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
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)
Dreadful! It drips and it listens -
whether it's all alone in the world
crushing a twig like lace at the window,
or is someone watching?
Palpable, though, is the pressure
of porous earth's taut swellings,
and far off, audible as in August,
midnight ripens in fields.
No, no sound, no witness,
Convincing there's no one there,
back it goes to its game of rolling
down roofs and across gutters.
I'll lift it up to my lips and listen -
whether I'm all alone in the world,
ready to burst out in sobs if I need to,
or is someone watching?
Silence. Not a leaf moving.
No dot of light, just weird
gulps and splashings about in slippers,
the lulls full of sighs and tears.
By Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к (Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)
translated by Angela Livingstone
A recital of the poem in Russian:
Below is the poem in it’s original Russian cyrillic form:
Ужасный! — Капнет и вслушается,
Все он ли один на свете
Мнет ветку в окне, как кружевце,
Или есть свидетель.
Но давится внятно от тягости
Отеков — земля ноздревая,
И слышно: далеко, как в августе,
Полуночь в полях назревает.
Ни звука. И нет соглядатаев.
В пустынности удостоверясь,
Берется за старое — скатывается
По кровле, за желоб и через.
К губам поднесу и прислушаюсь,
Все я ли один на свете, —
Готовый навзрыд при случае, —
Или есть свидетель.
Но тишь. И листок не шелохнется.
Ни признака зги, кроме жутких
Глотков и плескания в шлепанцах
И вздохов и слез в промежутке.
And with a strange desire all her days
she walked her worldly ways;
for dull the melodies of earth she found
after that heavenly sound.
by Михаил Юрьевич Лермонтов (Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov)
translated by Frances Cornford
Interesting extra: The poem this extract is from was written by Lermontov when he was seventeen years old. Typical of his early romanticism its subject is a soul unable to forget the songs of the angel who first carried her down to earth to be incarnated.
On a sidenote: The past day or two I’ve been using WordPress’ new ‘blocks’ system and putting this in the ‘verse’ version. Does it make any difference? The entire system just feels like it complicates matters needlessly.
Loving, I am still dumbfounded
by the world and its beauty,
and nothing will make me renounce
the sweetness you grant me.
However hard my breath come,
while I stand here on earth
the sound of new life will be welcome
wherever it stirs.
Submissive to the sun’s rays,
roots go down into the grave
to seek from death the strength
to meet spring days.
by Афанасий Афанасьевич Фет (Afanasy Afanasyevich Fet)
a.k.a. Шеншин (Shenshin)
translated by Robert Chandler
Cautious, toneless sound
of fruit from a tree
to the constant
melody of forest silence…
by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam. His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)
translated by John Riley
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,–
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
By John Keats (1795-1821)
First published in 1820