There is a game I play
with a mirror, approaching
it when I am not there,
as though to take by surprise.
the self that is my familiar. It
is in vain. Like one eternally
in ambush, fast or slow
as I may raise my head, it raises
its own, catching me in the act,
disarming me by acquaintance,
looking full into my face as often
as I try looking at it askance.
by R. S. Thomas
from Experimenting with an Amen (1986)
Evening by R. S. Thomas
The archer with time
as his arrow – has he broken
his strings that the rainbow
is so quiet over our village?
Let us stand, then in the interval
of our wounding, till the silence
turn golden and love is
a moment eternally overflowing.
by R. S. Thomas
from No Truce With the Furies (1995)
‘Tears of humanity, tears of humanity’ by Fyodor Tyutchev
Tears of humanity, tears of humanity,
flowing eternally early and late…
Flowing invisibly, flowing in secrecy,
ever abundantly, ever unceasingly –
flowing as rain flows with autumn finality
all through the night like a river in spate.
by Фёдор Иванович Тютчев (Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev)
translated by Peter Tempest
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.
Молчание (Silentium) by Osip Mandelstam
She has yet to be born:
she is music and word,
and she eternally bonds
all life in this world.
The sea breathes gently;
the day glitters wildly.
A bowl of dazed azure
sways pale foam-lilac.
May I too reach back
to that ancient silence,
like a note of crystal
pure from its source.
Stay, Aphrodite, as foam.
Return, word, to music.
Heart, be shy of heart,
fused with life’s root.
by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam. His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)
translated by Robert Chandler and Boris Dralyuk
Fun fact: This is Mandelstam’s variation on Tyutchev’s earlier poem ‘Silentium‘.
Recital in the original Russian:
Russian cyrillic version:
Она еще не родилась,
Она и музыка и слово,
И потому всего живого
Спокойно дышат моря груди,
Но, как безумный, светел день,
И пены бледная сирень
В черно-лазоревом сосуде.
Да обретут мои уста
Как кристаллическую ноту,
Что от рождения чиста!
Останься пеной, Афродита,
И, слово, в музыку вернись,
И, сердце, сердца устыдись,
С первоосновой жизни слито!