight,

why the autocracy’s flasks and retorts

were so refractionary. Bakunin needed

Nicholas – as Peter’s streltsy needed Peter,

as Avvakum needed Nikon. This is why

Russia is so immeasurable – in anarchy

and in autocracy alike, and why no history

is darker, madder, more terrible than hers.

 

by Максимилиан Александрович Кириенко-Волошин

(Maximilian Alexandrovich Kirienko-Voloshin)

(1925)

translated by Robert Chandler

Why People ‘+1’ Your Achievements During Conversations

You know the type. You are having a conversation and they come along with the express intent of one upping anyone else in the conversation.

They’ve been there and done more than you. No matter how much you did they had done that little bit extra which was beyond you or you had been ignorant of at the time. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt is their mantra. They thought nothing of it, as if it were a stroll in the park, and had totally forgotten about it until you mentioned it just now. It was that mundane an event to them though it was something you had felt achievement in until a moment ago.

But why do they do this? Where did this habit come from?

At least in Britain, and places later influenced by it, we have the traditions of the Celtic culture to blame. Warriors would take part in boasting contests while sharing a drink. You would make as big a boast as you could with the aim of outdoing all the others’ claims in order to gain prestige. Much of the entertainment came from how ridiculous and unachievable some of these claimed would get. But you could never call someone a liar as that was completely inappropriate during this communal event. As long as you could back up your boast e.g. I killed 20 Romans then it was okay and if you died in the effort of doing this then it was considered an honourable death and no one would dare call such a brave man a liar or fool as he had led, what for them, was a good warrior life (plus you were going to Annwn/the otherworld which was like the Norse Valhalla but more peaceful). If however you lived and were proven wrong in your claims then you were ripe to be humiliated. Admittedly there is more to it but that is the basic origin of it and it should be remembered that this was part of the traditions and culture of the Celts and though not as easily recognised as things like ‘the green man’ or the Eisteddfod it is part of the heritage of Celtic life which remained ingrained in the later Christianised Britons.

So how does this tradition of boasting continued into modern life? The most obvious example can be seen in the ‘Four Yorkshire Men’ sketch by Monty Python showing how this tradition of boasting parties where you one up your contemporaries is still well and alive in the modern era.

So when you encounter someone ‘+1ing’ your conversation just remember it might be part of their cultural heritage!
(They are still being incredibly rude though…)