‘I, A Butterfly That Has Flown’ by Velimir Khlebnikov

I, a butterfly that has flown

into the room of human life,

must leave the handwriting of my dust

like a prisoner’s signature

over the stern windows,

across fate’s strict panes.

The wallpaper of human life

is grey and sad.

And there is the windows’

transparent ‘No’.

 

I have worn away my deep-blue morning glow,

my patterns of dots,

my wing’s light-blue storm, first freshness.

The powder’s gone, the wings have faded

and turned transparent and hard.

Jaded, I beat

against the window of mankind.

From the other side knock eternal numbers,

summoning me to the motherland,

asking one single number

to return to all numbers.

 

by Велимир Хлебников (Velimir Khlebnikov)

a.k.a. Виктор Владимирович Хлебников (Viktor Vladimirovich Khlebnikov)

(1921)

translated by Robert Chandler


 

Fun fact: Khlebnikov possibly reflecting on Zhuangzi’s famous quote:

  • Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called the transformation of material things.
    • As translated by Lin Yutang

 

 

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To Vyazemsky by Alexander Pushkin

It seems the sea, that scourge of ages,

contrives your genius to inspire?

You laud upon your golden lyre

old Neptune’s trident as he rages.

 

Don’t waste your praise. These days you’ll find

that sea and land have no division.

On any element mankind

is tyrant, traitor, or in prison.

 

by Александр Сергеевич Пушкин (Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin)

a.k.a. Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin

(1826)

translated by  Alan Myers


 

The poem is addressed to Pushkin’s close friend and poetic contemporary Prince Pyotr Andreyevich Vyazemsky who was a leading personality of the Golden Age of Russian poetry.

Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions by John Donne

No man is an island, entire of itself;

Every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main;

If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less,

As well as if a promontory were,

As well as if a manor of thy friends or of thy own were;

Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind;

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

It tolls for thee.

 

by John Donne (1572 – 1631), England