Зеркало (Mirror) by Boris Pasternak

In the mirror is steaming a cocoa cup,

A lace curtain sways, and along

The path to the chaos of garden and steppe

The mirror runs to the swing.

.

There swaying pines needle the air with resin;

There, fussily bending to look

For its glasses, the garden is combing the grass;

There Shade is reading a book.

.

And into the background, the darkness, beyond

The gate into grasslands sweet

With drugs, down the path, between snail-trails and twigs

The quartz shimmers white in the heat.

.

The soul can’t be mined, like a seam with saltpetre,

Or hacked out, like gems, with a pick.

The huge garden shakes in the hall, in the mirror –

But the glass does not break.

.

I cannot extinguish the light of my eyes

In this hypnotic domain,

As slugs in the garden will plug the eyes

Of statues after rain.

.

Water trickles the ear, and a siskin,

Chirping, hurdles the sticks.

You can stain their lips with bilberry juice,

You will not put an end to their tricks.

.

The garden raises its fist to the mirror;

The room and the garden shake.

It runs to the swing, and catches it, shakes it,

And still the glass does not break.

.

.

by Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к

(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)

from Сестра моя — жизнь (My Sister, Life)

(Summer 1917)

translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France

The poem recited, in it’s original Russian form, by E. Pasternak.

Beneath is the original Russian version of the poem in Cyrillic.

Зеркало

В трюмо испаряется чашка какао,
Качается тюль, и — прямой
Дорожкою в сад, в бурелом и хаос
К качелям бежит трюмо.

Там сосны враскачку воздух саднят
Смолой; там по маете
Очки по траве растерял палисадник,
Там книгу читает Тень.

И к заднему плану, во мрак, за калитку
В степь, в запах сонных лекарств
Струится дорожкой, в сучках и в улитках
Мерцающий жаркий кварц.

Огромный сад тормошится в зале
В трюмо — и не бьет стекла!
Казалось бы, всё коллодий залил,
С комода до шума в стволах.

Зеркальная всё б, казалось, нахлынь
Непотным льдом облила,
Чтоб сук не горчил и сирень не пахла, –
Гипноза залить не могла.

Несметный мир семенит в месмеризме,
И только ветру связать,
Что ломится в жизнь и ломается в призме,
И радо играть в слезах.

Души не взорвать, как селитрой залежь,
Не вырыть, как заступом клад.
Огромный сад тормошится в зале
В трюмо — и не бьет стекла.

И вот, в гипнотической этой отчизне
Ничем мне очей не задуть.
Так после дождя проползают слизни
Глазами статуй в саду.

Шуршит вода по ушам, и, чирикнув,
На цыпочках скачет чиж.
Ты можешь им выпачкать губы черникой,
Их шалостью не опоишь.

Огромный сад тормошится в зале,
Подносит к трюмо кулак,
Бежит на качели, ловит, салит,
Трясет — и не бьет стекла!

Июль (July) by Boris Pasternak

A phantom roams through the house.
There are footsteps in upstairs rooms.
All day, shades flit through the attic.
Through the house a goblin roams.

He loafs about, gets in the way,
He interferes and causes trouble,
Creeps up to the bed in a dressing gown,
And pulls the cloth off the table.

He does not wipe his feet at the door,
But whirls in with the draft, unseen,
And hurls the curtain to the ceiling
Like a prima ballerina.


Who can this irritating oaf,
This ghost, this phantom be?
Of course, it is our summer guest,
Our visitor on the spree.

For all his little holiday
We let him have the whole house.
July with his tempestuous air
Has rented rooms from us.

July, who brings in thistledown
And burs that cling to his clothes;
July, who treats all windows as doors,
And sprinkles his talk with oaths.

Untidy urchin of the steppe,
Smelling of lime-trees, grass and rye,
Beet-tops, and fragrant fennel,
Meadowsweet breath of July.


by Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к
(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)
(1956)
from Когда разгуляется
(When The Weather Clears)
translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France
Pasternak’s poem ‘July’ recited in it’s original Russian form by Irina Saglay

Beneath is the original Russian Cyrillic version of the poem.

По дому бродит привиденье.
Весь день шаги над головой.
На чердаке мелькают тени.
По дому бродит домовой.

Везде болтается некстати,
Мешается во все дела,
В халате крадется к кровати,
Срывает скатерть со стола.

