What a sturdy square block of a thing you are! Such a fine, white, self-satisfied creature! Sometimes you stand dumb as a boulder or drop off into a cold sleep, or Sometimes your metal belly rumbles, but there's no point in working out your meaning. Of all machines the fridge must be the most good-natured; hog-fat and roomy as a snow-drift, it must be said to hold the purest heart. Firmly under human domination even the cold that creeps out from it is only a small cold blast, too small to threaten any freeze-up of our future. If ever robots rise in revolution, if ever they attack the human race, at least you refrigerators won't be amongst the ones to break the peace. For you are the house-dog of machinery a faithful and contented animal; so give your door a docile wag for Man, your living friend, and show him how you smile. by Борис Абрамович Слуцкий (Boris Abramovich Slutsky) (19??) translated by Elaine Feinstein
White sail out in the bay
billowing in the wind.
Why sail so far away?
Why leave so much behind?
Winds must play on the seas
and masts creak in the wind.
Fortune is not what he seeks,
nor what he's left behind.
A golden light still pours
down onto deep blue seas;
this rebel, alas, seeks storms,
as if in storms lies peace.
by Михаил Юрьевич Лермонтов
(Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov)
translated by Robert Chandler
Beneath is the original Russian Cyrillic version of the poem.
Белеет парус одинокой
В тумане моря голубом!..
Что ищет он в стране далекой?
Что кинул он в краю родном?...
Играют волны — ветер свищет,
И мачта гнется и скрыпит...
Увы! Он счастия не ищет
И не от счастия бежит!
Под ним струя светлей лазури,
Над ним луч солнца золотой...
А он, мятежный, просит бури,
Как будто в бурях есть покой!
Additional notes: This is an alternative translation of Lermontov’s poem Парус compared to that made by Frances Cornford and Esther Polianowsky Salaman which closely reproduced the original’s external form while this version is more condensed.
The Sail was written when Mikhail Lermontov was only 17 years old in 1832. This was the year when he was forced to leave Moscow and his university studies. Recorded in a letter sent by Maria Lopukhina, whom he had sent the first version of the poem, upon his arrival in Saint Petersburg Lermontov immediately produced this poem’s outline while walking along the Gulf of Finland’s shoreline.
Getting up early on a Sunday morning
leaving them sleep for the sake of peace,
the lunch pungent, windows open
for a blackbird singing in Cyncoed.
Starlings glistening in the gutter come
for seed. I let the cats in from the night,
their fur already glossed and warm with March.
I bring the milk, newspaper, settle here
in the bay of the window to watch people
walking to church for Mothering Sunday.
A choirboy holds his robes over his shoulder.
The cats jump up on windowsills to wash
and tremble at the starlings. Like peaty water
sun slowly fills the long brown room.
Opening the paper I admit to this
the water-shriek and starved stare
of a warning I can't name.
By Gillian Clarke
from Letter from a Far Country (1982)
Cyncoed is a community in the north of the city of Cardiff, capital of Wales. Located to the north east of the city, Cyncoed is one of the most affluent suburbs of Cardiff. It has some of the highest property prices in Wales. Cyncoed is a short distance from the city centre and boasts beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. It is also just a short walk from the well known Roath Park.
It was our last inter-glacial:
the flies, people,
the one as numerous
as the other. We talked
peace, and brought our arms up to date.
The young ones professed
love, embarassing themselves
with their language. As though
coming round on a new
gyre, we approached God
from the far side, an extinct concept.
no one returned from our space
probes, yet still there were
volunteers, believing that as
gravity slackened its hold
on the body, so would time
on the mind. Our scientists,
immaculately dressed not
conceived, preached to us
from their space-stations, calling us
to consider the clockwork birds
and fabricated lilies, how they
also, as they were conditioned to
do, were neither toiling nor spinning.
by R. S. Thomas
from Mass for Hard Times (1992)E
Christian eschatology is a major branch of study within Christian theology dealing with the “last things.” Eschatology, from two Greek words meaning “last” (ἔσχατος) and “study” (-λογία), is the study of ‘end things’, whether the end of an individual life, the end of the age, the end of the world and the nature of the Kingdom of God. Broadly speaking, Christian eschatology is the study concerned with the ultimate destiny of the individual soul and the entire created order, based primarily upon biblical texts within the Old and New Testament. The part of theology concerned with death, judgement, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind.
Thomas approaches this with a cynical mindset having lived through the threat of a nuclear winter during the Cold War, hippies during the Summer of Love and diminishing church attendance as people favour logic over faith. He bitterly reflects that science is no closer to answering the great questions of existence, posed by eschatology, than theology yet one is dismissed while the other embraced.
Throughout the poem he plays with Christian terminology and imagery to indicate the substitution of Christ with scientists, everlasting life after death with an effort to achieve immortality during this life instead and how to him it is, in comparison, an artificial form of true enlightenment and surpassing our mortal bonds.
In that day language
shall expose its sores,
begging for the alms
we can not give. ‘Leave it’
we shall say, ‘on the pavement
of the quotidian.’ There is
a cause there is nobody
to plead, yet whose sealed lips
are its credentials. What
does the traveller to your door
ask, but that you sit down
and share with him that
for which there are no words?
I look forward to the peace
conferences of the future
when lies, hidden behind speeches,
shall have their smiles blown away
by the dove’s wings, fanning in silence.
by R. S. Thomas
Mass for Hard Times (1992)
It’s time my friends, it’s time. We long for peace
of heart. But days chase days and every hour
gone by means one less hour to come. We live
our lives, dear friend, in hope of life, then die.
There is no happiness on earth, but peace
exists, and freedom too. Tired slave, I dream
of flight, of taking refuge in some far-
off home of quiet joys and honest labour.
by Александр Сергеевич Пушкин (Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin)
a.k.a. Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin
translated by Robert Chandler
He addressed great congregations
And rolled his tongue with grease,
And his belly always flourished,
In times of war or peace.
He would talk of distant comrades
And brothers o’er the sea,
And snarl above his liquor
about neighbours two or three.
He knew a lot about public money –
More than he liked to say –
And sometimes sat with the paupers
To increase his Extra pay.
He could quote from Martin Tupper
and Wilhelmina Stitch,
And creep from chapel to bargain
With the likeliest local bitch.
He could swindle and squeal and snivel
And cheat and chant and pray,
and retreat like a famous general
When Truth would bar his way.
But God grew sick and tired
Of such a godly soul,
And sent down Death to gather
His body to a hole.
But before he died, the Bounder
Said: ‘My children, be at peace;
I know I am going to heaven,
So rub my tongue with grease.’
by Idris Davies
Fun facts: Martin Tupper was an English writer, and poet, and the author of Proverbial Philosophy. Wilhelmina Stitch was one of the pen names of Ruth Collie, an English born poet who started her writing career in Winnipeg, Manitoba.