Well, as I said, better to wait for him on some peninsula of the spirit. Surely for one with patience he will happen by once in a while. It was the heart spoke. The mind, sceptical as always of the anthropomorphisms of the fancy, knew he must be put together like a poem or a composition in music, that what he conforms to is art. A promontory is a bare place; no God leans down out of the air to take the hand extended to him. The generations have watched there in vain. We are beginning to see now it is matter is the scaffolding of spirit; that the poem emerges from morphemes and phonemes; that as form in sculpture is the prisoner of the hard rock, so in everyday life it is the plain facts and natural happenings that conceal God and reveal him to us little by little under the mind’s tooling.
We all walked in god’s shadow we were there at his very side. He lived in no far-off heaven and appeared in the flesh sometimes. On the top of the Mausoleum. More clever and evil he was than the god he’d deposed named Jehovah, whom he had dashed down, murdered, turned into ash; though later he raised him up and gave him some corner table. We all walked in god’s shadow we were there at his very side. I was walking down Arbat once, when god was out in his five cars, and bent double with fear, his guards in their miserable mousey coats were trembling there at his side. Too late or too early: it was turning grey. Into morning light. His gaze was cruel and wise. All-seeing the glance of his eyes. We all walked in god’s shadow. We were almost there at his side.
by Борис Абрамович Слуцкий (Boris Abramovich Slutsky) (19??) translated by Elaine Feinstein
Additional information: The poem is about the image of Lenin and mentions his mausoleum which still entombed him to this day just outside the walls of the Kremlin in Moscow.
The Arbat is is a pedestrian street about one kilometer long in the historical centre of Moscow, Russia since at least the 15th century, which makes it one of the oldest surviving streets of the Russian capital. It forms the heart of the Arbat District of Moscow.
Beneath is the original Russian version of the poem in Cyrillic.
Мы все ходили под богом. У бога под самым боком. Он жил не в небесной дали, Его иногда видали Живого. На Мавзолее. Он был умнее и злее Того — иного, другого, По имени Иегова… Мы все ходили под богом. У бога под самым боком. Однажды я шел Арбатом, Бог ехал в пяти машинах. От страха почти горбата В своих пальтишках мышиных Рядом дрожала охрана. Было поздно и рано. Серело. Брезжило утро. Он глянул жестоко, — мудро Своим всевидящим оком, Всепроницающим взглядом.
Мы все ходили под богом. С богом почти что рядом. И срам, и ужас От ужаса, а не от страха, от срама, а не от стыда насквозь взмокала вдруг рубаха, шло пятнами лицо тогда. А страх и стыд привычны оба. Они вошли и в кровь, и в плоть. Их даже дня умеет злоба преодолеть и побороть. И жизнь являет, поднатужась, бесстрашным нам, бесстыдным нам не страх какой-нибудь, а ужас, не стыд какой-нибудь, а срам.
My master – he disliked me from the start. He never knew me, never saw or heard me, but all the same he feared me like the plague and hated me with all his dreary heart. When I bowed my head before him, it seemed to him I hid a smile. When he made me cry, he thought my tears were crocodile. And all my life I worked my heart out for him, each night I lay down late, and got up early. I loved him and was wounded for his sake. But nothing I could do would ever take. I took his portrait everywhere I went, I hung it up in every hut and tent, I looked and looked, and kept on looking, and slowly, as the years went past, his hatred hurt me less and less. And nowadays it hardly seems to matter: the age-old truth is men like me are always hated by their master.
by Борис Абрамович Слуцкий (Boris Abramovich Slutsky) (1954) translated by Margo Shohl Rosen
Beneath is the original Russian language version of the poem in Cyrillic.
А мой хозяин не любил меня — Не знал меня, не слышал и не видел, А всё-таки боялся, как огня, И сумрачно, угрюмо ненавидел.
Когда меня он плакать заставлял, Ему казалось: я притворно плачу. Когда пред ним я голову склонял, Ему казалось: я усмешку прячу.
А я всю жизнь работал на него, Ложился поздно, поднимался рано, Любил его. И за него был ранен. Но мне не помогало ничего.
А я возил с собой его портрет. В землянке вешал и в палатке вешал — Смотрел, смотрел, не уставал смотреть. И с каждым годом мне всё реже, реже
Обидною казалась нелюбовь. И ныне настроенья мне не губит Тот явный факт, что испокон веков Таких, как я, хозяева не любят.
