Armed with wasp-vision, with the vision of wasps that suck, suck, suck the earth's axis, I'm filled by the whole deep vein of my life and hold it here in my heart and in vain.
And I don't draw, don't sing, don't draw a black-voiced bow over strings: I only drink, drink, drink in life and I love to envy wasp- waisted wasps their mighty cunning.
O if I too could be impelled past sleep, past death, stung by the summer's cheer and chir, by this new air to hear earth's axis, axis, axis.
by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam.) His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam) (8 February 1937) translated by Robert Chandler
Below is the original Russian Cyrillic version of the poem.
Вооруженный зреньем узких ос, Сосущих ось земную, ось земную, Я чую всё, с чем свидеться пришлось, И вспоминаю наизусть и всуе.
И не рисую я, и не пою, И не вожу смычком черпоголосым, Я только в жизнь впиваюсь и люблю Завидовать могучим, хитрым осам.
О, если б и меня когда-нибудь могло Заставить, сон и смерть минуя, Стрекало Еоздуха и летнее тепло Услышать ось земную, ось земную.
Extra information: The wasp-waist was a fashion regarding awomen’s fashion silhouette, produced by a style of corset and girdle, that has experienced various periods of popularity in the 19th and 20th centuries. Its primary feature is the abrupt transition from a natural-width rib cage to an exceedingly small waist, with the hips curving out below. It takes its name from its similarity to a wasp’s segmented body. The sharply cinched waistline also exaggerates the hips and bust.
To put it bluntly Mandelstam is talking about admiring women, at least in part, in this poem.
Mandelstam was said to have had an affair with the poet Anna Akhmatova. She insisted throughout her life that their relationship had always been a very deep friendship, rather than a sexual affair. In the 1910s, he was in love, secretly and unrequitedly, with a Georgian princess and St. Petersburg socialite Salomea Andronikova, to whom Mandelstam dedicated his poem “Solominka” (1916).
In 1922, Mandelstam married Nadezhda Khazina in Kiev, Ukraine, where she lived with her family. He continued to be attracted to other women, sometimes seriously. Their marriage was threatened by his falling in love with other women, notably Olga Vaksel in 1924-25 and Mariya Petrovykh in 1933-34.
During Mandelstam’s years of imprisonment, 1934–38, Nadezhda accompanied him into exile. Given the real danger that all copies of Osip’s poetry would be destroyed, she worked to memorize his entire corpus, as well as to hide and preserve select paper manuscripts, all the while dodging her own arrest. In the 1960s and 1970s, as the political climate thawed, she was largely responsible for arranging clandestine republication of Mandelstam’s poetry.
Easter. I go to church to proclaim with my fellows I believe in the Ressurection - of what? Here everything is electric and automatic. In April a myriad bulbs are switched on as flowers incandesce; a new generation of creatures rehearses its genetic code. All this is easy. Earth is a self-regulating machine; everything happens because it must. My faith is in the inevitability of creation. There will come a day - dust under a dry sun, ashes under its incineration... is there somewhere in all the emptiness of the universe a fertile star where the old metaphors wil apply, where the bugling daffodil will sound abroad not the last post, but a gush of music out of an empty tomb?
At twilight the swifts have no way Of stemming the cool blue cascade. It bursts from clamouring throats, A torrent that cannot be stayed.
At twilight the swifts have no way Of holding back, high overhead, Their clarion shouting: Oh, triumph, Look, look, how the earth has fled!
As steam billows up from a kettle, The furious stream hisses by - Look, look – there's no room for the earth Between the ravine and the sky.
By Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к (Boris Leonidovich Pasternak) from Поверх барьеров (Over the Barriers) (1916) translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France
The poem, in Russian, set to music by La Luna with some elements of repition from the album ‘Серебряный Сад’ (Silver Garden).
The original Russian Cyrillic version of the poem.
