О, этот воздух, смутой пьяный… (‘On the black square of the Kremlin…’) by Osip Mandelstam

On the black square of the Kremlin

the air is drunk with mutiny.

A shaky ‘peace’ is rocked by rebels,

the poplars puff seditiously.

.

The wax faces of the cathedrals

and the dense forest of the bells

tell us – inside the stony rafters

a tongueless brigand is concealed.

.

But inside the sealed-up cathedrals

the air we breathe is cool and dark,

as though a Russian wine is coursing

through Greece’s earthenware jars.

.

Assumption’s paradise of arches

soars up in an astonished curve;

and now the green Annunciation

awakens, cooing like a dove.

.

The Archangel and Resurrection

let in the light like glowing palms –

everything is secretly burning,

the jugs are full of hidden flames.

.

.

by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam.)

His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)

(April 1916)

translated by Thomas de Waal

Mandelstam’s poem set to music composed and performed by the singer-songwriter Larisa Novoseltseva. Performed at the House of Journalists, Moscow, on February 24, 2010. She is composer and performer of songs and ballads on poems by more than forty Russian poets, mostly of the Silver Age. Check out more of her work on YouTube!

Beneath is the original Russian language version of the poem in Cyrillic.

О, этот воздух, смутой пьяный…

О, этот воздух, смутой пьяный,

На черной площади Кремля.

Качают шаткий «мир» смутьяны,

Тревожно пахнут тополя.

.

Соборов восковые лики,

Колоколов дремучий лес,

Как бы разбойник безъязыкий

В стропилах каменных исчез.

.

А в запечатанных соборах,

Где и прохладно и темно,

Как в нежных глиняных амфорах,

Играет русское вино.

.

Успенский, дивно округленный,

Весь удивленье райских дуг,

И Благовещенский, зеленый,

И, мнится, заворкует вдруг.

.

Архангельский и Воскресенья

Просвечивают, как ладонь,—

Повсюду скрытое горенье,

В кувшинах спрятанный огонь…

Autumn Gold by William Hayles

Golden leaves beneath my feet,

Autumn winds through my hair,

Flowers fade in slow retreat,

Foxes sleeping in their lair.

.

Ashen skies of nimbus flocks,

Shrieking geese flee from the east,

Falling showers of icy drops,

Soaking land, man and beasts.

.

Short days fly from dawn to dusk,

Chill nights sheltered by crackling fire,

Cattle in byre, fed on husks,

Springs green pastures their desire.

.

Boughs of apples creak and groan,

Hazels hardening on the tree,

Fields of stubble, freshly mown,

Swallows gone beyond the seas.

.

Orion’s sword arm held on high,

His flashing belt diamond bright,

The autumn stars invade the sky,

And silvery moon lights up the night.

.

It’s chestnut roasting, marshmallow toasting,

Hot toddies and mulled ales downed,

In the hedgerow robins boasting,

Leafy carpet covers the ground.

.

Autumn, herald for the winter,

All brown and red burnished gold,

Time is passing like a sprinter,

Now the year is growing old.

.

.

By William Hayles

Домби и сын (Dombey and Son) by Osip Mandelstam

The shrillness of the English language

and Oliver’s dejected look

have merged: I see the youngster languish

among a pile of office books.

.

Charles Dickens – ask him; he will tell you

what was in London long ago:

the City, Dombey, assets’ value,

the River Thames’s rusty flow.

.

‘Mid rain and tears and counted money,

Paul Dombey’s curly-haired son

cannot believe that clerks are funny

and laughs at neither joke nor pun.

.

The office chairs are sorry splinters;

each broken farthing put to use,

and numbers swarm in springs and winters,

like bees perniciously let loose.

.

Attorneys study every letter;

in smoke and stench they hone their stings,

and, from a noose, the luckless debtor –

a piece of bast – in silence swings.

.

His foes enjoy their lawful robbing,

lost are for him all earthly boons,

and lo! His only daughter, sobbing,

embraces checkered pantaloons.

.

.

by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam.)

