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BLOK, Alexander

The Twelve – XII

On they march with sovereign tread…

‘Who else goes there? Come out! I said

come out!’ It is the wind and the red

flag plunging gaily at their head.

The frozen snow-drift looms in front.

‘Who’s in the drift! Come out! Come here!’

There’s only the homeless mongrel runt

limping wretchedly in the rear…

‘You mangy beast, out of the way

before you taste my bayonet.

Old mongrel world, clear off I say!

I’ll have your hide to sole my boot!

The shivering cur, the mongrel cur

bares his teeth like a hungry wolf,

droops his tail, but does not stir…

‘Hey answer, you there, show yourself.’

‘Who’s that waving the red flag?’

‘Try and see! It’s as dark as the tomb!’

‘Who’s that moving at a jog

trot, keeping to the back-street gloom?’

‘Don’t you worry ~ I’ll catch you yet;

better surrender to me alive!’

‘Come out, comrade, or you’ll regret

it ~ we’ll fire when I’ve counted five!’

Crack ~ crack ~ crack! But only the echo

answers from among the eaves…

The blizzard splits his seams, the snow

laughs wildly up the wirlwind’s sleeve…

Crack ~ crack ~ crack!

Crack ~ crack ~ crack!

… So they march with sovereign tread…

Behind them limps the hungry dog,

and wrapped in wild snow at their head

carrying a blood-red flag ~

soft-footed where the blizzard swirls,

invulnerable where bullets crossed ~

crowned with a crown of snowflake pearls,

a flowery diadem of frost,

ahead of them goes Jesus Christ.

The Lady Nobody Knows

Caught by the net of her strange nearness
I lean to look beyond her veil,
and there I see a shining distance
and a shining sea I will never sail.

Now I keep a desperate secret:
a stranger’s star is suddenly mine,
and all the winding turns of my soul
are awash in bitter waves of wine!

She moves, and the sweep of her dark veils
brushes the trembling heart in me;
her blue eyes burn like beacon fires
there on the shore of that shining sea.

Now my soul is a sealed room
whose secret treasure is only mine,
and monstrous! I have finally found
the truth that waits in a glass of wine.

The Night

T he night. The street. Street-lamp. Drugstore.

A meaningless dull light about.

You may live twenty-five years more;

All will still be there. No way out.

You die. You start again and all

Will be repeated as before:

The cold rippling of a canal.

The night. The street. Street-lamp. Drugstore.

Translated by Vladimir Markov and Merrill Sparks


Nacht, straten, apotheek, lantaren,

Een zinloos schijnsel in de mist.

Al leef je nog eens twintig jaren -

Geen uitweg - alles is beslist.


Je sterft en wordt opnieuw geboren,

Alles herhaalt zich vroeg of laat:

Rimpels in het kanaal bevroren,

Nacht, apotheek, lantaren, straat

Vertaling: Marja Wiebes en Margriet Berg

Do not entrust

Do not entrust all roads yours

To the unfaithful, immense crowd:

It'll smash your castle with rough force,

And quench light of your temple, proud.

He's single to bear his hard cross

Whose spirit is unmoved in rightness,

His fire on high hills he burns,

And breaks a curtain of the darkness.

Do You Remember?..

Do you remember? In the harbor passive,

Just where green water calmly sleeps,

Set in the column, strong and massive,

Appeared navy's silent ships.

All four were gray. And many questions

Were shortly overwhelming us,

And sailors, very tanned and fashioned,

To shore in solemn silence passed.

The world became luring and broad,

But once, ships started to depart:

The four of them on their road

Dug in the ocean and night.

The sea obtained the former glow,

The lone beacon sadly twinkled

When on the mast, becoming low,

The last of signals lost the link.

Oh, how little we wait from living -

We are the children - I and you,

You see, the heart is happy, seeing

The smallest part of all that new.

A pocket knife brought you a treasure -

The speck of dust from a far land --

And world again becomes a stranger

That by the colored cloud veiled.