The River by R. S. Thomas

And the cobbled water

Of the stream with the trout’s indelible

Shadows that winter

Has not erased – I walk it

Again under a clean

Sky with the fish, speckled like thrushes,

Silently singing among the weed’s

Branches.

I bring the heart

Not the mind to the interpretation

Of their music, letting the stream

Comb me, feeling it fresh

In my veins, revisiting the sources

That are as near now

As on the morning I set out from them.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from H’m (1972)

Advertisements

In Early Autumn Sweetly Wistful by Fyodor Tyutchev

In early autumn sweetly wistful,

there is a short but wonderous interim,

when days seem made as though of crystal,

with evenings luminously dim…

 

Without their tillers, empty fields look wider;

where sickles ravaged in the harvester’s ebb,

a single thread left by a spider

still speaks of the unravelled web.

 

Warblers have gone, afraid of future shadows,

yet far away is winter’s firstborn storm,

and heaven pours its azure, pure and warm,

on quietly resting fields and meadows…

 

by Фёдор Иванович Тютчев (Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev)

(1857)

translated by Anatoly Liberman

All Rules Are Incorrect by Boris Slutsky

All rules are incorrect,

all laws remain perverse,

until they’re firmly set

in well-wrought lines of verse.

 

An age or era will

be merely a stretch of time

without a meaning until

it’s glorified in rhyme.

 

Until the poet’s ‘Yes!’,

entrusted by his pen

to print, awards success

to this or that – till then

 

the jury will be out,

the verdict still in doubt.

 

by Борис Абрамович Слуцкий (Boris Abramovich Slutsky)

(early 1960s)

translated by Stephen Campus

Middle Age by Mike Jenkins

Middle-age is when

you begin to get sensitive

about the crowd swearing at bald refs.

 

It’s when your daughter’s

History homework’s on Dunkirk

and she asks ‘Were you around then?’

 

You look in the mirror every morning

glad that you’re short-sighted

and haven’t got your glasses on.

 

Certain nouns slip out of memory

to be replaced by verbs

like ‘to sleep’ and ‘to lie’.

 

It’s when you want time

to go rapidly to the next holiday,

yet halt completely before you die.

 

It’s when your appalling flatulence

is exposed to your spouse

and you don’t even bother to say ‘Pardon!’

 

You acquire irritable and incurable

ailments in corners of your body

and consider using herbal remedies.

 

You decide you need a new challenge:

working without a tie, your naked

adam’s apple is swallowed by the boss’s eyes.

 

Middle-age is when you take yourself for granted:

treat your dreams as pieces of furniture,

get rid of them on a skip.

 

It’s when you’re addicted to routine

and you don’t admit it, keep on taking it

till you O.D. on those same old scenes.

 

by Mike Jenkins

from This House, My Ghetto

Bread by R. S. Thomas

Hunger was lonliness, betrayed

By the pitiless cadour of the stars’

Talk, in an old byre he prayed

 

Not for food; to pray was to know

Waking from a dark dream to find

The white loaf on the white snow;

 

Not for warmth, warmth brought the rain’s

Blurring of the essential point

Of ice probing his raw pain.

 

He prayed for love, love that would share

His rags’ secret; rising he broke

Like sun crumbling the gold air

 

The live bread for the starved folk.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Poetry For Supper (1958)

He Who Gave The Wind Its Weight by Semyon Lipkin

He who gave the wind its weight,

and gave measure to the water,

pointed lightning on its path,

and showed rain what rules to follow –

he once told me with quiet joy:

‘No one’s ever going to kill you:

How can dust be broken down?

Who has power to ruin beggars?’

 

by Семён Израилевич Липкин (Semyon Izrailevich Lipkin)

(1981)

translated by Robert Chandler


Lipkin is renowned as a literary translator and often worked from the regional languages which Stalin tried to obliterate. Lipkin hid a typescript of his friend Vasily Grossman‘s magnum opus, Life and Fate, from the KGB and initiated the process that brought it to the West.

Lipkin’s importance as a poet was achieved once his work became available to the general reading public after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the many years prior, he was sustained by the support of his wife, poet Inna Lisnianskaya and close friends such as Anna Akhmatova, Joseph Brodsky and Alexander Solzhenitsyn (who thought him a genius and championed his poetry). Lipkin’s verse includes explorations of history and philosophy and exhibits a keen sense of peoples’ diverse destinies. His poems include references to his Jewish heritage and to the Bible. They also draw on a first-hand awareness of the tragedies of Stalin’s Great Purge and World War II. Lipkin’s long-standing inner opposition to the Soviet regime surfaced in 1979-80, when he contributed in the uncensored almanac “Metropol” and then he and Lisnianskaya left the ranks of the official Writer’s Union of the USSR.

Hay Square, 6 p.m. by Nikolay Alexeyevich

Hay Square, 6 p.m.;

a woman was being whipped.

Young, and a peasant woman.

Not a sound from her lips.

 

Not a whisper anywhere

but this whip and its whistle.

I said to my Muse,

‘Your sister!’

 

by Николай Алексеевич Некрасов (Nikolay Alexeyevich Nekrasov)

(1848)

translated by Robert Chandler