Easter by R.S. Thomas

Easter. I go to church
to proclaim with my fellows
I believe in the Ressurection -
of what? Here everything
is electric and automatic.
In April a myriad bulbs
are switched on as flowers
incandesce; a new generation
of creatures rehearses
its genetic code. All this is easy.
Earth is a self-regulating
machine; everything happens
because it must. My faith
is in the inevitability
of creation. There will come a day -
dust under a dry sun,
ashes under its incineration...
is there somewhere in all
the emptiness of the universe
a fertile star where the old
metaphors wil apply, where
the bugling daffodil will sound
abroad not the last post, but
a gush of music out of an empty tomb?

by R.S. Thomas
from Unpublished Poems
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Весна (Spring) by Boris Pasternak

How many sticky buds, how many candle-ends
Are glued to the branches now! April
Is lit. The wind from the park reeks of puberty
And the woods are more blatant still.

A tight loop of feathered throats holds the wood's windpipe
Lassoed like a steer, and it groans
In nets as the gladiatorial organ
Steel-throated sonatas intones.

Now, Poetry, be a Greek sponge with suckers
And let the green succulence drench
You, under the trees on the sodden wood
Of a green-mottled garden bench.

Grow sumptuous flounces and furbelows,
Suck clouds and gullies in hour by hour,
And, Poetry, tonight I'll squeeze you out
To make the thirsty paper flower.

by Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к
(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)
(1916)
from Over the Barriers
translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France

This translation only covers the first part of the poem but below is the full original version in Cyrillic.

Весна


1

Что почек, что клейких заплывших огарков
Налеплено к веткам! Затеплен
Апрель. Возмужалостью тянет из парка,
И реплики леса окрепли.

Лес стянут по горлу петлею пернатых
Гортаней, как буйвол арканом,
И стонет в сетях, как стенает в сонатах
Стальной гладиатор органа.

Поэзия! Греческой губкой в присосках
Будь ты, и меж зелени клейкой
Тебя б положил я на мокрую доску
Зеленой садовой скамейки.

Расти себе пышные брыжжи и фижмы,
Вбирай облака и овраги,
А ночью, поэзия, я тебя выжму
Во здравие жадной бумаги.

2

Весна! Не отлучайтесь
Сегодня в город. Стаями
По городу, как чайки,
Льды раскричались, таючи.

Земля, земля волнуется,
И катятся, как волны,
Чернеющие улицы,-
Им, ветреницам, холодно.

По ним плывут, как спички,
Сгорая и захлебываясь,
Сады и электрички,-
Им, ветреницам, холодно.

От кружки плывут, как спички,
Сгорая и захлебываясь,
Сады и электрички,-
Им, ветреницам, холодно.

От кружки синевы со льдом,
От пены буревестников
Вам дурно станет. Впрочем, дом
Кругом затоплен песнью.

И бросьте размышлять о тех,
Кто выехал рыбачить.
По городу гуляет грех
И ходят слезы падших.

3

Разве только грязь видна вам,
А не скачет таль в глазах?
Не играет по канавам -
Словно в яблоках рысак?

Разве только птицы цедят,
В синем небе щебеча,
Ледяной лимон обеден
Сквозь соломину луча?

Оглянись, и ты увидишь
До зари, весь день, везде,
С головой Москва, как Китеж,-
В светло-голубой воде.

Отчего прозрачны крыши
И хрустальны колера?
Как камыш, кирпич колыша,
Дни несутся в вечера.

Город, как болото, топок,
Струпья снега на счету,
И февраль горит, как хлопок,
Захлебнувшийся в спирту.

Белым пламенем измучив
Зоркость чердаков, в косом
Переплете птиц и сучьев -
Воздух гол и невесом.

В эти дни теряешь имя,
Толпы лиц сшибают с ног.
Знай, твоя подруга с ними,
Но и ты не одинок.

Night Sky by R.S. Thomas

What they are saying is
that there is life there, too;
that the universe is the size it is
to enable us to catch up.