His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)

(1913)

translated by Anatoly Liberman

from the poetry collection камен (Stone)

.

‘This is a hauntingly beautiful lyric, though all the references are wrong; Oliver Twist does not spend a minute in the office, Paul Dombey never deals with his father’s clerks, no one cracks jokes in his presence, no debtor hangs himself in that novel, and the Thames is not Yellow.’

– Anatoly Liberman
The poem recited in Russian by Stanislav Komardin.

Beneath is the original, Russian Cyrillic, version of the poem.

Домби и сын

Когда, пронзительнее свиста,

Я слышу английский язык —

Я вижу Оливера Твиста

Над кипами конторских книг.

.

У Чарльза Диккенса спросите,

Что было в Лондоне тогда:

Контора Домби в старом Сити

И Темзы желтая вода…

.

Дожди и слезы. Белокурый

И нежный мальчик — Домби-сын;

Веселых клэрков каламбуры

Не понимает он один.

.

В конторе сломанные стулья,

На шиллинги и пенсы счет;

Как пчелы, вылетев из улья,

Роятся цифры круглый год.

.

А грязных адвокатов жало

Работает в табачной мгле —

И вот, как старая мочала,

Банкрот болтается в петле.

.

На стороне врагов законы:

Ему ничем нельзя помочь!

И клетчатые панталоны,

Рыдая, обнимает дочь…

Мужья со своими делами, нервами… (‘Always busy, plagued by anxiety…’ a.k.a ‘Husbands with their doings and nerves…’) by Boris Slutsky

Always busy, plagued by anxiety,

guilt-ridden, duty to be done –

husbands should be the first to die;

never the ones who’re left alone.

.

Wives should grow old slowly. Aim

for the four-score-and-twenty mark, even;

not every day, but from time to time

remembering their men.

.

You should not have left the way

you did. That was wrong.

With a kind smile on your face

you should have lived on,

you should have lived long.

.

Until their hair turns white –

for wives, that’s the way to wait,

.

getting on with things around the home,

breaking the odd heart if they can,

and even (well, where’s the harm?)

toasting the memory of their old man.

.

.

by Борис Абрамович Слуцкий

(Boris Abramovich Slutsky)

(1977)

translated by G. S. Smith

.

Here is an alternative translation of this poem by Gerald S. Smith.

Beneath is the original Russian version of the poem in Cyrillic.

.

Мужья со своими делами, нервами…

Мужья со своими делами, нервами,
чувством долга, чувством вины
должны умирать первыми, первыми,
вторыми они умирать не должны.

Жены должны стареть понемногу,
хоть до столетних дойдя рубежей,
изредка, впрочем, снова и снова
вспоминая своих мужей.

Ты не должна была делать так,
как ты сделала. Ты не должна была.
С доброй улыбкою на устах
жить ты должна была,
долго должна была.

Жить до старости, до седины
жены обязаны и должны,

делая в доме свои дела,
чьи-нибудь сердца разбивая
или даже — была не была —
чарку — в память мужей — распивая.

Не выходи из комнаты (Don’t Leave The Room) by Joseph Brodsky

Don’t leave the room, don’t blunder, do not go on.
If you’re smoking Shipka, what good is the Sun?
Outside, all is meaningless, especially – the cry of joy.
To the lavatory and back straightaway, old boy.

O, don’t leave the room, don’t call for a cab, my friend.
Because Space is a corridor that will end
with a meter. And, if your dear, delight expressing,
walks inside, kick her out without undressing.

Don’t leave the room; pretend that you have a cold.
Four walls and a chair entice like nothing else in the world.
Why leave the place that you’ll surely return to late in
the night, as you were, only more – mutilated?

O, don’t leave the room. Enchanted, dance bossa nova
in shoes worn on bare feet, in a coat draped over
your naked body. The hall reeks of ski wax and cabbage.
You’ve written a lot; more would be extra baggage.

Don’t leave the room. Let only the room imagine a little
what you might look like. And besides, incognito
ergo sum, as form itself learned from substance once.
Don’t leave the room! Outside, you will not find France.

