Сенокос (The Hay Harvest) by Apollon Maikov

The smell of hay is on the field,

and singing as they go

the women toss the heavy yield

and spread it row by row.

 

And yonder where the hay is dry

each man his forkful throws,

until the wagon loaded high

is like a house that grows.

 

The poor old horse who draws the cart

stands rooted in the heat,

with sagging knees and ears apart,

asleep upon his feet.

 

But little zhuchka speeds away

in barking brave commotion,

to dip and flounder in the hay

as in a grassy ocean.

 

by Аполлон Николаевич Майков (Apollon Nikolayevich Maikov)

(1856)

translated by Frances Cornford and Esther Polianowsky Salaman


Fun facts: Zhuchka means ‘Bug’, as in a small insect using diminutive terminology as жучка (zhuchka) is a diminutive of жук (Zhuk). In Russian, perhaps even more so than in English even due to it’s various tonal aspects and gendered form (which if you look at the original version below clearly has alternating hard and soft line endings (though only in the first and last stanzas does it have what might be considered Pushkin verse i.e. alternating masculine and feminine lines), diminutives are used within children’s works to create a gentler tone.

This used to be the first poem that Russian children would learn due to it’s simple words and easy rhyme scheme (when in the original Russian obviously though the above translation gives a good translation of it with a little necessary artistic license due to the differences in the language). Here is a recital of the poem in Russian.

Maikov was best known for his lyric verse showcasing images of Russian villages, nature, and history. His love for ancient Greece and Rome, which he studied for much of his life, is also reflected in his works. Maikov spent four years translating the epic The Tale of Igor’s Campaign (1870) into modern Russian. He translated the folklore of Belarus, Greece, Serbia and Spain, as well as works by Heine, Adam Mickiewicz and Goethe, among others. Several of Maykov’s poems were set to music by Russian composers, among them Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky.

Innokenty Annensky once wrote:

“a poet usually chooses their own, particular method of communication with nature, and often this sis sport. Poets of the future may be cyclists or aeronauts. Byron was a swimmer, Goethe a skater, Lermontov a rider, many others of our poets (Turgenev, both Tolstoys, Nekrasov, Fet, Yazykov) were hunters. Maikov was a passionate fisherman and this occupation was in perfect harmony with his contemplative nature, with his love for a fair, sunny day, all of which is so vividly expressed in his poetry.”

Here is the poem in it’s original form:

СЕНОКОС

Пахнет сеном над лугами…
В песне душу веселя,
Бабы с граблями рядами
Ходят, сено шевеля.

Там – сухое убирают;
Мужички его кругом
На воз вилами кидают…
Воз растет, растет, как дом.

В ожиданьи конь убогий
Точно вкопанный стоит…
Уши врозь, дугою ноги
И как будто стоя спит…

Только жучка удалая
В рыхлом сене, как в волнах,
То взлетая, то ныряя,
Скачет, лая впопыхах.

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Today by Gillian Clarke

Kate in full day in the heat of the sun

looks into the grave, sees in that unearthing

of a Roman settlement, under a stone

only the shadow of a skeleton.

 

Gwyn on his back in the dark, lying

on the lawn dry from months of drought,

finds in the sky through the telescope

the fuzzy dust of stars he had been searching.

 

Imprint of bones is a constellation

shining against silence, against darkness,

and stars are the pearly vertebrae

of water-drops against the drought, pelvis,

 

skull, scapula five million light years old

wink in the glass, and stardust is all we hold

of the Roman lady’s negative

in the infinite dark of the grave.

 

by Gillian Clarke

from New Poems

Cardiff Elms by Gillian Clarke

Until this summer

throught the open roof of the car

their lace was as light as rain

against the burning sun.

On a rose-coloured road

they laid their inks,

knew exactly, in the seed,

where in the sky they would reach

percise parameters.

 

Traffic-jammed under a square

of perfect blue I thirst

for their lake’s fingering

shadow, trunk by trunk arching

a cloister between the parks

and pillars of a civic architecture,

older and taller than all of it.

 

Heat is a salt encrustation.

Walls square up to the sky

without the company of leaves

or the town life of birds.

At the roadside this enormous

firewood, elmwood, the start

of some terrible undoing.

 

by Gillian Clarke

from Letters from a Far Country (1982)

Words Lying Empty, Without Breathing by Maria Petrovykh

Words lying empty, without breathing –

that don’t know why they exist at all.

Words with no goal, words with no meaning,

that shelter no one from the cold

and haven’t fed a single soul.

Words of impotence – of the weak!

Words that don’t dare, too shy to speak.

They give no heat, they shed no light,

but, with an orphan’s grief, go mute,

not knowing they are mutilated.

 

by Мария Сергеевна Петровых (Maria Sergeyevna Petrovykh)

(1970s)

translated by Boris Dralyuk

You Can Never Go Home Again

Going home is a concept most first associate with the trek back to their parent’s house when leaving school for the day.

Home is where children go.
Where you feel safe.
A secure sanctuary and endless cornucopia.
Adults have no such place.
You can never go home again.

The place where they live they pay for, work for, are enslaved to. The food they eat they go buy, cook, serve, wash the dishes after. The garden, if they have one, they maintain through rain and shine.

To children all things are infinite by default but adults know, just know, things are finite and so they fear to waste it. And in fearing to waste it they do not do anything and so all things are fear and there is no safety haven.

An adult may try to surpass the limitations of their fears but ultimately most are satisfied to wallow in it. Socrates, via Plato, spoke of people being satisfied to watch the flicking shadows on the cave wall instead of leaving the cave and becoming enlightened. Fear served the small mammals we evolved from well but now it means we are all vagabonds even in our own houses.

But of course this can be counterintuitive if we expose children to this realisation to early. Children considered adults to omniscient and omnipotent authority figures but perhaps no more. In aiding children to challenge authority of thought society also taught them that there are limits. A teacher only knows what is on the curriculum. A police officer can be out run. Anyone who is not in a leadership role failed at life. Everything has limits they learned and so they came to fear aging and the limitations they now knew with age came restrictions. They knew their rights and those they could assert to control their superiors.

Thus no one would be in control. Without that there could be no direction. Without something to resist and rebel against there is nothing to stand for and people just lie down without motivation. Without this there could be no drive to surpass limitations and so everything becomes a stagnant exclamation of futility where people could have their say but have nothing worth hearing. To move in any direction carried risk and people became satisfied to accept their lot in life and with just accepting and making do they could never have a home, just somewhere they lived for the moment while aspiring to the greener grass of someone else’s life which they were unwilling to work towards but expected to be able to achieve immediately if they wanted it. Just like a child living in their parent’s home.

You may die in a home accident. You may die in a road accident. You may die in an industrial accident. You may die of old age.

You can never relax. Never feel safe. Never rest. Never relax. Never feel safe and be unburdened by life. Even if you do for a moment you always fear it being taken away and thus enslave yourself only further.

You can make a home for others but you yourself will never know it again.

You can never go home again once you know the cost of your life to others.


Rambling on a blog called Rambling At The Bridgehead… no editing really. Just ashort piece that is ficitonal or real or a polemic on a loss of innocence and the neverending ‘destabilisation’ we experience currently in day to day life…

There is nowhere to feel happy. you carry the burden with you where ever you go. In the end you are stuck with yourself and all the burdens you carry. Go on holiday, flee to a foreign country. It’ll be there when you remember it.

You are your own prison.

Tomorrow: ‘The Poppies Do Not Weep For You’