Амнистия (Amnesty) by Ivan Elagin

The man is still alive
Who shot my father
In Kiev in the summer of ’38.

Probably, he’s pensioned now,
Lives quietly,
And has given up his old job.

And if he has died,
Probably that one is still alive
Who just before the shooting
With a stout wire
Bound his arms
Behind his back.

Probably, he too is pensioned off.

And if he is dead,
Then probably
The one who questioned him still lives.
And that one no doubt
Has an extra good pension.

Perhaps the guard
Who took my father to be shot
Is still alive.

If I should want now
I could return to my native land.
For I have been told
That all these people
Have actually pardoned me.

By Иван Венедиктович Елагин
(Ukrainian: Іван Венедиктович Єлагін)
Ivan Venediktovich Elagin
(a.k.a. Ivan Matveyev)
translated by Bertram D. Wolfe

Амнистия

Еще жив человек,
Расстрелявший отца моего
Летом в Киеве, в тридцать восьмом.

Вероятно, на пенсию вышел.
Живет на покое
И дело привычное бросил.

Ну, а если он умер –
Наверное, жив человек,
Что пред самым расстрелом
Толстой
Проволокою
Закручивал
Руки
Отцу моему
За спиной.

Верно, тоже на пенсию вышел.

А если он умер,
То, наверное, жив человек,
Что пытал на допросах отца.

Этот, верно, на очень хорошую пенсию вышел.

Может быть, конвоир еще жив,
Что отца выводил на расстрел.

Если б я захотел,
Я на родину мог бы вернуться.

Я слышал,
Что все эти люди
Простили меня.

Additional information: Ivan Elagin (December 1, 1918 – February 8, 1987); Ukrainian: Іван Єлагін, Russian: Иван Венедиктович Елагин, real name Ivan Matveyev) was a Russian émigré poet born in Vladivostok. He was the husband of poet Olga Anstei (Ukrainian: Ольга Анстей), best remembered for writing about the Holocaust.

Elagin’s real surname was Matveyev; his father was the poet Venedikt Mart of Vladivostok, and he was himself the uncle of the Leningrad poet Novello Matveyeva. He was preparing to be a physician when his medical education was interrupted by World War II, and in 1943 he found himself as a forced labourer in Germany, working as a nurse in a German hospital. Knowing he would be arrested if he returned to the Soviet Union, he remained in Munich after the war and published her first books of poetry, Po doroge ottuda (The Road from There) in 1947 and Ty, moio stoletie (You Are My Century) in 1948.

In 1950 he emigrated to the United States to work as a proofreader for the New York Russian-language newspaper Novoe russkoe slovo. The earned a Ph.D. And taught Russian literature at the University of Pittsburgh, were he was surrounded by a few dedicated students. Elagin reportedly was held for a long time after World War II by American intelligence in a displaced-persons detention camp under the suspicion that he had been planted by Soviet Intelligence. Hence to some people his poetry seemed to have double directions and meaning.

Elagin was the most talented poet of postwar emigration from the Soviet Union. He related with great sympathy to the post-Stalin generation of poets, and his poetry bears a resemblance to the younger generation’s, with its resounding rhythms and alliterations, in spite of the difference in age and experience. Though he wished to visit his country he declined invitations because of the ideological conformity they would have required. He translated American poets into Russian, including a brilliant rendering of Stephen Vincent Benét’s monumental John Brown’s Body. Unfortunately, during his lifetime no American poet chose to translate him, and he remained unknown to Americans. Since 1988 his poetry has been returning to Russia.

Biographical information about Elagin, p.673, ‘Twentieth Century Russian Poetry’ (1993), compiled by Yevgeny Yevtushenko (ed. Albert C. Todd and Max Hayward) , published by Fourth Estate Limited by arrangement with Doubleday of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc. (transcribed as found in the original text).
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Дождь (Rain) by Boris Pasternak

Inscription on the ‘Book of the Steppe’

.

She’s here with me. Come strum, pour, laugh,

Tear the twilight through and through!

Drown, flow down, an epigraph

To a love like you!

.

Scurry like a silk-worm

And beat the window’s drum.

Combine, entwine,

And let the darkness come!

.

Noon midnight, cloudburst – come for her!

Walking home, soaked to the skin!

Whole tree-loads of water

On eyes, cheeks, jasmin!

.

Hosanna to Egyptian darkness!

Drops chuckle, slide, collide,

And suddenly the air smells new

As to patients who’ve come through.

.

