The idiot goes round and around
With his brother in a bumping car
At the fair. The famous idiot
Smile hangs over the car's edge,
Illuminating nothing. This is mankind
Being taken for a ride by a rich
Relation. The responses are fixed:
Bump, smile; bump, smile. And the current
Is generated by the smooth flow
Of the shillings. This is an orchestra
Of steel with the constant percussion
Of laughter. But where he should be laughing
Too, his features are split open, and look!
Out of the cracks come warm, human tears.
by R. S. Thomas
from H'm (1972)
The shuffling elders: a shambles
of sheep, an abject throng!
I uncoil like a snake,
my heart an ancient ache
of dark Judaic wrong.
But it will not be long
before I shake off sadness,
like a boy, in the evening,
shaking sand from his sandals.
by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam. His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)
translated by James Greene
Fun facts: Euripides (Εὐριπίδης), c. 480 – c. 406 BC, was a tragedian of classical Athens. Along with Aeschylus and Sophocles, he is one of the three ancient Greek tragedians for whom a significant number of plays have survived. There are also fragments, some substantial, of most of the other plays. More of his plays have survived intact than those of Aeschylus and Sophocles together, partly because his popularity grew as theirs declined —he became, in the Hellenistic Age, a cornerstone of ancient literary education, along with Homer, Demosthenes, and Menander.
They wiped your slate
With snow, you’re not alive.
And bullet-holes five.
It’s a bitter present,
Love, but I’ve sewed it.
Russia, an old peasant
Killing his meat.
– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1921)
– from Anno Domini MCMXXI translation by D. M. Thomas
There is a frontier-line in human closeness
That love and passion cannot violate –
Though in silence mouth to mouth be soldered
And passionate devotion cleave the heart.
Here friendship, too, is powerless, and years
Of that sublime and fiery happiness
When the free soul has broken clear
From the slow languor of voluptuousness.
Those striving towards it are demented, and
If the line seem close enough to broach –
Stricken with sadness… Now you understand
Why my heart does not beat beneath your touch.
– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (May 1915, St Petersburg)
– from Белая стая (White Flock, 1917) translation by D. M. Thomas
I am: yet what I am none cares or knows,
My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shades in love and death’s oblivion lost;
And yet I am! and live with shadows tost
Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
And e’en the dearest–that I loved the best–
Are strange–nay, rather stranger than the rest.
I long for scenes where man has never trod;
A place where woman never smil’d or wept;
There to abide with my creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie;
The grass below–above the vaulted sky.
by John Clare (1793 – 1864)