I Was Washing At Night Out In The Yard by Osip Mandelstam

I was washing at night out in the yard,

the heavens glowing with rough stars,

a star-beam like salt upon an axe,

the water butt cold and brim full.

 

A padlock makes the gate secure,

and conscience gives sternness to the earth –

hard to find a standard anywhere

purer than the truth of new-made cloth.

 

A star melts in the water butt like salt,

cold water in the butt is blacker still,

death is more pure, disaster saltier

and earth more truthful and more terrible.

 

by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam. His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)

(Tbilisi, 1921)

translated by Peter France


 

A poem written in respone to the news of Nikolay Gumilyov‘s execution.

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Winter Sky by Innokenty Annensky

Down and away flew the melting snow;

cheeks burned red and glistened.

I had not thought the moon was so small

or the clouds so smokily distant.

 

Asking for nothing, I’ll go away,

for my number is up, for ever.

I had not thought the moon was so fair

or so feaful up in heaven.

 

Midnight is near. I’m no one, no one’s,

worn out by the spectre of life,

marvelling at the moonbeam’s smoke

in my treacherous fatherland.

 

by Иннокентий Фёдорович Анненский (Innokenty Fyodorovich Annensky)

translated by Peter France

My Country by Mikhail Lermontov

I love my country, but with a strange love –

stronger than reason!…

Neither the fame that blood can buy,

nor the calm pride of confidence,

nor the time-honoured gifts of ignorant days

can stir my soul with dreams of happiness.

But what I love – for some strange reason –

is the cold silence of her plains,

the swaying branches of her endless forests,

her rivers as wide-spreading as the sea;

galloping in a cart on country tracks

and gazing slowly deep into the dark,

seeing on either side, longing for sleep,

the poor sad villages’ bright windows.

I love the smoke of burning stubble,

the lines of carts crossing the steppe,

and in bright meadows, on a hill,

a pair of birches gleaming white.

I feel a pleasure few can share

seeing the barns piled high with grain,

the hut beneath a roof of thatch

with fretted shutters on the windows;

and on a dewy feast-day evening

I’ll gaze till late into the night

at whistling dancers, stamping feet,

and hear the drunken peasants talk.

 

by Михаил Юрьевич Лермонтов (Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov)

(1841)

translated by Peter France

My Talent Is Pitiful, My Voice Not Loud by Yevgeny Baratynsky

My talent is pitiful, my voice not loud,

but I am living; somewhere in the world

someone looks kindly on my life; far off

a distant fellow-man will read my words

and find my being; and, who knows, my soul

will raise an echo in his soul, and I

who found a friend in my own time,

will find a reader in posterity.

 

by Евгений Абрамович Баратынский (Yevgeny Abramovich Baratynsky)

(1828)

translated by Peter France