‘Вооруженный зреньем узких ос’ (‘Armed with wasp-vision. With the vision of wasps…’ by Osip Mandelstam

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
the poem read by Stanislav Komardin

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 a women’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.

‘Разрывы круглых бухт, и хрящ, и синева’ a.k.a. ‘Breaks in round bays, and shingle, and blue’ by Osip Mandelstam

Breaks in round bays, and shingle, and blue,
and a slow sail continued by a cloud -
I hardly knew you; I've been torn from you:
longer than organ fugues – the sea's bitter grasses,
fake tresses – and their long lie stinks,
my head swims with iron tenderness,
the rust gnaws bit by bit the sloping bank...
On what new sands does my head sink?
You, guttural Urals, broad-shouldered Volga lands,
or this dead-flat plain – here are all my rights,
and, full-lunged, gotta go on breathing them.


by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам
(Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam.)
His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)
(4 February 1937)
translated by Andrew Davis

Below is the original Russian Cyrillic version:

Разрывы круглых бухт, и хрящ, и синева,
И парус медленный, что облаком продолжен,-
Я с вами разлучен, вас оценив едва:
Длинней органных фуг - горька морей трава,
Ложноволосая,- и пахнет долгой ложью,
Железной нежностью хмелеет голова,
И ржавчина чуть-чуть отлогий берег гложет...
Что ж мне под голову другой песок подложен?
Ты, горловой Урал, плечистое Поволжье
Иль этот ровный край - вот все мои права,
И полной грудью их вдыхать еще я должен.

Additional information:

The Volga (Во́лга) is the longest river in Europe with a catchment area of 1,350,000 square kilometres. It is also Europe’s largest river in terms of discharge and drainage basin. The river flows through central Russia and into the Caspian Sea, and is widely regarded as the national river of Russia. Eleven of the twenty largest cities of Russia, including the capital, Moscow, are located in the Volga’s drainage basin. Some of the largest reservoirs in the world are located along the Volga.

The river has a symbolic meaning in Russian culture and is often referred to as Волга-матушка Volga-Matushka (Mother Volga) in Russian literature and folklore.

The Ural Mountains ( Ура́льские го́ры), or simply the Urals, are a mountain range that runs approximately from north to south through western Russia, from the coast of the Arctic Ocean to the Ural River and northwestern Kazakhstan. The mountain range forms part of the conventional boundary between the continents of Europe and Asia. Vaygach Island and the islands of Novaya Zemlya form a further continuation of the chain to the north into the Arctic Ocean.

The Urals have been viewed by Russians as a “treasure box” of mineral resources, which were the basis for its extensive industrial development. In addition to iron and copper the Urals were a source of gold, malachite, alexandrite, and other gems such as those used by the court jeweller Fabergé. As Russians in other regions gather mushrooms or berries, Uralians gather mineral specimens and gems. Dmitry Mamin-Sibiryak (1852–1912) Pavel Bazhov (1879–1950), as well as Aleksey Ivanov and Olga Slavnikova, post-Soviet writers, have written of the region.

The region served as a military stronghold during Peter the Great’s Great Northern War with Sweden, during Stalin’s rule when the Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Complex was built and Russian industry relocated to the Urals during the Nazi advance at the beginning of World War II, and as the center of the Soviet nuclear industry during the Cold War. Extreme levels of air, water, and radiological contamination and pollution by industrial wastes resulted. Population exodus resulted, and economic depression at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, but in post-Soviet times additional mineral exploration, particularly in the northern Urals, has been productive and the region has attracted industrial investment.

Февраль. Достать чернил и плакать! (February. Get ink and weep!) by Boris Pasternak

 February. Get ink and weep!
Burst into sobs – to write and write
of February, while thundering slush
burns like black spring.

For half a rouble hire a cab,
ride through chimes and the wheel's cry
to where the drenching rain is black,
louder than tears or ink -

where like thousands of charred pears
rooks will come tearing out of trees
straight into puddles, an avalanche,
dry grief to the ground of eyes.

Beneath it – blackening spots of thaw,
and all the wind is holed by shouts,
and poems – the randomer the truer -
take form, as sobs burst out.


By Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к
(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)
(1913)
translated by Angela Livingstone

An alternate to Jon Stallworthy and Peter France’s translation of the poem ‘It’s February. Weeping take ink!‘ provided elsewhere on this site. The Original doesn’t have a specific title and is usually referred to by it’s first line, as is the case with many untitled poems, but my source for this translation titled it as ‘February’. Also of note this translation gives the date as 1913 but my research of Russian sources all agree to it being published, or at least written, in 1912. The discrepancy may be due to the date it was initially published in a collection of poetry or journal possibly.

