Стрижи (Swifts) by Boris Pasternak

 At twilight the swifts have no way
Of stemming the cool blue cascade.
It bursts from clamouring throats,
A torrent that cannot be stayed.

At twilight the swifts have no way
Of holding back, high overhead,
Their clarion shouting: Oh, triumph,
Look, look, how the earth has fled!

As steam billows up from a kettle,
The furious stream hisses by -
Look, look – there's no room for the earth
Between the ravine and the sky.

By Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к
(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)
from Поверх барьеров (Over the Barriers)
(1916)
translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France

The poem, in Russian, set to music by La Luna with some elements of repition from the album ‘Серебряный Сад’ (Silver Garden).

The original Russian Cyrillic version of the poem.

 Стрижи

Нет сил никаких у вечерних стрижей
Сдержать голубую прохладу.
Она прорвалась из горластых грудей
И льется, и нет с нею сладу.
И нет у вечерних стрижей ничего,
Что б там, наверху, задержало
Витийственный возглас их: о, торжество,
Смотрите, земля убежала!
Как белым ключом закипая в котле,
Уходит бранчливая влага, -
Смотрите, смотрите — нет места земле
От края небес до оврага.

Amen by R. S. Thomas

It was all arranged:

the virgin with child, the birth

in Bethlehem, the arid journey uphill

to Jerusalem. The prophets foretold

it, the scriptures conditioned him

to accept it. Judas went to his work

with his sour kiss; what else

could he do?

A wise old age,

the honours awarded for lasting,

are not for a saviour. He had

to be killed; salvation acquired

by an increased guilt. The tree,

with its roots in the mind’s dark,

was divinely planted, the original fork

in existence. There is no meaning in life,

unless men can be found to reject

love. God needs his martyrdom.

The mild eyes stare from the Cross

in perverse triumph. What does he care

that the people’s offerings are so small?

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Laboratories of the Spirit (1975)

‘So Again We Triumph…’ by Anna Akhmatova

So again we triumph!

Again we do not come!

Our speeches silent,

Our words, dumb.

Our eyes that have not met

Again, are lost;

And only tears forget

The grip of frost.

A wild-rose bush near Moscow

Knows something of

This pain that will be called

Immortal love.

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1956)

from Седьмая книга (The Seventh Book)

translation by D. M. Thomas

Cleopatra by Anna Akhmatova

“I am air and fire…”

                                            – Shakespeare

 

She has kissed lips already grown inhuman,

On her knees she has wept already before Augustus…

And her servants have betrayed her. Under the Roman

Eagle clamour the raucous trumpets, and the dusk has

 

Spread. And enter the last hostage to her glamour.

‘He’ll lead me, then, in triumph?’ ‘Madam, he will.

I know’t.’ Stately, he has the grace to stammer…

But the slope of her swan neck is tranquil still.

 

Tomorrow, her children… O, what small things rest

For her to do on earth – only to play

With this fool, and the black snake to her dark breast

Indifferently, like a parting kindness, lay.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova), 1940

– from Тростник (Reed) / Из шести книг (From the Sixth Book)

– translation by D. M. Thomas