Countering by R. S. Thomas

Then there is the clock's

commentary, the continuing

prose that is the under-current

of all poetry. We listen

to it as, on a desert island,

men do to the subdued

music of their blood in a shell.


Then take my hand that is

of the bone the island

is made of, and looking at

me say what time it is

on love's face, for we have

no business here other than

to disprove certainties the clock knows.


by R. S. Thomas

from Experimenting with an Amen (1986)
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‘People, Years and Nations’ by Velimir Khlebnikov

People, years and nations

run away forever

like a flowing river.

In nature’s supple mirror

We’re the fish,

dark’s ghosts are gods,

and the constellations

knot night’s nets.

 

by Велимир Хлебников (Velimir Khlebnikov)

a.k.a. Виктор Владимирович Хлебников

(Viktor Vladimirovich Khlebnikov)

(1915)

translated by Robert Chandler


Fun fact: This was written shortly before the centenary of Derzhavin’s death, continuing the theme’s of his last poem.

‘What’s War? What’s Plague…’ by Anna Akhmatova

What’s war? What’s plague? We know that they will pass,

Judgement is passed, we see an end to them.

But which of us can cope with this fear, this –

The terror that is named the flight of time?

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

Komarovo, 9 September (1964)

from Седьмая книга (The Seventh Book)

translation by D. M. Thomas

‘Blows The Swan Wind…’ by Anna Akhmatova

Blows the swan wind,

The blue sky’s smeared

With blood; the anniversary

Of your love’s first days draws near.

 

You have destroyed

My sorcery; like water the years

Have drifted by. Why

Aren’t you old, but as you were?

 

Your tender voice even more ringing…

Only your serene brow

Has taken from time’s wing

A scattering of snow.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1922)

– from Anno Domini MCMXXI translation by D. M. Thomas

The Sunlight On The Garden by Louis MacNeice

The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold,
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon.

Our freedom as free lances
Advances towards its end;
The earth compels, upon it
Sonnets and birds descend;
And soon, my friend,
We shall have no time for dances.

The sky was good for flying
Defying the church bells
And every evil iron
Siren and what it tells:
The earth compels,
We are dying, Egypt, dying

And not expecting pardon,
Hardened in heart anew,
But glad to have sat under
Thunder and rain with you,
And grateful too
For sunlight on the garden.

 

by Louis MacNeice (1907 – 1963)

The Constancy of Merriment and Dirt by Daniil Kharms

Cool Water gurgles in the river

and the mountains’ shadow lies on the fields

and light fades in the sky. And birds

are already flying in dreams.

And the yardman with the black moustache

stands all night by the gate

and under his dirty hat he scratches

the back of his head with dirty hands.

And through the window come merry shouts,

the stamping of feet and the ring of bottles.

 

A day goes by, then a week,

and then the years go by

and people vanish

in neat ranks into their graves.

While the yardman with the black moustache

stands for years by the gate

and under his dirty hat he scratches

the back of his head with dirty hands.

And through the window come merry shouts,

the stamping of feet and the ring of bottles.

 

The moon and the sun have paled,

constellations have changed shape,

motion has become sticky

and time has become like sand.

While the yardman with the black moustache

stands again by the gate

and under his dirty hat he scratches

the back of his head with dirty hands.

And through the window come merry shouts,

the stamping of feet and the ring of bottles.

 

by Даниил Иванович Хармс (Daniil Kharms, 1933)

translated by Robert Chandler