Goodbye, the secret of the song, the brilliant right-order, Goodbye Hendre Fechan, And the song-books, bright pure song, To you, goodbye now also.
I’d a house to sleep, to live I’d shelter, Food and drink suffice me; I’d a home till I were dead, And a fire (thank God!) kept burning.
In place of my old homestead, and the woe Here, of an early life, In heaven God will give me now A home where’s no returning.
Green woods, farewell, where the small birds sang A choice, correct, sweet song; Farewell, all the song-chained groves, Each path where song would wander.
By William Phylip d. 1670
translated by Tony Conran
Information: The title is technically ‘A Leave-Taking of Hendre Fechan, his home‘. There is a holiday cottage, inTal-y-bont, dating back to 1616 with the name Hendre Fechan. I can’t confirm if it is the same location alluded to in the poem but it is very coincidental if not.
A fine gull on the tideflow, All white with moon or snow, Your beauty’s immaculate, Shard like the sun, brine’s gauntlet. Buoyant you’re on the deep flood, A proud swift bird of fishfood. You’d ride at anchor with me, Hand in hand there, sea lily. Like a letter, a bright earnest, A nun you’re on the tide’s crest.
Right fame and far my dear has – Oh, fly around tower and fortress, Look if you can’t see, seagull, One bright as Eigr on that wall. Say all my words together. Let her choose me. Go to her. If she’s alone – though profit With so rare a girl needs wit – Greet her then: her servant, say, Must, without her, die straightway.
She guards my life so wholly – Ah friends, none prettier than she Taliesin or the flattering lip Or Merlin loved in courtship: Cypris courted ‘neath copper, Loveliness too perfect-fair.
Seagull, if that cheek you see, Christendom’s purest beauty, Bring to me back fair welcome Or that girl must be my doom.
By Dafydd ap Gwilym (fl. 1340-70) translated by Tony Conran
Additional information: This love poem by the 14th century poet Dafydd ap Gwilym was probably written in or around the 1340s. Dafydd is widely seen as the greatest of the Welsh poets and this is one of his best-known and best loved works. The poem references Eigr (the Welsh name for King Arthur’s mother Igraine), Myrddin (the figure who eventually becomes Merlin the wizard in Arthurian stories) and Taliesin (a renowned, and somewhat mythologised, bard who is believed to have sung at the courts of at least three kings and in some accounts is associated with King Arthur and Bran the Blessed).
An alchemical pun is also present in the poem. ‘Siprys’ translates from Welsh into ‘Cypris’, the Cyprian, one of the names for Venus the Roman goddess of love. The poet compares his lover to the goddess due to her copper hair. Copper is a metal often associated with the goddess due to her copper coloured hair, which most will recognise from Botticelli‘s The Birth of Venus, indicating the alchemical relationship between the planet Venus and copper.
Beneath is the original Welsh language version of the poem.
Yr wylan deg ar lanw, dioer, Unlliw ag eiry neu wenlloer, Dilwch yw dy degwch di, Darn fal haul, dyrnfol heli. Ysgafn ar don eigion wyd, Esgudfalch edn bysgodfwyd. Yngo’r aud wrth yr angor Lawlaw â mi, lili môr. Llythr unwaith lle’th ariannwyd, Lleian ym mrig llanw môr wyd.
Cyweirglod bun, cai’r glod bell, Cyrch ystum caer a chastell. Edrych a welych, wylan, Eigr o liw ar y gaer lân. Dywaid fy ngeiriau dyun, Dewised fi, dos hyd fun. Byddai’i hun, beiddia’i hannerch, Bydd fedrus wrth fwythus ferch Er budd; dywaid na byddaf, Fwynwas coeth, fyw onis caf. Ei charu’r wyf, gwbl nwyf nawdd, Och wŷr, erioed ni charawdd Na Merddin wenithfin iach, Na Thaliesin ei thlysach. Siprys dyn giprys dan gopr, Rhagorbryd rhy gyweirbropr.
Och wylan, o chai weled Grudd y ddyn lanaf o Gred, Oni chaf fwynaf annerch, Fy nihenydd fydd y ferch.