Don’t be a fool! Be what others weren’t. Remain.
Don’t leave the room! Let the furniture have free reign,
blend in with wallpaper. Bolt the door, barricade in place
with a dresser from chronos, cosmos, eros, virus, race.

.

by Иосиф Александрович Бродский

(Joseph Aleksandrovich Brodsky a.k.a. Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky)

(1970)

translated by ??? (I’ve lost track of who did this translation so any aid in attributing the appropriate credit would be greatly appreciated)

Brodsky reciting his poem in Russian

Beneath is the original Russian version of the poem in Cyrillic.

Не выходи из комнаты

Не выходи из комнаты, не совершай ошибку.
Зачем тебе Солнце, если ты куришь Шипку?
За дверью бессмысленно все, особенно — возглас счастья.
Только в уборную — и сразу же возвращайся.

О, не выходи из комнаты, не вызывай мотора.
Потому что пространство сделано из коридора
и кончается счетчиком. А если войдет живая
милка, пасть разевая, выгони не раздевая.

Не выходи из комнаты; считай, что тебя продуло.
Что интересней на свете стены и стула?
Зачем выходить оттуда, куда вернешься вечером
таким же, каким ты был, тем более — изувеченным?

О, не выходи из комнаты. Танцуй, поймав, боссанову
в пальто на голое тело, в туфлях на босу ногу.
В прихожей пахнет капустой и мазью лыжной.
Ты написал много букв; еще одна будет лишней.

Не выходи из комнаты. О, пускай только комната
догадывается, как ты выглядишь. И вообще инкогнито
эрго сум, как заметила форме в сердцах субстанция.
Не выходи из комнаты! На улице, чай, не Франция.

Не будь дураком! Будь тем, чем другие не были.
Не выходи из комнаты! То есть дай волю мебели,
слейся лицом с обоями. Запрись и забаррикадируйся
шкафом от хроноса, космоса, эроса, расы, вируса.

Another recital of the poem by the Russian actor and activist Алексей Девотченко (Alexei Devotchenko)

Additional Information:

Here is an interesting article, with an alternative translation of this poem, by Alexandra Berlina regarding Brodsky and the timeliness of this poem at the moment.

In particular this translation note, from the article, where she discusses the choices faced in expressing wordplay successfully to an audience unlikely to be familiar with the original cultural context:

the original second line says ‘Why should you need the sun (solntse) if you smoke Shipka?’ Both Solntse and Shipka were brands of Bulgarian cigarettes. I decided against attempts along the lines of ‘You read The Guardian, why should you need the sun?’, Brodsky being a Russian chain smoker rather than a British liberal.

Alexandra Berlina

‘God’s fool, God’s jester’ by R. S. Thomas

God’s fool, God’s jester

capering at his right hand

in torment, proving the fallacy

of the impassible, reminding

him of omnipotence’s limits.

.

I have seen the figure

on our human tree, burned

into it by thought’s lightning

and it writhed as I looked.

.

A god had no alternative

but himself. With what crown

plurality but with thorns?

Whose is the mirthless laughter

at the beloved irony

at his side? The universe over,

omniscience warns, the crosses

are being erected from such

material as is available

to remorse. What are the stars

but time’s fires going out

before ever the crucified

can be taken down?

Today

there is only this one option

before me. Remembering,

as one goes out into space,

on the way to the sun,

how dark it will grow,

I stare up into the darkness

of his countenance, knowing it

a reflection of the three days and nights

at the back of love’s looking-

glass even a god must spend.

.

.

by R. S. Thomas

from Counterpoint; 3. Crucifixion (1990)

Healing by R. S. Thomas

Sick wards. The sailed beds

becalmed. The nurses tack

hither and fro. The chloroform

breeze rises and falls.

Hospitals are their own

weather. The temperatures

have no relation

to the world outside. The surgeons,

those cunning masters

of navigation, follow

their scalpels’ compass through

hurricanes of pain to a calm

harbour. Somewhere far down

in the patient’s darkness,

where faith died, like a graft

or a transplant prayer

get to work, repairing

the soul’s tissue, leading

the astonishing self between

twin pillars, where life’s angels

stand wielding their bright swords of flame.

