Osip Mandelstam: Tristia

It's so my own and so familiar. What should
I do with this God-given flesh and blood?

For joys so quiet as to live and breathe,
Who will receive my gratitude for these?

I'm both the gardener and flower one,
In this world's dungeons I am not alone.

On the glass of the eternal one can see
The traces of my breath and of the warmth of me.

Henceforth it bears a pattern which is mine
Even to me unknown from recent times.

Let it be drained, the turmoil of the day -
The lovely pattern won't be crossed away.


She has not taken her first sigh -
She is the word and music both -
And thus of all that lives and grows
A timeless and unbroken tie.

Placidly breathe the breasts of sea
The day is bright, as if gone mad,
The sea foam's pallid lilacs stand
In vase of lapis lazuli.

O, would my lips accept the lure
Of muteness prime, now so remote,
Reminding of a crystal notes
That are innately truly pure.

Be foam, O Venus, stay as mists,
And words to music do return
And heart, at heart's own shame do burn,
Fused with the core of what exists!

x x x

An inexpressible sorrow
Two giant pupils opened wide,
A vase of flowers rose beside
And into air her crystals threw

The room was filled three meters deep
With dreaminess - hello sweet balm!
That such a liliputian realm
Could have consumed so much of sleep.

A bit of wine a bit of cake -
A bit of sunny May despite -
And thinnest fingers snowy white,
Alive at last, have stretched awake.

x x x

A snow hive cleaner than the air,
Crystal more see-through than the glass
A turquoise veil adorned with brass
Carelessly tossed upon a chair.

A cloth made drunk of her own glow
Caressed by tenderness of light
Experienced the summer bright
As though it were the winter snow.

And if through diamonds made of ice
Frosts of eternities were streaming
Here is the flutter of the dreaming
Fast-living blue-eyed dragonflies.

x x x

Blackened wind weaves patterns hollow
Under barely breathing leaves
And a trembling little swallow
In dark skies a circle weaves.

Quietly argue in the heart
Dear, dying, mine despite,
An impending dusk apart
Of an ebbing ray of light.

And above the woods of dusk
Has arisen copper moon;
Why so little song, I ask,
And such silence in the lone?

x x x

Why is the soul so lyrical
And so few are the names I love
And the ready rhythm but a miracle
Like Aquillon from above?

He will raise clouds of dust in a hurry
He will leaf through the paper stack
And he will not come back -- or maybe
As another he will come back?

Winds of Orpheus are embracing -
You will leave for the sea and sky -
And, the world not created praising,
I forgot the superfluous "I".

In a make-believe grove I have wandered
And into an azure cave delved..
Am I really real, I ponder,
And death will claim my true self?

x x x

Perhaps you not need me not this minute,
Night; from sea foams of the world -
A shell without a pearl within it -
Upon your shores I have been hurled.

With mists the ocean you embellish
And wordlessly you sing as well;
But you will love, and you will cherish
The pretense of a useless shell.

On ocean sands you lie next to her
In misty haze you dress her well
And with tight roping you tie to her
An oversized and brazen bell.

And then the seashell, fragile, empty,
A lonely heart that beats in vain,
You fill with sea foam's whispers plenty,
With fog with wind and with light rain.

x x x

Oh your image, haunting me yet blurred,
In the fog I could not touch or feel.
"Goodness me" by error slipped the word
Unawares, yet heeding its appeal.

Name of god, like a large bird, so intensely,
Took a flight right out of my chest.
Straight ahead the fog is steaming densely
And behind me, cage's emptiness.

x x x

White light falls in cold measure
In damp forest on summer day
In my heart I am slowly carrying
Sadness, like bird colored gray.

What to do with a bird that is wounded?
She went silent, then died as well.
From a fogged-over belltower
Someone has stolen the bell.

And here stands the silent
Muted and orphaned height
Like a tower white and empty
In foggy and quiet night.

Morning abysmally tender
Semi-awake, semi-dream,
Foggy ringing of thoughts,
Oblivion like a scream.

© Copyright Osip Mandelstam
© Copyright english translation by Ilya Shambat (ilya_shambat@yahoo.com)
Date: 14 Aug 2001

Origin: "Kamen. Tristia"


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