Precious ladies long ago,
I visited your ancient home,
glanced from the lofty balcony
at far-off meadowlands and woods,
and sweetly came to the realization:
all your world has disappeared
and gone all its fascination.
Gardens with no flowers now,
a harpsichord that no one plays;
no more the old men's endless sighs
for darling Empress Catherine's days.
I did not run my fingers down
the books that stood in serried rows,
and yet their mouldy graveyard smell
I found congenial to my nose.
I thought how fifty years have left
this place deserted, void and glum.
O may my life be troubled now
entirely by the things to come!
I walk in bliss through flowerbeds
of broken urns, and glorify
thy flight, O Saturn, over us
along the empty starry sky.
God alive! I’m not beyond coherence:
mindfully, I walk among my poems
like a disobliging abbot
among his humble monks.
I shepherd my obedient flock
with a staff that’s bursting into bloom.
Here’s the sower walking along the even rows:
his father, and his father’s father, went the way he goes
And you my native country, and her people, you
will perish and survive, after this year is through –
because this single wisdom is given us to obey:
every thing that lives shall go the seedcorn’s way.
2 nd November’
Long queues were trailing
at the shops. Wires hung in shreds
above the streets. Broken shards of glass
crunched underfoot. With a yellow eye
the unwarming sun of November
was looking down, at women who had aged,
and unshaven men.
I have shaken hands with beauties, poets,
leaders of nations – not one hand displayed
a line of such nobility! Not one hand
has ever touched my hand so like a brother’s.
And the person sitting on the sofa
seemed to me a simple, old, old friend,
who had been worn out from years of travelling;
as if it happened that he’d called on me
and, falling silent in our peaceful talk,
he turned suddenly, gave a sigh, and died.
And sliding through the stagnant night
the tramcar windows as they pass
reflect my café tabletop
in every alien pane of glass.
Translation: Peter DANIELS
all the invincible tenderness
with which the branches desire
to touch once more their native earth