All men. Or shall we say,
not chauvinistic, all
people, it is all
people? Beasts manure
the ground, nibble to
promote growth; but man,
the consumer, swallows
like the god of mythology
his own kind. Beasts walk
among birds and never
do the birds scare; but the human,
that alienating shadow
with the Bible under the one
arm and under the other
the bomb, as often
drawn as he is repelled
by the stranger waiting for him
in the mirror – how
can he return home
when his gaze forages
beyond the stars? Pity him,
then, this winged god, rupturer
of gravity's control
accelerating on and
outward in the afterglow
of a receding laughter?
by R. S. Thomas
from No Truce With The Furies (1995)
Sooner or later, every post-war period
becomes a pre-war period.
The outcome of the Sixth World War
will depend on how we have treated
the prisoners-of-war from the Fifth.
by Борис Абрамович Слуцкий (Boris Abramovich Slutsky)
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.
A foundling of the worthless muses
and other brutes,
I languish all the livelong day
at the LitInstitute.
Outside the window, a janitor sweeps
the pavement clean.
Slouching, gaunt, and hollow-cheeked,
he’s gloomy, ill.
But to hell with him and all his woes –
I’m full of myself.
… And all the while he was the one
whose words the Genius
of Humanity had banished from
Thus the writing of that time
grew strangely inept,
while at the LitInstitute the yard
was nicely swept.
… My whole life I looked into myself –
at others, rarely.
But all the same, his fate did touch
something in me.
Now I’ve become a poet – good,
bad, who knows? –
declining like the century,
sentenced to sweep snow.
Who envies either of our lives?
His life was destroyed
by M. tuberculosis, and mine –
by my wretched thyroid.
… I bear being outcast unbowed,
I kowtow to none,
but before you I’ll bow down,
And forty years later I pray:
in your distant heaven,
forgive the folly of my youth,
forgive everything –
my hubris, hard-heartedness, but mostly
forgive the boredom
with which I gazed through that window
on your torment.
by Владимир Николаевич Корнилов (Vladimir Nikolayevich Kornilov)
translated by Katherine E. Young
Fun facts: Here is my rough effort to translate the Russian language Wikipedia article page on him as there is no English page available and most of the results for his name will lead you to information about the historical naval figure.
Vladimir Nikolaevich Kornilov ( June 29, 1928 , Dnepropetrovsk – January 8, 2002 , Moscow ) was a Soviet Russian poet, writer, and literary critic. He was heavily censored throughout the Soviet era for his, to the Soviet authorities, ideologically troubling works.
He was born into a family of civil engineers. When the Great Patriotic War began (i.e. World War II), he was evacuated to Novokuznetsk ( Siberia ), then moved to Moscow . In 1945 – 1950 he studied at the Gorky Literary Institute (i.e. the LitInstitute mentioned in this poem) , which he was he was expelled from three times for absenteeism and “ideologically vicious verses”.
Kornilov’s first poems were published in 1953 . However, his works were rarely published, and even then only after ‘corrections’ had been made by censors. In 1957, his collection of poems “Agenda from the military registration and enlistment office” was rejected. Only in 1964 his first book of poems, The Pier, was published by the Soviet Writer Publishing House, and in 1965, on the recommendation of Anna Akhmatova , Kornilov was successfully admitted to the Union of Writers of the USSR.
A hard time awaited the prose works of Kornilov. His first and second novels – “Without arms, without legs”, completed in 1965 , and “Girls and ladies”, written in October 1968 he tried to get published for a long time unsuccessfully in the Soviet Union . The former was not printed and although the latter was accepted for publication in December 1971 but immediately thereafter rejected or banned.
By his third and largest prose work – the novel “Demobilization” – Kornilov no longer even tried to be publish in his homeland and instead sent his works to the west, where, from 1974 onwards, they were in print.