.

.

by R. S. Thomas

from Mass for Hard Times

(1992)

Alive by R. S. Thomas

It is alive. It is you,

God. Looking out I can see,

no death. The earth moves, the

sea moves, the wind goes

on its exuberant

journeys. Many creatures

reflect you, the flowers

your colour, the tides the precision

of your calculations. There

is nothing too ample

for you to overflow, nothing

so small that your workmanship

is not revealed. I listen

and it is you speaking.

I find the place where you lay

warm. At night, if I waken,

there are the sleepless conurbations

of the stars. The darkness

is the deepening shadow

of your presence; the silence a

process in the metabolism

of the being of love.

.

.

by R. S. Thomas

from Laboratories of the Spirit

(1975)

Hawks by Vladimir Soloukhin

I walk in the woods.

By fallen trees,

I cross the woodland streams.

I build myself a shelter, light a bonfire,

(Even when it’s raining,

All I need is one match

To light a good fire)

And I camp out under the rustle of rain.

.

Sometimes I clamber up towards the clouds,

By way of the yellow pine branches

Covered with scaling bark.

The hawks

Are beginning their run,

Swooping like Messerschmidts.

I see their taloned feet, clasped,

Ready to sink into flesh with a deadly grip;

Into grey-hen’s flesh,

Into thrush’s flesh,

Into nightingale’s flesh,

Into quail’s –

So long as it is hot,

So long as the fresh blood spurts when

These talons sink into it,

Curved, hawk’s talons.

.

I see again the eyes too

Of the swooping hawks.

The fire that burns indistinguishably in them,

Lighting the animal darkness,

Lends me determination.

(With one hand I grasp the branches,

Holding a stick in the other,

To protect the eyes and head.)

Even like this, I manage to reach the nest,

Seize the dark, rough twigs,

Like a righteous, irate god

(Debris and birds’ droppings pour down on me, into my eyes,

And the pine

Sways smoothly, pleasantly, to right and left)

Until I dislodge the nest.

.

Splintering, breaking against the branches, it bumps downwards,

Lining,

Droppings,

Fledgelings and all,

For, strange as it may seem,

The pretty fledgelings

Grow into hawks again,

With talons tightly clasped,

Ready to sink into flesh…

That is why I climb the pine tree

Each time,

Whenever,

There’s a hawk nesting,

Right at the top.

.

.

By Владимир Алексеевич Солоухин

(Vladimir Alexeyevich Soloukhin)

translated by Daniel Weissbort

.

.

Additional information: Soloukhin lived from 1924 to 1997.

At the Moscow meeting of writers on October 31, 1958, he took part in the condemnation of the novel Doctor Zhivargo by Boris Pasternak. Soloukhin noted about the Nobel Prize laureate that Pasternak should become an emigrant:

“He will not be able to tell anything interesting there. And in a month he will be thrown out like an eaten egg, like a squeezed lemon. And then it will be a real execution for the betrayal that he committed ”

[Apologies for the rough translation. The original quote in Cyrillic is on Soloukhin’s Russian language Wikipedia page].

In his journalism of the late 1950s and early 1960s, the writer spoke out as a Russian patriot, pointed out the need to preserve national Russian traditions, and reflect on the development of Russian art.

The main theme of Soloukhin‘s work is the Russian countryside, its present and future. His works strive to demonstrate the necessity of preserving the national traditions, and ponder the ways to further develop ethnic Russian art. Vladimir Soloukhin is considered to be a leading figure of the “village prose” group of writers. His journalistic expressions of opinion during the later years of perestroika idealized pre-revolutionary Russia.

In the early 1960s he became interested in Russian icons, became an advocate for respect and attention towards them, becoming a collector and specialist in the interpretation and technique of icon painting himself. His publications on this subject – “Letters from the Russian Museum” (1966), “Black Boards” (1968) received a wide public response.