They have gone on from the human;
that shining is a reflection
of their intelligence. Godhead
is the colonisation by mind

of untenanted space. It is its own
light, a statement beyond language
of conceptual truth. Every night
is a rinsing myself of the darkness

that is in my veins. I let the stars inject me
with fire, silent as it is far,
but certain in its cauterising
of my despair. I am a slow

traveller. But there is more than time
to arrive. Resting in the intervals
of my breathing, I pick up the signals
relayed to me from a periphery I comprehend.

by R. S. Thomas
from Frequencies (1978)

Внутри горы бездействует кумир… (Deep in the mountain the idol rests) by Osip Mandelstam

Deep in the mountain the idol rests
in sweet repose, infinite and blest,
the fat of necklaces dripping from his neck
protects his dreams of flood tide and of slack.

As a boy, he buddied with a peacock,
they gave him rainbow of India to eat
and milk in a pink clay dish,
and didn't stint the cochineal.

Bone put to bed, locked in a knot,
shoulders, arms and knees made flesh,
he smiles with his own dead-silent lips,
thinks with his bone, feels with his brow,
and struggles to recall his human countenance...


by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam.)
His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)
from the first of the Voronezh Notebooks
(10-26 December 1936)
translated by Andrew Davis

Interesting information: The poem recounts certain Buddhist imagery, such as the peacock, from accounts of the life of Siddhartha Gautama a.k.a. Gautama Buddha.The female of the cochineal insect species is crushed to make red pigment for food colouring amongst other uses.

Beneath is the original Russian Cyrillic verison of the poem. I couldn’t find a recital of it on Youtube but feel free to add one in the comments please if you know of one:

Внутри горы бездействует кумир…  

Внутри горы бездействует кумир
В покоях бережных, безбрежных и счастливых,
А с шеи каплет ожерелий жир,
Оберегая сна приливы и отливы.

Когда он мальчик был и с ним играл павлин,
Его индийской радугой кормили,
Давали молока из розоватых глин
И не жалели кошенили.

Кость усыпленная завязана узлом,
Очеловечены колени, руки, плечи,
Он улыбается своим тишайшим ртом,
Он мыслит костию и чувствует челом
И вспомнить силится свой облик человечий.

Мой щегол, я голову закину (Goldfinch, friend, I’ll cock my head) by Osip Mandelstam

Goldfinch, friend, I'll cock my head -
let's check the world out, just me and you:
this winter's day pricks like chaff;
does it sting your eyes too?

Boat-tailed, feathers yellow-black,
sopped in colour beneath your beak,
do you get, you goldfinch you,
just how you flaunt it?

What's he thinking, little airhead? -
white and yellow, black and red!
Both eyes check both ways – both! -
will check no more – he's bolted!


by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam.) His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)
(9-27 December 1936)
translated by Andrew Davis
A recital of the poem by Mikhail Kozakov
The original Russian Cyrillic version of the poem


Мой щегол, я голову закину —
Поглядим на мир вдвоем:
Зимний день, колючий, как мякина,
Так ли жестк в зрачке твоем?

Хвостик лодкой, перья черно-желты,
Ниже клюва в краску влит,
Сознаешь ли — до чего щегол ты,
До чего ты щегловит?

Что за воздух у него в надлобье —
Черн и красен, желт и бел!
В обе стороны он в оба смотрит — в обе!—
Не посмотрит — улетел!

Extra information: The RSPB website has information, a bird identifying ‘questionnaire’ if you’ve seen any you don’t recognise, sound clips of bird calls, videos and more about goldfinches and many other species of birds. It might be an interesting distraction if you haven’t looked at it before.

The image of a goldfinch or starling is a repeated motif in the poetry of Mandelstam. (if you can’t read Russian then just put the text of the linked page, or it’s page address, into GoogleTranslate which gives a surprisingly eloquent translation).

The Film of God by R.S. Thomas

Sound, too? The recorder
that picks up everything picked
up nothing but the natural
background. What language
does the god speak? And the camera's
lens, as sensitive to
an absence as to a presence,
saw what? What is the colour
of his thought?
It was blank, then,
the screen, as far as he
was concerned? It was a bare
landscape and harsh, and geological
its time. But the rock was
bright, the illuminated manuscript
of the lichen. And a shadow,
as we watched, fell, as though
of an unseen writer bending over
his work.
It was not cloud
because it was not cold,
and dark only from the candlepower
behind it. And we waited
for it to move, silently
as the spool turned, waited
for the figure that cast it
to come into view for us to
identify it, and it
didn't and we are still waiting.


By R.S. Thomas
from Frequencies (1978)