Летний сад (Summer Garden) by Anna Akhmatova

I want to visit the roses

In that lonely

Park where the statues remember me young

And I remember them under the water

Of the Neva. In the fragrant quiet

Between the limes of Tsarskoye I hear

A creak of masts. And the swan swims

Still, admiring its lovely

Double. And a hundred thousand steps,

Friend and enemy, enemy and friend,

Sleep. Endless is the procession of shades

Between granite vase and palace door.

There my white nights

Whisper of someone’s discreet exalted

Love. And everything is mother-

Of-pearl and jasper,

But the light’s source is a secret.

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

(July, 1959, Leningrad)

from Седьмая книга (The Seventh Book)

translation by D. M. Thomas


Fun facts: The Summer Garden (Летний сад) occupies an island between the Fontanka, Moika, and the Swan Canal in Saint Petersburg (a.k.a. Leningrad), Russia and shares its name with the adjacent Summer Palace of Peter the Great.

Akhmatova recites her poem:

The text in the original Russian Cyrillic:

Летний сад

Я к розам хочу, в тот единственный сад,
Где лучшая в мире стоит из оград,

Где статуи помнят меня молодой,
А я их под невскою помню водой.

В душистой тиши между царственных лип
Мне мачт корабельных мерещится скрип.

И лебедь, как прежде, плывет сквозь века,
Любуясь красой своего двойника.

И замертво спят сотни тысяч шагов
Врагов и друзей, друзей и врагов.

А шествию теней не видно конца
От вазы гранитной до двери дворца.

Там шепчутся белые ночи мои
О чьей-то высокой и тайной любви.

И все перламутром и яшмой горит,
Но света источник таинственно скрыт.

Advertisements

‘I like the Lutheran service, calm and grave…’ by Fyodor Tyutchev

I like the Lutheran service, calm and grave,

I like its ritual, solemn and severe;

the message of these bare and empty walls

I bow to, I revere.

 

But don’t you see? Why surely you must know

that for the last time Faith is with us there.

She has not crossed the threshold yet to go,

but all is swept and bare.

 

She has not crossed the threshold on her way,

she has not gone for good, and closed the door.

But yet the hour has struck. Kneel down and pray,

for you will pray no more.

 

by Фёдор Иванович Тютчев (Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev)

(1834)

translated by Frances Cornford and Esther Polianowsky Salaman


Fun fact: Counted amongst the admirers of Tyutchev’s works were Dostoevsky and Tolstoy along with Nekrasov and Fet. Then later Osip Mandelstam who, in a passage approved of by Shalamov, believed that a Russian poet should not have copy of Tyutchev in his personal library – he should know all of Tyutchev off by heart.

Storm Awst by Gillian Clarke

The cat walks. It listens, as I do,

To the wind which leans its iron

Shoulders on our door. Neither

The purr of a cat nor my blood

Runs smoothly for elemental fear

Of the storm. This then is the big weather

They said was coming. All the signs

Were bad, the gulls coming in white,

Lapwings gathering, the sheep too

Calling all night. The gypsies

Were making their fires in the woods

Down there in the east…always

A warning. The rain stings, the whips

Of the laburnum hedge lash the roof

Of the cringing cottage. A curious

Calm, coming from the storm, unites

Us, as we wonder if the work

We have done will stand. Will the tyddyn,

In its group of strong trees on the high

Hill, hold against the storm Awst

Running across the hills where everything

Alive listens, pacing its house, heart still?

 

by Gillian Clarke

from The Sundial, (Gwasg Gomer, 1978)


Fun facts:  Glossary: Welsh = English

Awst = August

Storm Awst = August storm

tyddyn = [farm] smallholding

Ears In The Turrets Hear by Dylan Thomas

Ears in the turrets hear

Hands grumble on the door,

Eyes in the gables see

The fingers at the locks.

Shall I unbolt or stay

Alone till the day I die

Unseen by stranger-eyes

In this white house?

Hands, hold you poison or grapes?

 

Beyond this island bound

By a thin sea of flesh

And a bone coast,

The land lies out of sound

And the hills out of mind.

No birds or flying fish

Disturbs this island’s rest.

 

Ears in this island hear

The wind pass like a fire,

Eyes in this island see

Ships anchor off the bay.

Shall I run to the ships

With the wind in my hair,

Or stay till the day I die

And welcome no sailor?

Ships, hold you poison or grapes?

 

Hands grumble on the door,

Ships anchor off the bay,

Rain beats the sand and slates.

Shall I let in the stranger,

Shall I welcome the sailor,

Or stay till the day I die?

 

Hands of the stranger and holds of the ships,

Hold you poison or grapes?

 

by Dylan Thomas


The poem read by the Welsh actor Philip Maddoc:

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)

Brother Door-Keeper and Brother Gate-Opener

In my town strange things happen… Let me begin not by telling you where the grotesques featured at the top of my blog come from. They are from the oldest church of the town, with the midnight cross, that overlooks the town and are for another time to discuss.
Let me first tell you of the clergy who frequent one of the churches on the edge of the town centre so you may better understand the people whom frequent this place at the end of the bridge.