Ног у порога не обтерши,
Вбегает в вихре сквозняка
И с занавеской, как с танцоршей,
Взвивается до потолка.

Кто этот баловник-невежа
И этот призрак и двойник?
Да это наш жилец приезжий,
Наш летний дачник-отпускник.

На весь его недолгий роздых
Мы целый дом ему сдаем.
Июль с грозой, июльский воздух
Снял комнаты у нас внаем.

Июль, таскающий в одёже
Пух одуванчиков, лопух,
Июль, домой сквозь окна вхожий,
Всё громко говорящий вслух.

Степной нечесаный растрепа,
Пропахший липой и травой,
Ботвой и запахом укропа,
Июльский воздух луговой.

Баллада о немецком цензоре (The Ballad of a German Censor) by David Samoylov

In Germany once lived a censor

of lowly rank and title.

He blotted, struck and cancelled

and knew no other no other calling.

 

He sniffed out harmful diction

and smeared it with Indian ink.

He guarded minds from infection

and his bosses valued his work.

 

On a winter day in forty-three

he was dispatched ‘nach Osten’.

And he stared from the train car’s window

at fields, graveyards, snowstorms.

 

It was cold without a fur coat.

He saw hamlets without homes or people.

Only charred chimneys were left,

creeping by, like lizards or camels.

 

And it seemed to him that Russia

was all steppe, Mongoloid, bare.

And he thought he was feeling ‘nostalgia’,

but it was really just the chill and fear.

 

He arrived at his field post office:

such-and-such region and number.

Table, chair, iron cot and mattress,

three walls – in the fourth, a window.

 

Russia’s short on Gemütlichkeit!

He had to climb over snowdrifts.

And the work? No shortage of that:

cutting, deleting, smearing.

 

Before him lay piles of letters,

lines and lines – some straight, some wavy.

Generals wrote to their comrades,

soldiers wrote to their families.

 

There were letters, messages, queries

from the living, from those who’d been killed.

There were words he judged ‘non-Aryan’,

but it was really just fear and chill.

 

He would read nearly all day round,

forgetting to eat or shave.

And inside his tired mind

something strange began to take place.

 

Words he’d blotted and excised

would come and torment him at night,

and, like some eerie circus,

would parade there before his eyes…

 

Lines, killed by black ink,

turned tyrannical, like a tirade:

‘In the East, the East, the East,

we will not, will not be spared…’

 

The text was composed of black mosaics;

each word clung fast to the next.

Not the greatest master of prose

could have come up with such a text.

 

Long thoughts, like wagon trains,

shook the joints and ridges

of his tired and weakened brain;

battered its fragile bridges.

 

He turned unfriendly to all his friends

and grew brusque, unsociable, sad.

He was brilliant for a few days

and then broke down and went bad.

 

He awoke, from the fear and chill…

with a wild, choking feeling.

The dark was impenetrable –

the window blacked out with ink.

 

He realised that bravado leads nowhere,

that existence is fragile,

and the black truth invaded his soul

and wiped away the white lie.

 

The poor censor was born a pedant.

He reached for a small notebook

and truthfully – that is, with talent –

set everything down, in order.

 

The next morning he took up, with seal,

his… No – a different task:

he underlined all that was real

and crossed out everything else.

 

Poor censor, he’d lost his mind!

Little man, like a grain of millet!

He informed on himself in a day

and was taken away that minute…

 

There once lived a censor in Germany.

His rank and title were low.

He died and was promptly buried,

and his grave fell under the plough.

 

by Давид Самойлов (David Samoylov)

pseudonym of Давид Самуилович Кауфман (David Samuilovich Kaufman)

(1961)

translated by Boris Dralyuk


Additional information: David Samoylov (Давид Самойлов), pseudonym of David Samuilovich Kaufman ( Давид Самуилович Кауфман; 1 June 1920 in Moscow — 23 February 1990 in Tallinn) was a notable poet of the War generation of Russian poets, considered one of the most important Russian poets of the post-World War II era as well.

‘Gotta keep living, though I’ve died twice’ Osip Mandelstam

Gotta keep living, though I’ve died twice,

and water’s driving the city crazy:

how beautiful, what high cheekbones, how happy,

how sweet the fat earth to the plough,

how the steppe extends in an April upheaval,

and the sky, the sky – pure Michelangelo…

 

by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam. His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)

(1935)

translated by Andrew Davis