I'll say this in a whisper, in draft,
because it's early yet:
we have to pay
with experience and sweat
to learn the sky's free play.
And under purgatory's temporal sky
we easily forget:
the dome of heaven
is a home
to praise forever, wherever.
by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam.
His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)
translated by Robert Chandler
Spray by the castle hurls across the rail;
The mermaid stares forever across the sea,
Dry-eyed; they lay their poppies at her feet,
But she looks away, to the movement of a sail
Far over breakers; knows not their fallen dead,
Hears not their autumn hymn or the signal guns.
Spray by the castle, spray in November air,
Yearn for the land as she for the empty waves,
(As the dead, perhaps, for their lost and silent home).
Everything empty: castle and crowd and wreaths
Seperate beings; and over them, kissing the rain,
The shape of a fish in bronze, without speech, without soul.
On Sundays remember the dead, but not here.
This is another country, another lord
Rules in its acres, who has no respect for love.
Always the sea sucks at the stones of the wall,
Always the mermaid leans to the distant sail;
Already the wreaths are limp and the children wail.
By Sally Roberts Jones
Aberystwyth ( literally “Mouth of the Ystwyth [river]“) is a historic market town, administrative centre, community, and holiday resort within Ceredigion, Wales, often colloquially known as Aber. It is located near the confluence of the rivers Ystwyth and Rheidol. Historically part of Cardiganshire, since the late 19th century, Aberystwyth has also been a major Welsh educational centre, with the establishment of a university college there in 1872.
The mermaid mentioned in this poem is a bronze statue at the base of the Aberystwyth town war memorial which is considered by some to be one of the finest in Britain. Contemporary reports record that the top figure represents Victory and the figure at the base, i.e. the mermaid, represents Humanity emerging from the effects of war. It records the names of 111 Aberystwyth men who died as a result of action during the First World war and 78 men and women who died during the Second World War. It is one of a number in the town: others are in chapels, places of work and schools.
Aberystwyth Castle (Welsh: Castell Aberystwyth) is a Grade I listed Edwardian fortress located in Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Mid Wales. It was built in response to the First Welsh War in the late 13th century, replacing an earlier fortress located a mile to the south. During a national uprising by Owain Glyndŵr, the Welsh captured the castle in 1404, but it was recaptured by the English four years later. In 1637 it became a Royal mint by Charles I, and produced silver shillings. The castle was slighted by Oliver Cromwell in 1649.
It’s time my friends, it’s time. We long for peace
of heart. But days chase days and every hour
gone by means one less hour to come. We live
our lives, dear friend, in hope of life, then die.
There is no happiness on earth, but peace
exists, and freedom too. Tired slave, I dream
of flight, of taking refuge in some far-
off home of quiet joys and honest labour.
by Александр Сергеевич Пушкин (Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin)
a.k.a. Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin
translated by Robert Chandler
March saw winter gain in strength –
bitter cold and unrelenting storms.
In reckless fury, blinding spite,
the wind blew only from the north.
No hint of spring. Gripped by inertia,
the heart slips all too close to places
of no return: no self, no words,
mere apathy and voicelessness.
Who can bring back our sight, our hearing?
Who can retrace the way to hearth
and home now that all trace of home
is gone, wiped from the earth?
by Мария Сергеевна Петровых (Maria Sergeyevna Petrovykh)
translated by Robert Chandler and Irina Mashinski
the final line could be considered a sceptical response to Khrushchev’s Thaw during the, relatively, liberal period after Stalin’s death.
Also it is quite timely considering the current UK weather where ‘the Beast for the East’ and Storm Emma are double teaming the British Isles.
With her fingers she turns paint
into flowers, with her body
flowers into a rememberance
of herself. She is at work
always, mending the garment
of our marriage, foraging
like a bird for something
for us to eat. If there are thorns
in my life, it is she who
will press her breast to them and sing.
Her words, when she would scold,
are too sharp. She is busy
after for hours rubbing smiles
into the wounds. I saw her,
when young, and spread the panoply
of my feathers instinctively
to engage her. She was not deceived,
but accepted me as a girl
will under a thin moon
in love’s absence as someone
she could build a home with
for her imagined child.
by R. S. Thomas
from The Way of It (1977)
Coming home was to that:
The white house in the cool grass
Membraned with shadow, the bright stretch
Of stream that was its looking-glass;
And smoke growing above the roof
To a tall tree among whose boughs
The first stars renewed their theme
Of time and death and a man’s vows.
by R. S. Thomas
from Song At The Year’s Turning (1955)
Some things succeed, and some things fail;
everything’s nonsense that passes away…
But even so this reddish-brown grass
which grows by a gate in the fence will last.
… If Russian speech has the power to go
back to the land where the Neva flows –
from Paris I send these muddled words,
though even to me they sound absurd.
by Георгий Владимирович Иванов (Georgii Vladimirovich Ivanov)
by Stephen Capus