Aug 162017

When hopes and dreams are loose in the streets, it is well for the timid to lock doors, shutter windows and lie low until the wrath has passed. For there is often a monstrous incongruity between the hopes, however noble and tender, and the action which follows them. It is as if ivied maidens and garlanded youths were to herald the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

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Aug 062017
See how the orient dew,
Shed from the bosom of the morn
   Into the blowing roses,
Yet careless of its mansion new,
For the clear region where ’twas born
   Round in itself incloses:
   And in its little globe’s extent,
Frames as it can its native element.
   How it the purple flow’r does slight,
      Scarce touching where it lies,
   But gazing back upon the skies,
      Shines with a mournful light,
         Like its own tear,
Because so long divided from the sphere.
   Restless it rolls and unsecure,
      Trembling lest it grow impure,
   Till the warm sun pity its pain,
And to the skies exhale it back again.
      So the soul, that drop, that ray
Of the clear fountain of eternal day,
Could it within the human flow’r be seen,
      Remembering still its former height,
      Shuns the sweet leaves and blossoms green,
      And recollecting its own light,
Does, in its pure and circling thoughts, express
The greater heaven in an heaven less.
      In how coy a figure wound,
      Every way it turns away:
      So the world excluding round,
      Yet receiving in the day,
      Dark beneath, but bright above,
      Here disdaining, there in love.
   How loose and easy hence to go,
   How girt and ready to ascend,
   Moving but on a point below,
   It all about does upwards bend.
Such did the manna’s sacred dew distill,
White and entire, though congealed and chill,
Congealed on earth : but does, dissolving, run
Into the glories of th’ almighty sun.
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Jun 222017

The righteous man followed God’s luminous angels
And hurried after them over the hill.
But his wife heard an anxious voice that whispered:
“It isn’t too late, not yet; you can still

Look back at the towers of the town you came from,
At the street where you sang and the room where you spun,
At the empty windows of the house you cared for
And the bed where all your children were born.”

And of course she looked back. She felt a quick pang
And then everything ended. Her eyes closed
And her body dissolved into bitter crystals.
Her small feet stopped and grew into the ground.

No one seems to have mourned this woman;
She was only a minor event in the book.
But my heart holds fast to her memory:
A woman who gave up her life for a look.


The Stray Dog Cabaret: A Book of Russian Poems

(New York Review Books Classics)

Translated by Paul Schmidt.

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