A recital of the Russian version read by Sergei Yursky (a Russian actor who died on 8th February this year sadly) set to music by Chopin:

The original Russian Cyrillic version of the poem:

 Февраль. Достать чернил и плакать!
Писать о феврале навзрыд,
Пока грохочущая слякоть
Весною черною горит.

Достать пролетку. За шесть гривен,
Чрез благовест, чрез клик колес,
Перенестись туда, где ливень
Еще шумней чернил и слез.

Где, как обугленные груши,
С деревьев тысячи грачей
Сорвутся в лужи и обрушат
Сухую грусть на дно очей.

Под ней проталины чернеют,
И ветер криками изрыт,
И чем случайней, тем вернее
Слагаются стихи навзрыд.

‘It’s February. Weeping take ink’ by Boris Pasternak

 It's February. Weeping take ink.
Find words in a sobbing rush
For February, while black spring
Burns through the rumbling slush.


And take a cab. Ride for a rouble
Through wheel racket and bell's throbbing
To where the downpour makes more din
Than the sound of ink and sobbing;


Where rooks in thousands, like charred pears
Windfallen from their branching skies,
Drop into puddles and bring down
Desolution into deep eyes.


Thawed patches underneath show black,
The wind is furrowed with cries, and then,
The more suddenly the more surely,
Verses sob from the pen.


By Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к
(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)
(1912)
translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France

‘I am deprived of everything’ by Fyodor Tyuchev

I am deprived of everything,

of health, of will, of air, of sleep.

A vengeful God has let me keep

just you – to keep me praying to Him.

 

by Фёдор Иванович Тютчев (Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev)

(February, 1873)

translated by Donald Rayfield

The Four-Legged Crow by Daniil Kharms

There once lived a four-legged crow. Properly speaking, it had five legs, but this isn’t worth talking about.

So once this four-legged crow brought itself some coffee and thought, “OK, so I bought coffee, what I am supposed to do with it now?”

Just then, unfortunately, a fox was running by. The fox saw the crow and shouted. “Hey,” it shouted, “you crow!”

And the crow shouted back: “Crow yourself!”

And the fox shouted to the crow: “You’re a pig, crow, that’s what you are!”

The Crow was so insulted it scattered the coffee. And the fox ran off. And the crow climbed down and went on its four, or to be more precise, five legs to its lousy house.

 

by Даниил Иванович Хармс (Daniil Ivanovich Kharms)

a.k.a. Даниил Иванович Ювачёв (Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachov)

(13 February, 1938)

translated by Eugene Ostashevsky

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

I See The Boys Of Summer by Dylan Thomas

I
I see the boys of summer in their ruin
Lay the gold tithings barren,
Setting no store by harvest, freeze the soils;
There in their heat the winter floods
Of frozen loves they fetch their girls,
And drown the cargoed apples in their tides.

These boys of light are curdlers in their folly,
Sour the boiling honey;
The jacks of frost they finger in the hives;
There in the sun the frigid threads
Of doubt and dark they feed their nerves;
The signal moon is zero in their voids.

I see the summer children in their mothers
Split up the brawned womb’s weathers,
Divide the night and day with fairy thumbs;
There in the deep with quartered shades
Of sun and moon they paint their dams
As sunlight paints the shelling of their heads.

I see that from these boys shall men of nothing
Stature by seedy shifting,
Or lame the air with leaping from its heats;
There from their hearts the dogdayed pulse
Of love and light bursts in their throats.
O see the pulse of summer in the ice.


II
But seasons must be challenged or they totter
Into a chiming quarter
Where, punctual as death, we ring the stars;
There, in his night, the black-tongued bells
The sleepy man of winter pulls,
Nor blows back moon-and-midnight as she blows.

We are the dark deniers let us summon
Death from a summer woman,
A muscling life from lovers in their cramp
From the fair dead who flush the sea
The bright-eyed worm on Davy’s lamp,
And from the planted womb the man of straw.

We summer boys in this four-winded spinning,
Green of the seaweeds’ iron,
Hold up the noisy sea and drop her birds,
Pick the world’s ball of wave and froth
To choke the deserts with her tides,
And comb the county gardens for a wreath.

In spring we cross our foreheads with the holly,
Heigh ho the blood and berry,
And nail the merry squires to the trees;
Here love’s damp muscle dries and dies,
Here break a kiss in no love’s quarry.
O see the poles of promise in the boys.