[he has two books in English I could find after a very brief search: Girls to the Front (1984) and Building a Prison (1985) so it’s possible the others were in German and other languages or have different titles in other languages. By all means comment on this post if you find others available in English.]
Being published in samizdat and in foreign Russian-language publications, as well as Kornilov’s speeches in support of Julius Daniel and Andrei Sinyavsky ( 1966 ), displeased the Soviet authorities.
In 1975 he was made a member of the Soviet section of Amnesty International and on the recommendation of G. Böll, he was accepted also into the French Pen Club.
Kornilov signed a letter to “heads of state and government” with a request to protect academician Andrei Sakharov , and in March 1977 he was expelled from the Union of Writers of the USSR (he was initially accepted in 1965, and while expelled his membership was eventually restored in 1988 ). His books were removed from their libraries and sold in 1979. He began to publish his works again in the USSR from 1986 onwards.
Kornilov died from a bone tumor on January 8, 2002 .
… hopefully that is helpful to anyone wanting a little information about the poet.
Regarding his reference to Platonov in this poem: He briefly worked as a street cleaner as an homage to Platonov as there was some ‘Intelligentsia folklore’ that occassionally Platonov would choose to sweep the yard in from of the LitInstitute building where he lived. However he was dismissed after a month on the pretext ‘it is illegal to hire someone of higher education for such duties’. So he probably wasn’t very good at it and just ad a very romanticised view of it.
He considered Gumilyov to be the ‘Kipling of Tsarkoye Selo’ and praised the courae with shich he faced his execution. He also wrote admiringly of Akhmatova who sponsored his admission into the Union of Soviet Writers in 1965. Also he reflected on the paradox of Lermontov’s fate – that it was a peculiar blend of courage, pain and spite which led him to his last duel and that it’s outcome made him appear an embodiment of love remarking in one poem ‘and boys writing poems at night / hope for a similar fate’
Russian cyrillic original version of the poem:
Подкидыш никудышных муз
И прочей нуди,
Я скукой день-деньской томлюсь
И замыслов невпроворот,
И строчек вздорных…
А за окном асфальт метёт
Сутулый, тощий, испитой,
Угрюм он, болен.
Но шут с ним и с его бедой –
Я дурью полон.
…Когда бы знать, что он лишён
Что от журналов отлучён
С того и проза тех времён
Вдруг стала тусклой…
Зато просторный двор метён
…Всю жизнь гляделся я в себя,
А в ближних – мало.
И всё равно его судьба
Такой или сякой поэт,
Я кроме смеха
На склоне века, склоне лет –
Кого от нашего житья
Он от чахотки сник, а я –
…Тащу отверженность, не гнусь,
Не бью поклонов,
Но перед вами повинюсь,
И сорок лет спустя молю:
В своём зените
Простите молодость мою,
За всё простите –
За спесь, и чёрствость, и сполна
Ещё за скуку,
С какой глядел я из окна
На вашу муку.
Like, comment, follow or subscribe… please. I just don’t know if anyone actually finds these bilingual posts interesting or it’s just me. Seriously, if you read the two languages, you can really see how much of a difference the translator makes putting their mark on a piece. I’ve once or twice put multiple translations of the same poem on here if you want to look and compare then. Even if you just put it the cyrillic version into Google Translate for a rough translation you see how line orders and everything get affected…
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.
They laid this stone trap
for him, enticing him with candles,
as though he would come like some huge moth
out of the darkness to beat there.
Ah, he had burned himself
before in the human flame
and escaped, leaving the reason
torn. He will not come any more
to our lure. Why, then, do I kneel still
striking my prayers on a stone
heart? Is it in hope one
of them will ignite yet and throw
on its illuminated walls the shadow
of someone greater than I can understand?
by R. S. Thomas
from Frequencies (1978)
Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
“What writest thou?”—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, “The names of those who love the Lord.”
“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still; and said, “I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”
The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.
by Leigh Hunt (1784 – 1859)