The Swan by Euros Bowen

Today the art of our retreat
is to see portents and mystery –
To see colour and sinew, the flash of white
As the bare hills of the age are visited from heaven:
His solitude swims in the quiet of the water,
A pilgrim acquainted with sedges,
And he washes the weather of the lake with his form
That (as it were) spotlights the passion
Of a soul’s breath
As it goes its slow, bare way in the chill of March:
His neck became a vigil,
The immaculate arm of a hunter,
The poise there, the stance of his eye! –
And the flame of his beak plummeted down to the pool:
The mountains looked disquieted
As he resumed his glide, easing himself to the flood:
A shiver ran through his wings, then stopped,
And on a sharp beat he broke from the water:
Slowly he went, then up to the high air,
And the fire of his wings draws a soul from its cold.

by Euros Bowen (1904-1988)
(December 1987)
translated by Tony Conran

Additional information: The Welsh version is titled ‘Yr Alarch‘ but, unfortunately, I was unable to source a copy to confirm its wording and provide it as I have some other poems in translation previously. If you have access to a copy it would be greatly appreciated if you could, for the benefit of future readers to compare the translation and original, provide a link to a site listing it or copy/paste the Welsh version in the comments.

Летний сад (Summer Garden) by Anna Akhmatova

I want to visit the roses

In that lonely

Park where the statues remember me young

And I remember them under the water

Of the Neva. In the fragrant quiet

Between the limes of Tsarskoye I hear

A creak of masts. And the swan swims

Still, admiring its lovely

Double. And a hundred thousand steps,

Friend and enemy, enemy and friend,

Sleep. Endless is the procession of shades

Between granite vase and palace door.

There my white nights

Whisper of someone’s discreet exalted

Love. And everything is mother-

Of-pearl and jasper,

But the light’s source is a secret.

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

(July, 1959, Leningrad)

from Седьмая книга (The Seventh Book)

translation by D. M. Thomas


Fun facts: The Summer Garden (Летний сад) occupies an island between the Fontanka, Moika, and the Swan Canal in Saint Petersburg (a.k.a. Leningrad), Russia and shares its name with the adjacent Summer Palace of Peter the Great.

Akhmatova recites her poem:

The text in the original Russian Cyrillic:

Летний сад

Я к розам хочу, в тот единственный сад,
Где лучшая в мире стоит из оград,

Где статуи помнят меня молодой,
А я их под невскою помню водой.

В душистой тиши между царственных лип
Мне мачт корабельных мерещится скрип.

И лебедь, как прежде, плывет сквозь века,
Любуясь красой своего двойника.

И замертво спят сотни тысяч шагов
Врагов и друзей, друзей и врагов.

А шествию теней не видно конца
От вазы гранитной до двери дворца.

Там шепчутся белые ночи мои
О чьей-то высокой и тайной любви.

И все перламутром и яшмой горит,
Но света источник таинственно скрыт.

‘Blows The Swan Wind…’ by Anna Akhmatova

Blows the swan wind,

The blue sky’s smeared

With blood; the anniversary

Of your love’s first days draws near.

 

You have destroyed

My sorcery; like water the years

Have drifted by. Why

Aren’t you old, but as you were?

 

Your tender voice even more ringing…

Only your serene brow

Has taken from time’s wing

A scattering of snow.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1922)

– from Anno Domini MCMXXI translation by D. M. Thomas