Верю (I Believe) by Varlam Shalamov

Off once more to the post:
will I find your letter?
My mind races all night
and daytime’s no better.

I believe, I believe in omens,
in dreams and spiders.
I have confidence in skis,
in slim boats on rivers.

I have faith in diesel engines,
in their roars and growls,
in the wings of carrier pigeons
in tall ships with white sails.

I place my trust in steamers
and in the strength of trains;
I have even dreamed of
the right weather for planes.

I believe in reindeer sledges,
in the worth of a compass
and a frost-stiffened map
when there is no path;

in teams of huskies,
in daredevil coachmen,
in tortoise indolence
and the snail’s composure.

I believe in the powers
of that wish-granting pike
in my thinning blood…
I believe in my own endurance;
and in your love.

.

by Варлам Тихонович Шаламов
Varlam Tikhonovich Shalamov)
(1952)
translated by Robert Chandler

Beneath is the original version in Cyrillic.

Верю

Сотый раз иду на почту
За твоим письмом.
Мне теперь не спится ночью,
Не живется днем.

Верю, верю всем приметам,
Снам и паукам.
Верю лыжам, верю летом
Узким челнокам.

Верю в рев автомобилей,
Бурных дизелей,
В голубей почтовых крылья,
В мачты кораблей.

Верю в трубы пароходов,
Верю в поезда.
Даже в летную погоду
Верю иногда.

Верю я в оленьи нарты,
В путевой компас
У заиндевевшей карты
В безысходный час.

В ямщиков лихих кибиток,
В ездовых собак…
Хладнокровию улиток,
Лени черепах…

Верю щучьему веленью,
Стынущей крови…
Верю своему терпенью
И твоей любви.

Additional information: The reference to a ‘wish-granting pike’ to the Russian folk tale ‘Yemelya the Fool‘ in which the lazy protagonist saves the life of a fish which grants his wishes.

Shalamov notes the poem was “…written in 1952 in Baragon, near Oymyakon airport and Tomtor post office. About this time I wrote another great poem ‘Tomtor’s Mail’ – a ‘paired’ poem for ‘The Hundredth Time’.”

‘She came in out of the frost’ by Alexander Blok

She came in out of the frost,
her cheeks glowing,
and filled my whole room
with the scent of fresh air
and perfume
and resonant chatter
that did away with my last chance
of getting anywhere in my work.

Straightaway
she dropped a hefty art journal
onto the floor
and at once
there was no room any more
in my large room

All this
was somewhat annoying,
if not absurd.
Next, she wanted Macbeth
read aloud to her.

Barely had I reached
the earth’s bubbles
which never failed to entrance me
when I realized that she,
no less entranced,
was staring out of the window.

A large tabby cat
was creeping along the edge of the roof
towards some amorous pigeons.
What angered me most
was that it should be pigeons,
not she and I,
who were necking,
and that the days of Paolo and Francesca
were long gone.


by Александр Александрович Блок
(Alexander Alexandrovich Blok)
(1908)
translated by Robert Chandler

Additional information: ‘The earth’s bubbles’ in this poem references a line from Act I, scene 3 of Shakespeare’s play Macbeth “The earth hath bubbles, as the water has, / And these are of them.” which Banquo says to Macbeth when the witches disappear after their encounter. Between 1904 and 1905 Blok wrote a poem cycle he titled ‘Bubbles of the Earth’, incorporating motifs from folk magic. In 1907 he wrote of Shakespeare, ‘ I love him deeply; and perhaps, most deely of all – in the whole of world literature – Macbeth’.

Paolo and Francesca refers to the affair between Francesca and her brother-in-law Paolo Malatesta, both of who were married, but fell in love nonetheless. Their tragic adulterous story was told by Dante in his Divine Comedy, Canto V of the Inferno, and was a popular subject with Victorian artists and sculptors, especially with followers of the Pre-Raphaelite ideology, and with other writers.