Flies Like Thoughts by Innokenty Annensky

Flies, like black thoughts, have not quit me all day…

A. N. Apukhtin (1840 – 93)

 

I’ve grown weary of sleeplessness, dreams.

Locks of hair hang over my eyes:

I would like, with the poison of rhymes,

to drug thoughts I cannot abide.

 

I would like to unravel these knots…

Or is the whole thing a mistake?

In late autumn the flies are such pests –

their cold wings so horribly sticky.

 

Fly-thoughts crawl about, as in dreams,

they cover the paper in black…

Oh, how dead, and how dreadful they seem…

Tear them up, burn them up – quick!

 

by Иннокентий Фёдорович Анненский (Innokenty Fyodorovich Annensky)

(1904)

translated by Boris Dralyuk

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At The Memorial by Emyr Humphreys

We remember wartime

Wartime

The leaves were red

Columns

Backs

Silences

Were broken

And skies were tight.

 

Singers in uniform

Were frozen

Stony men

Were children

Nights

Flesh

Steel

Cracked burst buckled

Nothing was

The Target

Nowhere

The Retreat.

 

We managed

The living the key workers

The throats of loyal trumpets

The minds of washed out cockpits

Our prayers were pistons

We managed

Our leaders in bunkers

 

As indestructable as rats

The tongues and necks

Of true survivors

 

In one cold wood

A headless boy

Still walks

A thin man prays

In his own blood

The dead

On every side

Wait to be counted

 

Catalogues

Printed

In old blood

 

Old wars

Are not doors

They are the walls

Of empty tombs

Bowed to

At stated times

By true survivors

Only dreams

Have hinges.

 

by Emyr Humphreys


Fun fact: He registered as a conscientious objector in the Second World War, working on a farm, and later doing relief work in Egypt and Italy. After the war he worked as a teacher, as a radio producer at the BBC and later became a lecturer in drama at Bangor University.

Meet The Family by R. S. Thomas

John One takes his place at the table,

He is the first part of the fable;

His eyes are dry as a dead leaf.

Look on him and learn grief.

 

John Two stands in the door

Dumb;  you have seen that face before

Leaning out of the dark past,

Tortured in thought’s bitter blast.

 

John Three is still outside

Drooling where the daylight died

On the wet stones; his hands are crossed

In mourning for a playmate lost.

 

John All and his lean wife,

Whose forced complicity gave life

To each loathed foetus, stare from the wall,

Dead not absent. The night falls.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Poetry for Supper (1958)

Still He Lay Without Moving, As If, After Some Difficult… by Vasily Zhukovsky

Still he lay without moving, as if, after some difficult

task, he had folded his arms. Head quietly bowed, I stood

still for a long time, looking attentively into the dead man’s

eyes. These eyes were closed. Nevertheless, I could

see on that face I knew so well a look I had never

glimpsed there before. It was not inspiration’s flame,

nor did it seem like the blade of his wit. No, what I could

see there,

wrapped round his face, was thought, some deep, high

thought.

Vision, some vision, I thought must have come to home. And I

wanted to ask, ‘What is it? What do you see?’

 

by Василий Андреевич Жуковский (Vasily Andreyevich Zhukovsky)

(1837)

translated by Robert Chandler


 

Fun fact: Ivan Bunin, the Nobel Prize winning Russian emigre author, is related to him.

9 March 1823 by Vasily Zhukovsky

You stood before me

so still and quiet.

Your gaze was languid

and full of feeling.

It summoned memories

of days so lovely…

It was the last

such day you gave me.

Now you have vanished,

a quiet angel;

your grave is peaceful,

as calm as Eden!

There rest all earthly

recollections,

There rest all holy

Thoughts of heaven.

 

Heavenly stars,

quiet night!

 

by Василий Андреевич Жуковский (Vasily Andreyevich Zhukovsky)

(1823)

translated by Boris Dralyuk


Fun fact: Ivan Bunin, the Nobel Prize winning Russian emigre author,  is related to him.

Courage by Anna Akhmatova

We know what trembles in the scales,

What has to be accomplished.

The hour for courage. If all else fails,

With courage we are not unfurnished.

What though the dead be crowded, each to each,

What though our houses be destroyed? –

We will preserve you, Russian speech,

Keep you alive, great Russian word.

We will pass you to our sons and heirs

Free and clean, and they in turn to theirs,

And so forever.

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

(23 February 1942)

from Седьмая книга (The Seventh Book)

translation by D. M. Thomas

‘That’s How I Am…’ by Anna Akhmatova

That’s how I am. I could wish for you someone other,

Better.

I trade in happiness no longer…

Charlatans, pushers at the sales! …

We stayed peacefully in Sochi,

Such nights, there, came to me,

And I kept hearing such bells!

Over Asia were spring mists, and

Tulips were carpeting with brilliance

Several hundreds of miles.

O, what can I do with this cleanness,

This simple untaintable scene? O,

What can I do with these souls!

I could never become a spectator.

I’d push myself, sooner or later,

Through every prohibited gate.

Healer of tender hurts, other women’s

Husbands’ sincerest

Friend, disconsolate

Widow of many. No wonder

I’ve a grey crown, and my sun-burn

Frightens the people I pass.

But – like her – I shall have to part with

My arrogance – like Marina the martyr –

I too must drink of emptiness.

You will come under a black mantle,

With a green and terrible candle,

Screening your face from my sight…

Soon the puzzle will be over:

Whose hand is in the white glove, or

Who sent the guest who calls by night.

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

(1942, Tashkent)

from her Седьмая книга (The Seventh Book) era of work but not published at the time

translation by D. M. Thomas


 

In 1942 Akhmatova was flown out of Leningrad by the authorites on a whim and spent the next 3 years in Tashkent. She became seriously ill with typhus but regarded this period with a mix of joy, delirium and recognition.

Akhmatova in this poem draws a parallel between her circumstances and the fate of fellow poet Marina Tsvetaeva. Tsvetaeva had been an emigre since 1922, returning to Russia only to find out her husband was shot and her daughter arrested. She hung herself in 1941 and it had an immense effect on her peer Akhmatova as evidenced by her poetry.