Нет сил никаких у вечерних стрижей Сдержать голубую прохладу. Она прорвалась из горластых грудей И льется, и нет с нею сладу. И нет у вечерних стрижей ничего, Что б там, наверху, задержало Витийственный возглас их: о, торжество, Смотрите, земля убежала! Как белым ключом закипая в котле, Уходит бранчливая влага, - Смотрите, смотрите — нет места земле От края небес до оврага.
Over the meadows, beyond the mountains, there once lived a painter called Klee, and he sat on his own on a path with various bright-coloured crayons.
He drew rectangles and he drew hooks, an imp in a light-blue shirt, Africa, stars, a child on a platform, wild beasts where Sky meets Earth.
He never intended his sketches to be like passport photos, with people, horses, cities and lakes standing up straight like robots.
He wanted these lines and these spots to converse with one another as clearly as cicadas in summer, but then one morning a feather
materialized as he sketched. A wing, the crown of ahead - the Angel of Death. It was time for Klee to part from his friends
and his Muse. He did.He died. Can anything be more cruel? Though had Paul Klee been any less wise, his angel might have touched us all
and we too, along with the artist, might have left the world behind while that angel shook up our bones, but – what help would that have been?
Me, I'd much rather walk through a gallery than lie in some sad cemetery. I like to loiter with friends by paintings - yellow-blue wildlings, follies most serious.
by Арсений Александрович Тарковский (Arseny Alexandrovich Tarkovsky) (1957) translated by Robert Chandler
Arseny was the father of the famous and highly influential film director Andrei Tarkovsky. His poetry was often quoted in his son’s films.
Paul Klee (18 December 1879 – 29 June 1940) was a Swiss German artist. His highly individual style was influenced by movements in art that included Expressionism, Cubism, and Surrealism. Klee was a natural draftsman who experimented with and eventually deeply explored color theory, writing about it extensively; his lectures Writings on Form and Design Theory (Schriften zur Form und Gestaltungslehre), published in English as the Paul Klee Notebooks, are held to be as important for modern art as Leonardo da Vinci’s A Treatise on Painting for the Renaissance. He and his colleague, Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, both taught at the Bauhaus school of art, design and architecture. His works reflect his dry humor and his sometimes childlike perspective, his personal moods and beliefs, and his musicality.
Here is a reading of the poem in Russian set to music featuring one of Klee’s artworks.
Beneath is the original Russian version of the poem.
Жил да был художник Пауль Клее Где-то за горами, над лугами. Он сидел себе один в аллее С разноцветными карандашами,
Рисовал квадраты и крючочки, Африку, ребенка на перроне, Дьяволенка в голубой сорочке, Звезды и зверей на небосклоне.
Не хотел он, чтоб его рисунки Были честным паспортом природы, Где послушно строятся по струнке Люди, кони, города и воды.
Он хотел, чтоб линии и пятна, Как кузнечики в июльском звоне, Говорили слитно и понятно. И однажды утром на картоне
Проступили крылышко и темя: Ангел смерти стал обозначаться. Понял Клее, что настало время С Музой и знакомыми прощаться.
Попрощался и скончался Клее. Ничего не может быть печальней. Если б Клее был немного злее, Ангел смерти был бы натуральней.
И тогда с художником все вместе Мы бы тоже сгинули со света, Порастряс бы ангел наши кости. Но скажите мне: на что нам это?
На погосте хуже, чем в музее, Где порой слоняются живые, И висят рядком картины Клее - Голубые, желтые, блажные…
And with a strange desire all her days she walked her worldly ways; for dull the melodies of earth she found after that heavenly sound.
by Михаил Юрьевич Лермонтов (Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov) translated by Frances Cornford
Interesting extra: The poem this extract is from was written by Lermontov when he was seventeen years old. Typical of his early romanticism its subject is a soul unable to forget the songs of the angel who first carried her down to earth to be incarnated.
On a sidenote: The past day or two I’ve been using WordPress’ new ‘blocks’ system and putting this in the ‘verse’ version. Does it make any difference? The entire system just feels like it complicates matters needlessly.