And I standing in the shade
Have seen it a thousand times
Happen: first theft, then murder;
Rape; the rueful acts
Of the blind hand. I have said
New prayers, or said the old
In a new way. Seeking the poem
In the pain, I have learned
Silence is best, praying for it
With my conscience. I am eyes
Merely, witnessing virtue's
Defeat; seeing the young born
Fair, knowing the cancer
Awaits them. One thing I have asked
Of the disposer of the issues
Of life: that truth should defer
To beauty. It was not granted.
by R. S. Thomas
from H'm (1972)
I am a man now.
Pass your hand over my brow,
You can feel the place where the brains grow.
I am like a tree,
From my top boughs I can see
The footprints that led up to me.
There is blood in my veins
That has run clear of the stain
Contracted in so many loins.
Why, then, are my hands red
With the blood of so many dead?
Is this where I was misled?
Why are my hands this way
That they will not do as I say?
Does no God hear when I pray?
I have nowhere to go.
The swift satellites show
The clock of my whole being is slow.
It is too late to start
For destinations not of the heart.
I must stay here with my hurt.
by R. S. Thomas
from Tares (1961)
A foundling of the worthless muses
and other brutes,
I languish all the livelong day
at the LitInstitute.
Outside the window, a janitor sweeps
the pavement clean.
Slouching, gaunt, and hollow-cheeked,
he’s gloomy, ill.
But to hell with him and all his woes –
I’m full of myself.
… And all the while he was the one
whose words the Genius
of Humanity had banished from
Thus the writing of that time
grew strangely inept,
while at the LitInstitute the yard
was nicely swept.
… My whole life I looked into myself –
at others, rarely.
But all the same, his fate did touch
something in me.
Now I’ve become a poet – good,
bad, who knows? –
declining like the century,
sentenced to sweep snow.
Who envies either of our lives?
His life was destroyed
by M. tuberculosis, and mine –
by my wretched thyroid.
… I bear being outcast unbowed,
I kowtow to none,
but before you I’ll bow down,
And forty years later I pray:
in your distant heaven,
forgive the folly of my youth,
forgive everything –
my hubris, hard-heartedness, but mostly
forgive the boredom
with which I gazed through that window
on your torment.
by Владимир Николаевич Корнилов (Vladimir Nikolayevich Kornilov)
translated by Katherine E. Young
Fun facts: Here is my rough effort to translate the Russian language Wikipedia article page on him as there is no English page available and most of the results for his name will lead you to information about the historical naval figure.
Vladimir Nikolaevich Kornilov ( June 29, 1928 , Dnepropetrovsk – January 8, 2002 , Moscow ) was a Soviet Russian poet, writer, and literary critic. He was heavily censored throughout the Soviet era for his, to the Soviet authorities, ideologically troubling works.
He was born into a family of civil engineers. When the Great Patriotic War began (i.e. World War II), he was evacuated to Novokuznetsk ( Siberia ), then moved to Moscow . In 1945 – 1950 he studied at the Gorky Literary Institute (i.e. the LitInstitute mentioned in this poem) , which he was he was expelled from three times for absenteeism and “ideologically vicious verses”.
Kornilov’s first poems were published in 1953 . However, his works were rarely published, and even then only after ‘corrections’ had been made by censors. In 1957, his collection of poems “Agenda from the military registration and enlistment office” was rejected. Only in 1964 his first book of poems, The Pier, was published by the Soviet Writer Publishing House, and in 1965, on the recommendation of Anna Akhmatova , Kornilov was successfully admitted to the Union of Writers of the USSR.
A hard time awaited the prose works of Kornilov. His first and second novels – “Without arms, without legs”, completed in 1965 , and “Girls and ladies”, written in October 1968 he tried to get published for a long time unsuccessfully in the Soviet Union . The former was not printed and although the latter was accepted for publication in December 1971 but immediately thereafter rejected or banned.
By his third and largest prose work – the novel “Demobilization” – Kornilov no longer even tried to be publish in his homeland and instead sent his works to the west, where, from 1974 onwards, they were in print.
[he has two books in English I could find after a very brief search: Girls to the Front (1984) and Building a Prison (1985) so it’s possible the others were in German and other languages or have different titles in other languages. By all means comment on this post if you find others available in English.]
Being published in samizdat and in foreign Russian-language publications, as well as Kornilov’s speeches in support of Julius Daniel and Andrei Sinyavsky ( 1966 ), displeased the Soviet authorities.
In 1975 he was made a member of the Soviet section of Amnesty International and on the recommendation of G. Böll, he was accepted also into the French Pen Club.
