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
I am a man now.
Pass your hand over my brow,
You can feel the place where the brains grow.
I am like a tree,
From my top boughs I can see
The footprints that led up to me.
There is blood in my veins
That has run clear of the stain
Contracted in so many loins.
Why, then, are my hands red
With the blood of so many dead?
Is this where I was misled?
Why are my hands this way
That they will not do as I say?
Does no God hear when I pray?
I have nowhere to go.
The swift satellites show
The clock of my whole being is slow.
It is too late to start
For destinations not of the heart.
I must stay here with my hurt.
by R. S. Thomas
from Tares (1961)
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.
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)
translated by Boris Dralyuk
We remember wartime
The leaves were red
And skies were tight.
Singers in uniform
Cracked burst buckled
The living the key workers
The throats of loyal trumpets
The minds of washed out cockpits
Our prayers were pistons
Our leaders in bunkers
As indestructable as rats
The tongues and necks
Of true survivors
In one cold wood
A headless boy
A thin man prays
In his own blood
On every side
Wait to be counted
In old blood
Are not doors
They are the walls
Of empty tombs
At stated times
By true survivors
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.
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
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
wrapped round his face, was thought, some deep, high
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)
translated by Robert Chandler
Fun fact: Ivan Bunin, the Nobel Prize winning Russian emigre author, is related to him.