III
I see you boys of summer in your ruin.
Man in his maggot’s barren.
And boys are full and foreign to the pouch.
I am the man your father was.
We are the sons of flint and pitch.
O see the poles are kissing as they cross.

 

By Dylan Thomas

From The Notebook Poems (February 1933)

 

Valentine’s Day: Who is The Man, The Myth, The Dilution of Traditions?

Who is Saint Valentine?

Saint Valentine (Latin – Valentinius) is a widely recognized third-century Roman saint commemorated on February 14 and associated since the High Middle Ages with the tradition of courtly love. But of course nowadays the celebration of his feast day is overshadowed by petty commercialism and the suggestion for men to take this opportunity in hoping women are mindlessly adherent to social conventions and displays of contrived romance. Upon reception of a card and gift, be it chocolates or flowers, he will have the rare opportunity to pursue ‘avenues less explored’ in an intimate relationship *cough*youknowwhatImean*cough*. If I am honest I am surprised Durex has not had a big campaign this year like they have recently. Perhaps due to the release of the ’50 Shades of Grey’ film they felt it was redundant to do so. Certainly BBC Breakfast this week seemed a little too interested in the film and speaking of it as if it were a social phenomenon rather than just a rather popular, if universally acknowledged as weakly written, bit of saucy literature in the tradition of works like ‘Moll Flanders’, ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ and many other scandalously erotic (to their contemporary audience) classics of English literature.

So here we will just breakdown who the saint is in a sort of quasi-bullet point info dump for easy reading and comprehension.

Name: Saint Valentine
Rank: Bishop and Martyr
Born: unknown
Died: Traditionally ca. 269
Venerated in: Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Western-Rite Orthodox Church, Anglican Communion, Lutheranism, and individual protestant churches including Baptist
Feast: February 14 (Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran Churches) or July 30 (Eastern Orthodox Church)
Attributes: birds; roses; bishop with a crippled or a child with epilepsy at his feet; bishop with a rooster nearby; bishop refusing to adore an idol; bishop being beheaded; priest bearing a sword; priest holding a sun; priest giving sight to a blind girl.
Patronage: affianced couples, against fainting, bee keepers, happy marriages, love, plague, epilepsy.

So those attributes are quite interesting… you don’t hear mention of most of those if you asked someone what they associate with him in secular coverage. Certainly he has epilepsy as one of his ongoing concerns it seems. Birds seem to be one of his iconographic symbols although I tend to associate them far more with St Francis of Assisi though you could easily say birds as symbols of communing with the divine is a universal image.

All that is reliably known of Saint Valentine commemorated on February 14 is his name and that he was martyred and buried at a cemetery on the Via Flaminia close to the Milvian bridge to the north of Rome on that day. It is uncertain whether St. Valentine is to be identified as one saint or the conflation of two saints of the same name. Several different martyrologies have been added to later hagiographies that are unreliable.

…So we don’t know very much and what we did know is more based on the mythology which has evolved than the man himself. If anything he is even more fictionalised then than Saint Nicholas as Father Christmas…

Because so little is known of him, in 1969 the Roman Catholic Church removed his name from the General Roman Calendar, leaving his liturgical celebration to local calendars. The Roman Catholic Church continues to recognize him as a saint, listing him as such in the February 14 entry in the Roman Martyrology, and authorizing liturgical veneration of him on February 14 in any place where that day is not devoted to some other obligatory celebration in accordance with the rule that on such a day the Mass may be that of any saint listed in the Martyrology for that day. Use of the pre-1970 liturgical calendar is also authorized under the conditions indicated in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum of 2007. Saint Valentine’s Church in Rome, built in 1960 for the needs of the Olympic Village, continues as a modern, well-visited parish church.

…’we have nothing better to put on that day so why not give it to Saint Valentine?’ seems to have been the logic applied then…

Saint Valentine’s Day, the Feast of Saint Valentine, is an official feast day in the Anglican Communion, as well as in the Lutheran Church. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Saint Valentine the Presbyter of Rome is celebrated on July 6 and Hieromartyr Valentine (Bishop of Interamna, Terni in Italy) is celebrated on July 30. Notwithstanding, because of the relative obscurity of these two saints in the East, members of the Greek Orthodox Church named Valentinos (male) or Valentina (female) may observe their name day on the Western ecclesiastical calendar date of February 14.

