That sanity be kept I sit at open windows, Regard the sky, make unobtrusive comment on the moon. Sit at open windows in my shirt, And let the traffic pass, the signals shine, The engines run, the brass bands keep in tune, For sanity must be preserved.
Thinking of death, I sit and watch the park Where children play in all their innocence. And matrons on the littered grass Absorb the daily sun.
The sweet suburban music from a hundred lawns Comes softly to my ears. The English mowers mow and mow.
I mark the couples walking arm in arm. Observe their smiles, Sweet invitations and inventions, See them lend love illustration By gesture and grimace. I watch them curiously, detect beneath the laughs What stands for grief, a vague bewilderment At things not turning right.
I sit at open windows in my shirt, Observe, like some Jehovah of the westerners What passes by, that sanity be kept.
by Dylan Thomas (1933)
Additional information: This was one of his first poems published in ‘Poet’s Corner’ of the Sunday Referee.
We all walked in god’s shadow we were there at his very side. He lived in no far-off heaven and appeared in the flesh sometimes. On the top of the Mausoleum. More clever and evil he was than the god he’d deposed named Jehovah, whom he had dashed down, murdered, turned into ash; though later he raised him up and gave him some corner table. We all walked in god’s shadow we were there at his very side. I was walking down Arbat once, when god was out in his five cars, and bent double with fear, his guards in their miserable mousey coats were trembling there at his side. Too late or too early: it was turning grey. Into morning light. His gaze was cruel and wise. All-seeing the glance of his eyes. We all walked in god’s shadow. We were almost there at his side.
by Борис Абрамович Слуцкий (Boris Abramovich Slutsky) (19??) translated by Elaine Feinstein
Additional information: The poem is about the image of Lenin and mentions his mausoleum which still entombed him to this day just outside the walls of the Kremlin in Moscow.
The Arbat is is a pedestrian street about one kilometer long in the historical centre of Moscow, Russia since at least the 15th century, which makes it one of the oldest surviving streets of the Russian capital. It forms the heart of the Arbat District of Moscow.
Beneath is the original Russian version of the poem in Cyrillic.
Мы все ходили под богом. У бога под самым боком. Он жил не в небесной дали, Его иногда видали Живого. На Мавзолее. Он был умнее и злее Того — иного, другого, По имени Иегова… Мы все ходили под богом. У бога под самым боком. Однажды я шел Арбатом, Бог ехал в пяти машинах. От страха почти горбата В своих пальтишках мышиных Рядом дрожала охрана. Было поздно и рано. Серело. Брезжило утро. Он глянул жестоко, — мудро Своим всевидящим оком, Всепроницающим взглядом.
Мы все ходили под богом. С богом почти что рядом. И срам, и ужас От ужаса, а не от страха, от срама, а не от стыда насквозь взмокала вдруг рубаха, шло пятнами лицо тогда. А страх и стыд привычны оба. Они вошли и в кровь, и в плоть. Их даже дня умеет злоба преодолеть и побороть. И жизнь являет, поднатужась, бесстрашным нам, бесстыдным нам не страх какой-нибудь, а ужас, не стыд какой-нибудь, а срам.
Once we all used to abide together with God, side by side, He didn't dwell in the sky, we'd see him from time to time alive, on the mausoleum. He was much more clever and evil than that other God, the old one, known to the world as Jehovah, whom he overthrew with a crash and reduced to a heap of ash, then subsequently restored and recruited to serve the cause. For once we all used to abide together with God, side by side.
One day as I wandered around in the Arbat, I met God on parade with five limousines and surrounded by guards wearing mousy grey overcoats, hunched in dread. It was early and late – overhead the grey light of morning was showing as he grazed with his cruel, all-knowing eyes through the hearts of men, unmasking deviants and traitors.
For we lived in an era when God himself was our neighbour.
by Борис Абрамович Слуцкий (Boris Abramovich Slutsky) (1955) translated by Stephen Capus
Here is the poem in the original Cyrillic Russian.
Мы все ходили под богом. У бога под самым боком. Он жил не в небесной дали, Его иногда видали Живого. На мавзолее. Он был умнее и злее Того — иного, другого, По имени Иегова, Которого он низринул, Извел, пережег на уголь, А после из бездны вынул И дал ему стол и угол.
Мы все ходили под богом. У бога под самым боком. Однажды я шел Арбатом. Бог ехал в пяти машинах. От страха почти горбата, В своих пальтишках мышиных Рядом дрожала охрана. Было поздно и рано. Серело. Брезжило утро. Он глянул жестоко, мудро Своим всевидящим оком, Всепроницающим взглядом.
Мы все ходили под богом. С богом почти что рядом.
Additional information: Slutsky was an atheist but he didn’t forget his Jewish cultural roots regarding not only Yiddish but also the Hebrew he had learned as a child which remained important to him even if only as deeply felt absences. This poem can be read as Slutsky reflecting on how the cult of persona arose in the Soviet era. Communist iconography of Lenin replaced Imperial Russia’s religious iconography in the day to day lives of Russian citizens in Moscow’s historical Arbat street and the surrounding area. Then he reflects, in the second part of the poem, how imagery of Stalin eventually replaced Lenin’s image and he was even worse than him.