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
Just as I once learned one ancient tongue
enough to read its texts,
and I forgot the aphabet –
I’ve forgotten solitude.
This all must be recalled, recovered, and relearned.
I remember how once I met
a compiler of words
in the ancient tongue that I had learned
Turned out, I knew two words: ‘heavens’ and ‘apple’.
I might have recalled the rest –
All beneath the heavens and beside the apples –
But the need wasn’t there.
by Борис Абрамович Слуцкий (Boris Abramovich Slutsky)
translated by Marat Grinberg and Judith Pulman
Interesting information: Slutsky was a atheist but he didn’t forget his cultural roots regarding not only Yiddish but also the Hebrew he had learned as a child which remained important to him even if only as deeply felt absences. He had to ‘relearn solitude’ due to the death of his wife Tanya in 1977. For the following three months, before he fell into a depressed silence for the last nine years of his life during which he wrote nothing, he produced some of the most highly regarded poems on the themes of love and mourning in the Russian language.
Though we have parted, on my breast
your likeness as of old I wear.
It brings my spirit joy and rest,
pale phantom of a happier year.
To other passions now I thrill,
yet cannot leave this love of mine.
A cast-down idol – god-like still,
a shrine abandoned, yet a shrine.
by Михаил Юрьевич Лермонтов (Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov)
translated by Avril Pyman
Don’t tempt me with your tender ruses,
with the return of passion’s blaze:
a disenchanted man refuses
inveiglements of former days!
My faith in faithfulness has faded,
my faith in love has passed its prime;
I won’t indugle another time
in dreams degrading and degraded.
Let blind despair not increase,
the things that were, pray, do not mention,
and, caring friend! allow the patient
to doze in long, untroubled peace.
I sleep, and sweet is relaxation;
let bygone dreams be laid to rest:
you will awaken agitation,
not love, in my tormented breast.
by Евгений Абрамович Баратынский (Yevgeny Abramovich Baratynsky)
translated by Boris Dralyuk
Your work that my inward sight still comes,
Fruit of your graced labours:
The gold of always-autumnal limes,
The blue of today-created water-
Simply to think of it, the faintest drowse
Already has led me into your parks
Where, fearful of everything turning, I lose
Consciousness in a trance, seeking your tracks.
Shall I go under this vault, transfigured by
The movement of your hand into a sky,
To cool my shameful heat?
There shall I become forever blessed,
There my burning eyelids will find rest,
And I’ll regain a gift I’ve lost-to weep.
by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1924)
translation by D. M. Thomas
Snug the squirrel lies
In his mossy lair
Where no tooth of frost
Has ever reached.
From his lofty cell
He surveys all things
With their strife below
As a peace-flag swings
High on the pine.
In the cradle-fort
What a joy to rest
Rocking in the sweet
To Forestland’s music!
At a small window
The bobtail dozes
And the birds sing him
When the day closes
To Dreamland’s gold.
by Aleksis Kivi (1834 – 1872), Finland