Once it was a small cattle market town prone to flooding, as all low lying land is, and nothing more than a pleasant wayside stop gap for those journeying between the whitewashed capital and the major Western port city where a poet once lived and is forever immortalised for his debauchery more so than his words. This town, my home town, is no longer such a place and many have doubted it ever was except in rose tinted memory. Now it is a sprawling cesspit of various architectural styles, built one on top of the other, with no unified design,: Georgian, modern, gothic, 1980s Avant-garde, red brick, black tar, sandstone and slate, concrete and cement like a mottled patchwork rag with equally disparate housing developments spreading like cancer into every crevice not yet rid of its greenery. No single parish council ever wished to concede to another, before or after, and so the town is a homunculus writhing in its own filth screaming to be put out of its misery. But it cannot anymore because too many have staked their claim and now find they are held within its grasp.

There is a church on the edge of town, the youngest of the three, with large iron gates and ivy covered trellis. A sandstone wall stops anyone looking in on the church’s grounds and slick black burglar-proof paint sits ever ready to stop people climbing over it. Behind this fortification two men, dressed in the dour cassocks of their faith, sit on three legged wooden stools in the courtyard under the dappled light of a tree. Neither is exceptionally young nor old but of an age that would suggest authority, knowledge and above all wisdom has been gained with the passage of time.
Brother Door-keeper, who speaks in husky tones, and Brother Gate-opener, whose voice is a lilting warble, while away their hours giggling between themselves furtively. One holds a heavy iron gate-padlock and the other the key with which to unlock it. Listening carefully at the wall you may hear this conversation repeated time and time again:

“Brother door-keeper has a lock…”
“…And Brother Gate-Opener, a key, a key which fits into this lock I have upon me.”
“It is an impressive key to look upon is it not Brother Door-Keeper?”
“Indeed as surely must this padlock be too to the uninitiated. But please be gentle, my dear Brother Gate-Opener, when you insert your key. I doubt my frail clasp may withstand such a forceful insertion as this key is capable of.”
“Fear not Brother Door-Keeper. I have been commended on the delicacy with which I handle this shaft I hold in my hand.”
“Then do as you must Brother Gate-Opener. Penetrate the hallowed darkness of this lock’s sanctity. I feel there is no choice for us now but to proceed apace…”
“I shall do so Brother Gate-Keeper with your blessing, but be reassured, you are in seasoned hands… the insertion may cause some discomfort but, be confident, it shall be only momentary…”
“Brother Door-Opener!”
“Brother Gate-Keeper!”
“Oh, Brother Door-Opener!”
“Ah, Brother Gate-Keeper! Do you feel the sweet release?”
“The unveiling Brother Door-Opener is indescribable!”
“Let me mop your brow Brother Gate-Keeper!”
“Oh that you would, Brother Door-Keeper, that you would…”

It is for this reason no one visits this church. They are silly people and perform this pantomime every single time the grounds must be opened be it Sabbath, a saint’s feast or any other Holy day. Celibacy truly is a heavy vow to have undertaken and they must find such little release in their duties through such innuendo…

But they are, I assure you, a friendly pair who would happily chat and help any who would seek it…unlike those missionary sisters whose church of the midnight cross overlooks the town. But that is a story for another day…


This was not the story I was going to write but in the end I decided to adapt an idea I had in an old notebook just to gauge if there is any validity in the idea. An unpolished piece by anyone’s estimations but the core humour of it is there and considering it consisted only of the concept of two celibate monks being sexually frustrated and acting out using a key and lock I think it went okay… Next time I may do a review of something just to keep mixing it up. Then I will hopefully write about those macabre missionaries mentoned above as they were in a short story, which got positive feedback, though I will have to adapt them for a blog vignette and may have to split it into about 3 seperate posts.

My intention with the ‘In My Homtown Strange Things Happen…’ series is to practise a bit of creative writing inspired by different bits of the town and surrounding area. With each fantastical story will be a short piece underneath about the real life locale.

There are actually three churchs in the vicinity of the towncentre, St Illtyd’s (which does overlook the town on top of a hill with a cross lit up, in the winter, on its bell tower), St Marys, and the recently constructed Catholic church.

http://s0.geograph.org.uk/geophotos/01/92/35/1923535_23526cc8.jpg

http://www.catholicchurchbridgend.org.uk/

The church in the story above is prehaps an overblown version of the Catholic one. The story in no way represents the actual church nor any of the people involved with it in any way. In truth the story came about independently of this place but I couldn’t think of a similar place to set the story and prehaps should have left it out of the series as an independant vignette as it came from a very brief story concept scribbled one day years ago and only typed up in one sitting just now. The two priests of the real place are quite young and I met them when attended a wedding once. Its a nice place but personally I have always preferred the older churchs and cathedral designs as they offer a sense of awe, as was the intent when built, and that you are in a special place. The modern design, in keeping with certain other very recently built locations around town, seems all too modern and I wonder how soon it will be that we will look back at it as modern generations do now the concrete tower blocks and awkward designs of the 1960s?

Feedback and comments are welcome.