Soloukhin‘s book “Searching for Icons in Russia” describes his hobby of collecting icons. He traveled throughout the countryside in the 1950s and 1960s searching for icons. In some instances he discovered beautiful 16th century icons underneath layers of grime and over-painting yet he also finds ancient icons chopped into bits and rotting away.

He was known for his campaign to preserve pre-revolutionary Russian art and architecture. Ilya Glazunov painted a portrait of him. Soloukhin died on 4 April 1997 in Moscow and was buried in his native village.

.

If you are able to find the Russian Cyrillic version of the above poem and direct me to it I would very much appreciated it.

The Willow by Vladimir Soloukhin

The willow

Over past the potato patch

Is the least lucky

Of all the trees of our village –

The spot has been turned into a rubbish dump.

Yes. In the first place, no one knows whose it was,

Who planted it there, or why –

We don’t know.

If it’s always clean and tidy as a peasant’s hut

Round other

Perfectly ordinary, pleasant willows,

Round that godforsaken one

All manner of trash is piled.

People bring scrap iron,

Galoshes, boots,

Not fit for anything now, of course,

(If they were any good at all, they wouldn’t be there),

And when the cat dies, it’s dumped by the tree.

So encircled is the poor willow

With old boots, rags and rotting cats

That it’s advisable to give it a wide berth.

.

But still, when May comes,

The willow, up to its knees in muck,

Suddenly begins gently to gild itself.

It doesn’t give a damn about the torn galoshes,

The jars and tins, the old clothes.

It blossoms as do all its earthly sisters.

Shyly it blossoms

With innocent flowers, so pure,

Turned towards the sun, for the first time opening.

And the sun shines. And the whole tree smells of honey.

.

And, incidentally, bees fly to it,

In spite of the rubbish lying at its foot,

And bears away the translucent honey of its flowers

To people who abuse trees.

.

.

by Владимир Алексеевич Солоухин

(Vladimir Alexeyevich Soloukhin)

translated by Daniel Weissbort

Additional information: Soloukhin lived from 1924 to 1997.

At the Moscow meeting of writers on October 31, 1958, he took part in the condemnation of the novel Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. Soloukhin noted about the Nobel Prize laureate that Pasternak should become an emigrant:

“He will not be able to tell anything interesting there. And in a month he will be thrown out like an eaten egg, like a squeezed lemon. And then it will be a real execution for the betrayal that he committed ”

[Apologies for the rough translation – the original version of the quote, in Cyrillic, can be found on the Soloukhin’s Russian Wikipedia page].

In his journalism of the late 1950s and early 1960s, Soloukhin spoke out as a Russian patriot, pointed out the need to preserve national traditions, and reflected on the development of Russian art.

The main theme of Soloukhin’s poetic and literary work is the Russian countryside, its present and future. His works strive to demonstrate the necessity of preserving Russia’s national traditions, and pondering the ways to further develop ethnic Russian art.

Vladimir Soloukhin is considered to be a leading figure of the “village prose” group of writers. His journalistic expressions of opinion during the later years of perestroika idealized pre-revolutionary Russia. So it is interesting to note that while other groups had their works censored or suppressed the ‘village writers’ works were passed with such criticism due to their idealising of the manual laborer contributing to society.

In the early 1960s he became interested in Russian icons, eventually becoming a respected advocate of them, as well as a collector and specialist in the interpretation and technique of icon painting. His publications on this subject – “Letters from the Russian Museum” (1966) and “Black Boards” (1968) received a wide public response.

Soloukhin’s book “Searching for Icons in Russia” describes his hobby of collecting icons. He traveled throughout the countryside in the 1950s and 1960s searching for icons. In some instances he discovered beautiful 16th century icons underneath layers of grime and over-painting yet he also finds ancient icons chopped into bits and rotting away.

He was known for his campaign to preserve pre-revolutionary Russian art and architecture. Ilya Glazunov painted a portrait of him. He died on 4 April 1997 in Moscow and was buried in his native village.

.

If you are able to find the Russian Cyrillic version of the above poem and direct me to it I would very much appreciated it.