The name “Valentine”, derived from valens (worthy, strong, powerful), was popular in Late Antiquity. About eleven other saints having the name Valentine are commemorated in the Roman Catholic Church. Some Eastern Churches of the Western rite may provide still other different lists of Saint Valentines. The Roman martyrology lists only seven who died on days other than February 14: a priest from Viterbo (November 3); a bishop from Raetia who died in about 450 (January 7); a fifth-century priest and hermit (July 4); a Spanish hermit who died in about 715 (October 25); Valentine Berrio Ochoa, martyred in 1861 (November 24); and Valentine Jaunzarás Gómez, martyred in 1936 (September 18). It also lists a virgin, Saint Valentina, who was martyred in 308 (July 25) in Caesarea, Palestine.

Lots and lots of Valentine’s exist! Take your pick and if you are named Valentine, in the masculine or feminine form, then it’s a good excuse to have a party. I don’t mind that as much as the ‘day of obligatory romantic gesturing’ that it has become to many now in secular society as ‘just a bit of fun’ or blatant excuse for an argument.

So what is St Valentine’s Day then?

English 18th-century antiquarians Alban Butler and Francis Douce, noting the obscurity of Saint Valentine’s identity, suggested that Valentine’s Day was created as an attempt to supersede the pagan holiday of Lupercalia (mid-February in Rome) although many more recent researcher have dismissed this idea. Many of the current legends that characterize Saint Valentine were invented in the fourteenth century in England, notably by Geoffrey Chaucer and his circle, when the feast day of February 14 first became associated with romantic love.

Professor Jack B. Oruch charges that the traditions associated with “Valentine’s Day”, documented in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Parliament of Foules and set in the fictional context of an old tradition, did not exist before Chaucer. He argues that the speculative explanation of sentimental customs, posing as historical fact, had their origins among 18th-century antiquaries, notably Alban Butler, the author of Butler’s Lives of Saints, and have been perpetuated even by respectable modern scholars. In the French 14th-century manuscript illumination from a Vies des Saints, Saint Valentine, bishop of Terni, oversees the construction of his basilica at Terni; there is no suggestion here that the bishop was a patron of lovers.

The day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. In 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines”).

In Europe, Saint Valentine’s Keys are given to lovers “as a romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the giver’s heart”, as well as to children, in order to ward off Saint Valentine’s Malady (fainting, epilepsy and other seizure disorders). The charm usually takes the form of a metal key and is commonly used in the province of Padua, Italy.  It was once common in southern Germany, eastern Switzerland, Austria, and northern Italy to appeal to him to heal fainting, epilepsy and seizure disorders, thus they became known for this reason as Saint Valentine’s affliction.

In a ceremony at the Oratorio di San Giorgio, a small chapel in Monselice, Padua, on Saint Valentine’s Day each year, small golden keys are given to children to ward off epilepsy Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards. During the Middle Ages it was believed that birds paired couples in mid-February. This was then associated with the romance of Valentine. Although all these legends may differ in ways, Valentine’s day is widely recognized as a day for romance and devotion.


That’s not a comprehensive breakdown of who Saint Vantine was nor what Valentine’s Day is but hopefully it’s a bit more than we knew before today

I guess it’s a good enough excuse, if one be needed, to make romantic displays. However doing it on an assigned day makes the gesture, to my mind, hollow. Acts of true love, if such a thing could be defined, are small and personal not grandiose. I hope you enjoy the day if you celebrate it and if you are alone bear in mind, just as with Christmas, you shouldn’t let the saturation of the media beguile you into believing the image you are presented with is the norm. It is an ideal they use to compel you to be a compliant consumerist.

Shakespearean styled modern Essex banter would be an interesting thing to arise as a modern tradition. It would be a fun way for someone to write something funny, yet poetic, without the odd attitude which gets ingrained in people during school lessons where teachers cover very little, if any, poetry. I find that a sad matter and it is a vicious circle as each generation of teahcers influences the next generation until poetry is an alien concept along with things like philosophy. They are ‘soft subjects’ and ironically a more sciencetifically orientated education, in both the sciences but by creating ‘criteria’ to be achieved in the arts subjects has people more logical and by that extent more ‘cut-throat’ because people can objectify how muc or little harming others is detrimental to oneself. You get the achievement of high grades but it holds no value to you and is discarded as soon ad it is deemed non-essential. It is a vicious circle society wide devaluing having higher, non-personally orientated, goals. It gives rise to faux sycophants and a mercenary attitude in interactions. We are a generation of Othello’s Iago if you will…

Back to the point, they used to have a regular sketch involving ‘the only way is Shakespeare’ on ‘Live At The Electric’ on BBC3 but unfortunately what few videos there were seem to have gone now. I wish there was more use of this idea as it is quite funny to hear the modernised equivalents of Shakespeare’s use of language