Kornilov signed a letter to “heads of state and government” with a request to protect academician Andrei Sakharov , and in March 1977 he was expelled from the Union of Writers of the USSR (he was initially accepted in 1965, and while expelled his membership was eventually restored in 1988 ). His books were removed from their libraries and sold in 1979. He began to publish his works again in the USSR from 1986 onwards.
Kornilov died from a bone tumor on January 8, 2002 .
… hopefully that is helpful to anyone wanting a little information about the poet.
Regarding his reference to Platonov in this poem: He briefly worked as a street cleaner as an homage to Platonov as there was some ‘Intelligentsia folklore’ that occassionally Platonov would choose to sweep the yard in from of the LitInstitute building where he lived. However he was dismissed after a month on the pretext ‘it is illegal to hire someone of higher education for such duties’. So he probably wasn’t very good at it and just ad a very romanticised view of it.
He considered Gumilyov to be the ‘Kipling of Tsarkoye Selo’ and praised the courae with shich he faced his execution. He also wrote admiringly of Akhmatova who sponsored his admission into the Union of Soviet Writers in 1965. Also he reflected on the paradox of Lermontov’s fate – that it was a peculiar blend of courage, pain and spite which led him to his last duel and that it’s outcome made him appear an embodiment of love remarking in one poem ‘and boys writing poems at night / hope for a similar fate’
Russian cyrillic original version of the poem:
Подкидыш никудышных муз
И прочей нуди,
Я скукой день-деньской томлюсь
И замыслов невпроворот,
И строчек вздорных…
А за окном асфальт метёт
Сутулый, тощий, испитой,
Угрюм он, болен.
Но шут с ним и с его бедой –
Я дурью полон.
…Когда бы знать, что он лишён
Что от журналов отлучён
С того и проза тех времён
Вдруг стала тусклой…
Зато просторный двор метён
…Всю жизнь гляделся я в себя,
А в ближних – мало.
И всё равно его судьба
Такой или сякой поэт,
Я кроме смеха
На склоне века, склоне лет –
Кого от нашего житья
Он от чахотки сник, а я –
…Тащу отверженность, не гнусь,
Не бью поклонов,
Но перед вами повинюсь,
И сорок лет спустя молю:
В своём зените
Простите молодость мою,
За всё простите –
За спесь, и чёрствость, и сполна
Ещё за скуку,
С какой глядел я из окна
На вашу муку.
Like, comment, follow or subscribe… please. I just don’t know if anyone actually finds these bilingual posts interesting or it’s just me. Seriously, if you read the two languages, you can really see how much of a difference the translator makes putting their mark on a piece. I’ve once or twice put multiple translations of the same poem on here if you want to look and compare then. Even if you just put it the cyrillic version into Google Translate for a rough translation you see how line orders and everything get affected…
He addressed great congregations
And rolled his tongue with grease,
And his belly always flourished,
In times of war or peace.
He would talk of distant comrades
And brothers o’er the sea,
And snarl above his liquor
about neighbours two or three.
He knew a lot about public money –
More than he liked to say –
And sometimes sat with the paupers
To increase his Extra pay.
He could quote from Martin Tupper
and Wilhelmina Stitch,
And creep from chapel to bargain
With the likeliest local bitch.
He could swindle and squeal and snivel
And cheat and chant and pray,
and retreat like a famous general
When Truth would bar his way.
But God grew sick and tired
Of such a godly soul,
And sent down Death to gather
His body to a hole.
But before he died, the Bounder
Said: ‘My children, be at peace;
I know I am going to heaven,
So rub my tongue with grease.’
by Idris Davies
Fun facts: Martin Tupper was an English writer, and poet, and the author of Proverbial Philosophy. Wilhelmina Stitch was one of the pen names of Ruth Collie, an English born poet who started her writing career in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The air is split into black branches,
like old glass.
Pray to Our Lady of Autumn!
The windows of autumn’s chapel,
smashed by a hurtling bullet,
A tree was burning,
a bright spill in the golden air.
It bends; it bows down.
Autumn’s flint and steel angrily
struck the sparks of golden days.
A forest at prayer. All at once
golden smells fell to the ground.
Trees stretch out – rakes
gathering armfuls of the sun’s hay.
Autumn’s tree resonantly evokes
a sketch of Russia’s railroads.
The golden autumn wind
has scattered me everywhere.
by Велимир Хлебников (Velimir Khlebnikov)
a.k.a. Виктор Владимирович Хлебников
(Viktor Vladimirovich Khlebnikov)
translated by Robert Chandler