And I knew a destructive pleasure
in trampling what's sacred and good,
a delirium exceeding all measure -
this absinthe that poisons my blood!
by Александр Александрович Блок
(Alexander Alexandrovich Blok)
translated by Stephen Capus
You're not alone. You haven't died,
while you still,beggar-woman at your side,
take pleasure in the grandeur of the plain,
the gloom, the cold,the whirlwinds of snow.
In sumptuous penury, in mighty poverty
live comforted and at rest -
your days and nights are blest,
your sweet-voiced labour without sin.
Unhappy he, a shadow of himself,
whom a bark astounds and the wind mows down,
and to be pitied he, more dead than alive,
who begs handouts from a ghost.
by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam.)
His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)
translated by Andrew Davis
Three Robinson Crusoes
in an abandoned shack,
we found a real find -
a single, battered book.
We three were friends
and we quickly agreed
to share out this treasure
as Solomon decreed.
The foreword for cigarette paper:
one friend was delighted
with a gift so unlikely
he feared he was dreaming.
The second made playing cards
from the notes at the back.
May his play bring him pleasure,
every page bring him luck.
As for my own cut -
those precious jottings,
the dreams of a poet
now long forgotten -
it was all that I wanted.
How wisely we'd judged.
What a joy to set foot in
a forgotten hut.
by Варлам Тихонович Шаламов (Varlam Tikhonovich Shalamov)
translated by Robert Chandler
Interesting extra: The poem refers to Yevgeny Abramovich Baratynsky (Евге́ний Абра́мович Бараты́нский ) was lauded by AlexanderPushkin as the finest Russian elegiac poet. After a long period when his reputation was on the wane, Baratynsky was rediscovered by Russian Symbolism poets as a supreme poet of thought..
A simple man,
He liked the crease on the water
His cast made, but had no pity
For the broken backbone
Of water or fish.
One of his pleasures, thirsty,
Was to ask a drink
At the hot farms;
Leaving with a casual thank you,
As though they owed it him.
I could have told of the living water
That springs pure.
He would have smiled then,
Dancing his speckled fly in the shallows,
by R. S. Thomas
from Not That He Brought Flowers (1968)
On the hottest, stillest day of the summer
A calf was born in a field
At Pant-y-Cetris; two buzzards
Measured the volume of the sky;
The hills brimmed with incoming
Night. In the long grass we could see
The cow, her sides heaving, a focus
Of restlessness in the complete calm,
Her calling at odds with silence.
The light flowed out leaving stars
And clarity. Hot and slippery, the scalding
Baby came, and the cow stood up, her cool
Flanks like white flowers in the dark.
We waited while the calf struggled
To stand, moved as though this
Were the first time. I could feel the soft sucking
Of the new-born, the tugging pleasure
Of bruised reordering, the signal
Of milk’s incoming tide, and satisfaction
Fall like a clean sheet around us.
by Gillian Clarke
from The Sundial (Gwasg Gomer, 1978)
Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove,
That Valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.
And we will sit upon the Rocks,
Seeing the Shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow Rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing Madrigals.
And I will make thee beds of Roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of Myrtle;
A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty Lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;
A belt of straw and Ivy buds,
With Coral clasps and Amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me, and be my love.
The Shepherds’ Swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me, and be my love.
by Christopher ‘Kit’ Marlowe
Fun fact: This was posted on the day of the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on 19 May 2018 which took place at Windsor Castle in England.
The poem was published six years after the poet’s death by stabbing. A warrant was issued for Marlowe’s arrest on 18 May 1593. No reason was given for it, though it was thought to be connected to allegations of blasphemy—a manuscript believed to have been written by Marlowe was said to contain “vile heretical conceipts”. On 20 May, he was brought to the court to attend upon the Privy Council for questioning. There is no record of their having met that day, however, and he was commanded to attend upon them each day thereafter until “licensed to the contrary”. Ten days later, he was stabbed to death by Ingram Frizer. Whether or not the stabbing was connected to his arrest remains unknown.
The poem was the subject of a well-known “reply” by Walter Raleigh, called “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd”. The interplay between the two poems reflects the relationship that Marlowe had with Raleigh. Marlowe was young, his poetry romantic and rhythmic, and in the Passionate Shepherd he idealises the love object (the Nymph). Raleigh was an old courtier and an accomplished poet himself. His attitude is more jaded, and in writing “The Nymph’s Reply,” it is clear that he is rebuking Marlowe for being naive and juvenile in both his writing style and the Shepherd’s thoughts about love. Subsequent responses to Marlowe have come from John Donne, C. Day Lewis, William Carlos Williams, Ogden Nash, W. D. Snodgrass, Douglas Crase and Greg Delanty, and Robert Herrick.
It is in the hands of other people
that supply the needs of our bodies,
both in our infancy and beyond.
For each of us lives in and through
an immense movement
of the hands of other people.
The hands of other people lift us from the womb.
The hands of other people grow the food we eat,
weave the clothes we wear and
build the shelters we inhabit.
the hands of other people give pleasure to our bodies
in moments of passion
and aid and comfort in times of affliction and distress.
It is in and through the hands of other people
that the commonwealth of nature is appropriated
and accommodated to the needs of pleasures
of our seperate, individual lives, and,
at the end,
it is the hands of other people that lower us into the earth.
by James Stockinger