No one will be in the house
But twilight. Just the same
Winter day in the gap
The gathered curtains frame.
Only swiftly beating wings
Of white flakes as they fall.
Only roofs and snow, and but
For roofs and snow – no one at all.
And frost again will start too sketch.
And I again will find despairs
Of last year whirling me back
To another winter's affairs.
And they again will sting me
With last year's guilt, the same,
Unexpiated. Lack of wood
Will cramp the window-frame.
Then suddenly the curtain
Will shudder at the door
And you will come in, like the future,
Making no sound on the floor.
And you will stand there wearing
Something white, no lace, no braid,
Something made from the fabric
From which snowflakes are made.
by Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к
(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)
translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France
It was all arranged:
the virgin with child, the birth
in Bethlehem, the arid journey uphill
to Jerusalem. The prophets foretold
it, the scriptures conditioned him
to accept it. Judas went to his work
with his sour kiss; what else
could he do?
A wise old age,
the honours awarded for lasting,
are not for a saviour. He had
to be killed; salvation acquired
by an increased guilt. The tree,
with its roots in the mind’s dark,
was divinely planted, the original fork
in existence. There is no meaning in life,
unless men can be found to reject
love. God needs his martyrdom.
The mild eyes stare from the Cross
in perverse triumph. What does he care
that the people’s offerings are so small?
by R. S. Thomas
from Laboratories of the Spirit (1975)
Some gaze into tender faces,
Others drink until morning light,
But all night I hold conversations
With my conscience who is always right.
I say to her: ‘You know how tired I am,
Bearing your heavy burden, many years.’
But for her, there is no such thing as time,
And for her, space also disappears.
And again, a black Shrove Tuesday,
The sinister park, the unhurried ring
Of hooves, and, flying down the heavenly
Slopes, full of happiness and joy, the wind.
And above me, double-horned and calm
Is the witness… O I shall go there,
Along the ancient well-worn track,
To the deathly waters, where the swans are.
by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1936)
translation by D. M. Thomas
See that field,
in ’39 a Heinkel crashed,
scattered amongst the turnips
grey as morning.
I was the first there,
was just 29.
I looked through bits of wing and wire,
the Germans all dead.
I knelt down on my knees
and see this ring,
I wiggled it
from the pilot’s finger,
took it home
in my hankerchief,
the mud and the blood,
put it on
my little finger,
where late at night
my tongue a knot
of strange language,
from all corners
of the room.
by Gwyn Parry