‘I, A Butterfly That Has Flown’ by Velimir Khlebnikov

I, a butterfly that has flown

into the room of human life,

must leave the handwriting of my dust

like a prisoner’s signature

over the stern windows,

across fate’s strict panes.

The wallpaper of human life

is grey and sad.

And there is the windows’

transparent ‘No’.

 

I have worn away my deep-blue morning glow,

my patterns of dots,

my wing’s light-blue storm, first freshness.

The powder’s gone, the wings have faded

and turned transparent and hard.

Jaded, I beat

against the window of mankind.

From the other side knock eternal numbers,

summoning me to the motherland,

asking one single number

to return to all numbers.

 

by Велимир Хлебников (Velimir Khlebnikov)

a.k.a. Виктор Владимирович Хлебников (Viktor Vladimirovich Khlebnikov)

(1921)

translated by Robert Chandler


 

Fun fact: Khlebnikov possibly reflecting on Zhuangzi’s famous quote:

  • Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called the transformation of material things.
    • As translated by Lin Yutang

 

 

Retrospect And Forecast by Clark Ashton Smith

Turn round, O Life, and know with eyes aghast

The breast that fed thee – Death, disguiseless, stern:

Even now, within my mouth, from tomb and urn,

The dust is sweet. All nurture that thou hast

Was once as thou, and fed with lips made fast

On Death, whose sateless mouth it fed in turn.

Kingdoms abased, and Thrones that starward yearn,

All are but ghouls that batten on the past.

 

Monsterous and dread, must it forever abide,

This inescapable alternity?

Must beauty blossom, rooted in decay,

And night devour its flaming hues always?

Sickening, will Life not turn eventually,

Or ravenous Death at last be satisfied?

 

by Clark Ashton Smith