Osip Mandelstam: The Admiralty

In the Northern capital, dusty populus,Sighing, mantles the time’s transparency,
And, through green dark, a frigate or an acropolis,
Brother to water and sky, glows distantly.
A boat of air, its mast like a touch-me-not –
To Peter’s progeny, this rule declares
Beauty was never the whim of a demi-god,
But a simple carpenter’s calculating stares.
Governed by four kind elements of creation,
We, as free people, order the fifth a place:
What is this ark of ours but the abnegation
In cleanly crafted lines of the tyrant, space?
Cranky medusas consolidate a position,
Anchors’ abandoned ploughs are adrift in rust,
But look, the three dimensions burst from their prison
And all the world’s seas are open to us at last.

Translated by Yuri Drobyshev and Carol Rumens

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