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
Additional Information: The poem refers to Yevgeny Abramovich Baratynsky (Евге́ний Абра́мович Бараты́нский ) who was lauded by Alexander Pushkin as the finest Russian elegiac poet. After a long period, where his reputation was on the wane, Baratynsky was rediscovered by the 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)