To Her by Vasily Zhukovsky

Where’s there a name for you?

No mortal’s art has the power

to express your charm.


Nor are there lyres for you!

Songs? Not to be trusted –

the echo of a belated rumour.


If they had ears for the heart,

every one of my senses

would be a hymn to you.


I carry your life’s charm,

this pure, holy image,

like a mystery in my heart.


All I can do is love;

only eternity can speak

the love you inspire.


by Василий Андреевич Жуковский (Vasily Andreyevich Zhukovsky)


translated by Robert Chandler


Fun fact: Ivan Bunin, the Nobel Prize winning Russian emigre author, is related to him.


Spell [Extract] by Maria Petrovykh

I won’t give you up to death.

I will stand before her.

With my heart

I will shield

your heart.

If you see me


it is not from pain;

it is from joy

that you are invunerable.


by Мария Сергеевна Петровых (Maria Sergeyevna Petrovykh)


translated by Robert Chandler

Love Me. I Am Pitch Black by Maria Petrovykh

Love me. I am pitch black,

sinful, blind, confused.

But if not you, then who else

is going to love me? Face

to face, and fate to fate.

See how stars shine bright

in the dark sky. Love me

simply, simply, as day

loves night and night loves day.

You have no choice. I am

pure night, and you – pure light.


by Мария Сергеевна Петровых (Maria Sergeyevna Petrovykh)


translated by Robert Chandler

A complete rendition though this version uses shorter, irregular, lines in its translation.

Spring by Afanasy Fet

I come again with greetings new,

to tell you day is well begun;

to say the leaves are fresh with dew

and dappled in the early sun;


to tell you how the forest stirs

in every branch of every brake,

and what an April thirst is hers,

with every whistling bird awake;


to say, as yesterday, once more,

with love as passionate and true,

my heart is ready as before

for serving happiness and you;


to tell how over every thing

delight is blowing on the air –

I know not yet what I shall sing;

I only know the song is there.


by Афанасий Афанасьевич Фет (Afanasy Afanasyevich Fet)

a.k.a. Шеншин (Shenshin)


translated by Frances Cornford and Esther Polianowsky Salaman

The Way Of It by R. S. Thomas

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)

St Julian and the Leper by R. S. Thomas

Though all ran from him, he did not

Run, but awaited

Him with his arms

Out, his ears stopped

To his bell, his alarmed

Crying. He lay down

With him there, sharing his sores’

Stench, the quarantine

Of his soul; contaminating

Himself with a kiss,

With the love that

Our science has disinfected.


by R. S. Thomas

from Not That He Brought Flowers (1968)


12 February is St Julian’s feast day. He is the patron saint of: boatmen, carnival workers, childless people, circus workers, clowns, ferrymen, fiddlers, fiddle players, hospitallers, hotel-keepers, hunters, innkeepers, jugglers, knights, murderers (they have a patron saint?!), pilgrims, shepherds, to obtain lodging while traveling, travelers, wandering musicians, He is also known as Julian the Hospitaller.

We Pronounced by Olga Berggolts

We pronounced

the simplest, poorest words

as if they had never been said.

We were saying

sun, light, grass

as people pronounce

life, love, strength.


Remembered how we cleared

that eternal, accursed glacier

from the city streets – and an old man

stamped his foot against the pavement,

shouting, ‘Asphalt, friends, asphault!’


As if he were a sailor long ago,

calling out ‘Land, land!’



Ольга Фёдоровна Берггольц (Olga Fyodorovna Berggolts)

a.k.a. Olga Fyodorovna Bergholz


translated by Robert Chandler