Osip-Mandelstam

Take, from my palms, for joy, for ease,
A little honey, a little sun,
That we may obey Persephone’s bees.

You can’t untie a boat unmoored.
Fur-shod shadows can’t be heard,
Nor terror, in this life, mastered.

Love, what’s left for us, and of us, is this
Living remnant, loving revenant, brief kiss
Like a bee flying completed dying hiveless

To find in the forest’s heart a home,
Night’s never-ending hum,
Thriving on meadowsweet, mint, and time.

Take, for all that is good, for all that is gone,
That it may lie rough and real against your collarbone,
This string of bees, that once turned honey into sun.

—  Osip Mandelstam, “The Necklace” (translated by Christian Wiman)

Alone I stare into the frost’s white face.  
It’s going nowhere, and I—from nowhere.  
Everything ironed flat, pleated without a wrinkle:  
Miraculous, the breathing plain.  

Meanwhile the sun squints at this starched poverty—
The squint itself consoled, at ease …  
The ten-fold forest almost the same …  
And snow crunches in the eyes, innocent, like clean bread.

—  Osip Mandelstam, from Alone I Stare Into The Frost’s White Face (1937) translated by John High and Matvei Yankelevich

Insomnia. Homer. Taut sails.
I’ve read through half the list of ships:
This spun-out brood, this train of cranes
That once ascended over Hellas.

A wedge of cranes to foreign shores,-
Your kings’ heads wreathed in spray,-
Where are you sailing? Were it not for Helen,
Achaeans, what would Troy have been to you?

The sea and Homer - love moves all.
Where should I turn? Here Homer is silent,
While the Black Sea clamors oratorically
And reaches my pillow with a heavy roar

—  Osip Mandelstam

And I was alive in the blizzard of the blossoming pear,
Myself I stood in the storm of the bird-cherry tree.

It was all leaflife and starshower, unerring, self-shattering power,

And it was all aimed at me.

What is this dire delight flowering fleeing always earth?

What is being? What is truth?

Blossoms rupture and rapture the air,

All hover and hammer,

Time intensified and time intolerable, sweetness raveling rot.

It is now. It is not.

—  Osip Mandelstam. And I Was Alive.
118

We shall meet again, in Petersburg,
as though we had buried the sun there,
and then we shall pronounce for the first time
the blessed word with no meaning.
In the Soviet night, in the velvet dark,
in the black velvet Void, the loved eyes
of blessed women are still singing,
flowers are blooming that will never die.

The capital haunches like a wild cat,
a patrol is stationed on the bridge,
a single car rushes past in the dark,
snarling, hooting like a cuckoo.
For this night I need no pass.
I’m not afraid of the sentries.
I will pray in the Soviet night
for the blessed word with no meaning.

A rustling, as in a theater,
and a girl suddenly crying out,
and the arms of Cypris are weighed down
with roses that will never fall.
For something to do we warm ourselves at a bonfire,
maybe the ages will die away
and the loved hands of blessed women
will brush the light ashes together.

Somewhere audiences of red flowers exist,
and the fat sofas of the loges,
and a clockwork officer
looking down on the world.
Never mind if our candles go out
in the velvet, in the black Void. The bowed shoulders
of the blessed women are still singing.
You’ll never notice the night’s sun.

-Osip Mandelstam, 25th November, 1920.

From a fearful height, a wandering light,
but does a star glitter like this, crying?
Transparent star, wandering light,
your brother, Petropolis, is dying.

From a fearful height, earthly dreams are alight,
and a green star is crying.
Oh star, if you are the brother of water and light
your brother, Petropolis, is dying.

A monstrous ship, from a fearful height
is rushing on, spreading its wings, flying -
Green star, in beautiful poverty,
your brother, Petropolis, is dying.

Transparent spring breaks, above the black Neva’s hiss,
the wax of immortality is liquefying.
Oh if you are star – your city, Petropolis,
your brother, Petropolis, is dying.
—  Osip Mandel´stám (1891-1938), ‘Petropolis’
Think of Mandelstam, think of Pasternak, Chaplin, Dovzhenko, Mizoguchi, and you’ll realise what tremendous emotional power is carried by these exalted figures who soar above the earth, in whom the artist appears not just as an explorer of life, but as one who creates great spiritual treasures and that special beauty which is subject only to poetry. Such an artist can discern the lines of the poetic design of being. He is capable of going beyond the limitations of coherent logic, and conveying the deep complexity and truth of the impalpable connections and hidden phenomena of life.
—  Andrei Tarkovsky; Sculpting in Time
Somebody gave me this body; what do I do with it now?

Somebody gave me this body; what do I do with it now?

It’s a very remarkable body, and nobody’s body but mine.

I’m alive and I breathe, I’m strong and tall

Won’t somebody tell me who to thank for it all?

I’m the gardener and the flower, too

And in this prison of a world I’m not alone.

When I move, when I breathe, I leave my mark

On the everlasting window pane that keeps out the dark.

It’s the mark of myself! And that mark will remain

On the cold transparence of that window pane.

Life beyond the glass may darken, day to day

But my mark on that window pane will never go away.

Osip Mandelstam