The River by R. S. Thomas

And the cobbled water

Of the stream with the trout’s indelible

Shadows that winter

Has not erased – I walk it

Again under a clean

Sky with the fish, speckled like thrushes,

Silently singing among the weed’s

Branches.

I bring the heart

Not the mind to the interpretation

Of their music, letting the stream

Comb me, feeling it fresh

In my veins, revisiting the sources

That are as near now

As on the morning I set out from them.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from H’m (1972)

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In Early Autumn Sweetly Wistful by Fyodor Tyutchev

In early autumn sweetly wistful,

there is a short but wonderous interim,

when days seem made as though of crystal,

with evenings luminously dim…

 

Without their tillers, empty fields look wider;

where sickles ravaged in the harvester’s ebb,

a single thread left by a spider

still speaks of the unravelled web.

 

Warblers have gone, afraid of future shadows,

yet far away is winter’s firstborn storm,

and heaven pours its azure, pure and warm,

on quietly resting fields and meadows…

 

by Фёдор Иванович Тютчев (Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev)

(1857)

translated by Anatoly Liberman

‘The Stars Glow Blue. The Trees Are Swaying’ by Georgy Ivanov

The stars glow blue. The trees are swaying.

A routine evening. Routine winter, too.

All is forgiven. Nothing’s forgiven.

Music and gloom.

 

We are all heroes, we are all traitors;

all words are worthless, each and every one.

My dear contemporaries –

having fun?

 

by Георгий Владимирович Иванов (Georgii Vladimirovich Ivanov)

a.k.a. Georgy Ivanov

(1934)

translated by Maria Bloshteyn

Three Autumns by Anna Akhmatova

The smiles of summer are simply indistinct

And winter is too clear,

But I can unerringly pick out

Three autumns in each year.

 

The first is a holiday chaos

Spiting the summer of yesterday.

Leaves fly like a schoolboy’s notes,

Like incense, the smell of smoke,

Everything moist, motley, gay.

 

First into the dance are the birches,

They put on their transparent attire

Hastily shaking off their fleeting tears

On to the neighbour next door.

 

But as it happens, the story’s just begun.

A moment, a minute – and here

Comes the second, passionless as conscience,

Sombre as an air raid.

 

Everything suddenly seems paler, older,

Summer’s comfort is plundered,

Through the scented fog float

Far-off marches played on golden trumpets…

 

A flagstone covers the sky vault. Cold waves

Of incense. But the wind’s started to blow

Everything clean open, and straightway

It’s clear that this is the end of the play,

This is not the third autumn but death.

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

(1943)

from Reed

translated by D. M. Thomas

Gurnos Shops by Mike Jenkins

An emaciated tree

clinging to its blackened leaves,

the wind snuffles chip-cartons.

 

The road’s an aerial view

of dirt-dragging streams,

its scabs peeled off by tyres.

 

Clouds collect exhaust-fumes.

A man takes his beer-gut for a walk,

his wife follows on a lead unseen.

 

They won’t climb up on plinths

where benches ought to be

and pose like shop-dummies.

 

Lamp-posts droop their nightly heads,

strays will do the watering.

Graffiti yells, but nobody’s listening.

 

by Mike Jenkins

‘O There Are Words…’ by Anna Akhmatova

O there are words that should not be repeated,

And he who speaks them – is a spendthrift.

Inexhaustable is the sky’s blue spindrift

Alone, and the mercy of the Redeemer.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (Winter 1916, Sebastopol)

– from Белая стая (White Flock, 1917) translation by D. M. Thomas