Let’s run and pluck – as from guitars

Guitarists pluck a phrase –

The garden Saint-Gothard

Washed with a lime-tree haze.

.

.

By Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к

(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)

from Сестра моя — жизнь (My Sister, Life)

(Summer 1917)

translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France

.

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

.

Дождь

Надпись на “Книге степи”

Она со мной. Наигрывай,
Лей, смейся, сумрак рви!
Топи, теки эпиграфом
К такой, как ты, любви!

Снуй шелкопрядом тутовым
И бейся об окно.
Окутывай, опутывай,
Еще не всклянь темно!

– Ночь в полдень, ливень — гребень ей!
На щебне, взмок — возьми!
И — целыми деревьями
В глаза, в виски, в жасмин!

Осанна тьме египетской!
Хохочут, сшиблись, — ниц!
И вдруг пахнуло выпиской
Из тысячи больниц.

Теперь бежим сощипывать,
Как стон со ста гитар,
Омытый мглою липовой
Садовый Сен-Готард.

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!

That Day by R. S. Thomas

Stopped the car, asked a man the way
To some place; he rested on it
Smiling, an impression of charm
As of ripe fields; talking to us
He held a reflection of sky
In his brushed eyes. We lost interest
In the way, seeing him old
And content, feeling the sun's warmth
In his voice, watching the swallows
Above him – thirty years back
To this summer. Knowing him gone,
We wander the same flower-bordered road,
Seeing the harvest ripped from the land,
Deafened by the planes' orchestra;
Unable to direct the lost travellers
Or convince them this is a good place to be.


by R. S. Thomas
from H'm (1972)

‘Вооруженный зреньем узких ос’ (‘Armed with wasp-vision. With the vision of wasps…’ by Osip Mandelstam

Armed with wasp-vision, with the vision of wasps
that suck, suck, suck the earth's axis,
I'm filled by the whole deep vein of my life
and hold it here in my heart
and in vain.

And I don't draw, don't sing,
don't draw a black-voiced bow over strings:
I only drink, drink, drink in life and I love
to envy wasp-
waisted wasps their mighty cunning.

O if I too
could be impelled past sleep, past death,
stung by the summer's cheer and chir,
by this new air
to hear earth's axis, axis, axis.


by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam.)
His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)
(8 February 1937)
translated by Robert Chandler
the poem read by Stanislav Komardin

Below is the original Russian Cyrillic version of the poem.

Вооруженный зреньем узких ос, 
Сосущих ось земную, ось земную,
Я чую всё, с чем свидеться пришлось,
И вспоминаю наизусть и всуе.

И не рисую я, и не пою,
И не вожу смычком черпоголосым,
Я только в жизнь впиваюсь и люблю
Завидовать могучим, хитрым осам.

О, если б и меня когда-нибудь могло
Заставить, сон и смерть минуя,
Стрекало Еоздуха и летнее тепло
Услышать ось земную, ось земную.

Extra information: The wasp-waist was a fashion regarding a women’s fashion silhouette, produced by a style of corset and girdle, that has experienced various periods of popularity in the 19th and 20th centuries. Its primary feature is the abrupt transition from a natural-width rib cage to an exceedingly small waist, with the hips curving out below. It takes its name from its similarity to a wasp’s segmented body. The sharply cinched waistline also exaggerates the hips and bust.

To put it bluntly Mandelstam is talking about admiring women, at least in part, in this poem.

Mandelstam was said to have had an affair with the poet Anna Akhmatova. She insisted throughout her life that their relationship had always been a very deep friendship, rather than a sexual affair. In the 1910s, he was in love, secretly and unrequitedly, with a Georgian princess and St. Petersburg socialite Salomea Andronikova, to whom Mandelstam dedicated his poem “Solominka” (1916).

In 1922, Mandelstam married Nadezhda Khazina in Kiev, Ukraine, where she lived with her family. He continued to be attracted to other women, sometimes seriously. Their marriage was threatened by his falling in love with other women, notably Olga Vaksel in 1924-25 and Mariya Petrovykh in 1933-34.

During Mandelstam’s years of imprisonment, 1934–38, Nadezhda accompanied him into exile. Given the real danger that all copies of Osip’s poetry would be destroyed, she worked to memorize his entire corpus, as well as to hide and preserve select paper manuscripts, all the while dodging her own arrest. In the 1960s and 1970s, as the political climate thawed, she was largely responsible for arranging clandestine republication of Mandelstam’s poetry.