Hawks by Vladimir Soloukhin

I walk in the woods.

By fallen trees,

I cross the woodland streams.

I build myself a shelter, light a bonfire,

(Even when it’s raining,

All I need is one match

To light a good fire)

And I camp out under the rustle of rain.

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Sometimes I clamber up towards the clouds,

By way of the yellow pine branches

Covered with scaling bark.

The hawks

Are beginning their run,

Swooping like Messerschmidts.

I see their taloned feet, clasped,

Ready to sink into flesh with a deadly grip;

Into grey-hen’s flesh,

Into thrush’s flesh,

Into nightingale’s flesh,

Into quail’s –

So long as it is hot,

So long as the fresh blood spurts when

These talons sink into it,

Curved, hawk’s talons.

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I see again the eyes too

Of the swooping hawks.

The fire that burns indistinguishably in them,

Lighting the animal darkness,

Lends me determination.

(With one hand I grasp the branches,

Holding a stick in the other,

To protect the eyes and head.)

Even like this, I manage to reach the nest,

Seize the dark, rough twigs,

Like a righteous, irate god

(Debris and birds’ droppings pour down on me, into my eyes,

And the pine

Sways smoothly, pleasantly, to right and left)

Until I dislodge the nest.

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Splintering, breaking against the branches, it bumps downwards,

Lining,

Droppings,

Fledgelings and all,

For, strange as it may seem,

The pretty fledgelings

Grow into hawks again,

With talons tightly clasped,

Ready to sink into flesh…

That is why I climb the pine tree

Each time,

Whenever,

There’s a hawk nesting,

Right at the top.

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By Владимир Алексеевич Солоухин

(Vladimir Alexeyevich Soloukhin)

translated by Daniel Weissbort

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Additional information: Soloukhin lived from 1924 to 1997.

At the Moscow meeting of writers on October 31, 1958, he took part in the condemnation of the novel Doctor Zhivargo by Boris Pasternak. Soloukhin noted about the Nobel Prize laureate that Pasternak should become an emigrant:

“He will not be able to tell anything interesting there. And in a month he will be thrown out like an eaten egg, like a squeezed lemon. And then it will be a real execution for the betrayal that he committed ”

[Apologies for the rough translation. The original quote in Cyrillic is on Soloukhin’s Russian language Wikipedia page].

In his journalism of the late 1950s and early 1960s, the writer spoke out as a Russian patriot, pointed out the need to preserve national Russian traditions, and reflect on the development of Russian art.

The main theme of Soloukhin‘s work is the Russian countryside, its present and future. His works strive to demonstrate the necessity of preserving the national traditions, and ponder the ways to further develop ethnic Russian art. Vladimir Soloukhin is considered to be a leading figure of the “village prose” group of writers. His journalistic expressions of opinion during the later years of perestroika idealized pre-revolutionary Russia.

In the early 1960s he became interested in Russian icons, became an advocate for respect and attention towards them, becoming a collector and specialist in the interpretation and technique of icon painting himself. His publications on this subject – “Letters from the Russian Museum” (1966), “Black Boards” (1968) received a wide public response.

Soloukhin‘s book “Searching for Icons in Russia” describes his hobby of collecting icons. He traveled throughout the countryside in the 1950s and 1960s searching for icons. In some instances he discovered beautiful 16th century icons underneath layers of grime and over-painting yet he also finds ancient icons chopped into bits and rotting away.

He was known for his campaign to preserve pre-revolutionary Russian art and architecture. Ilya Glazunov painted a portrait of him. Soloukhin died on 4 April 1997 in Moscow and was buried in his native village.

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If you are able to find the Russian Cyrillic version of the above poem and direct me to it I would very much appreciated it.

Marx and Heine and Dowlais by Idris Davies

I used to go to St John’s Wood

On Saturday evenings in summer

To look on London behind the dusty garden trees,

And argue pleasantly and bitterly

About Marx and Heine, the iron brain and the laughing sword;

And the ghost of Keats would sit in a corner,

Smiling slowly behind a summer of wine,

Sadly smiling at the fires of the future.

And late in the summer night

I heard the tall Victorian critics snapping

Grim grey fingers at London Transport,

And sober, solemn students of James Joyce,

Dawdling and hissing into Camden Town.

 

But now in the winter dusk

I go to Dowlais Top

and stand by the railway bridge

Which joins the bleak brown hills,

And gaze at the streets of Dowlais

Lop-sided on the steep dark slope,

A bettered bucket on a broken hill,

And see the rigid phrases of Marx

Bold and black against the steel-grey west,

Riveted along the sullen skies.

And as for Heine, I look on the rough

Bleak, colourless hills around,

Naked and hard as flint,

Romance in a rough chemise.

 

by Idris Davies


Fun facts:

Dowlais is a village and community of the county borough of Merthyr Tydfil, in Wales. Dowlais is notable within Wales and Britain for its historic association with ironworking; once employing, through the Dowlais Iron Company, roughly 5,000 people, the works being the largest in the world at one stage.

Marx, I assume, refers to Karl Marx (5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) the German philosopher, economist, historian, political theorist, sociologist, journalist and revolutionary socialist.

Heine, refers to Christian Johann Heinrich Heine (13 December 1797 – 17 February 1856) was a German poet, journalist, essayist, and literary critic. He is best known outside of Germany for his early lyric poetry, which was set to music in the form of Lieder (art songs) by composers such as Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert. Heine’s later verse and prose are distinguished by their satirical wit and irony. He is considered part of the Young Germany movement. His radical political views led to many of his works being banned by German authorities, which however only added to his fame. Heine spent the last 25 years of his life as an expatriate in Paris.

James Augustine Aloysius Joyce (2 February 1882 – 13 January 1941) was an Irish novelist, short story writer, and poet. He contributed to the modernist avant-garde and is regarded as one of the most influential and important authors of the 20th century. Joyce is best known for Ulysses (1922), a landmark work in which the episodes of Homer’s Odyssey are paralleled in a variety of literary styles, most famously stream of consciousness. Other well-known works are the short-story collection Dubliners (1914), and the novels A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Finnegans Wake (1939). His other writings include three books of poetry, a play, his published letters and occasional journalism.