ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRANSLATIONS
This migrant flight
That once winged over Hellas.
Were it not for Helen,
What need had you of Troy?
Homer falls silent
Only the black sea rages
And a heavy surf thunders against my pillow.
that blind bards might lay up for us like bees
heavy combs of Ionian honey.
And from the bulging female brow
that distant grandsons might touch
the archipelago’s tender coffins.
And from the cicada’s hidden smithy
tiny hammers ring out over the cut grass.
Already beef hides have been stretched
over wedding shoes,
and before the carpenter’s door
scamper headless chickens.
baking its golden belly
in the Epirian sun.
She longs to be flipped over, caressed.
Where is Terpander?
How long must she wait
for the rape of dry thumbs?
and oaks drink deep from tepid springs.
I would break no bread
and sip but wine and honey
where the creak of labor
does not blacken the islands’ sky.
(from Tristia, 1922)
Oxen chew, the waiting drags on
As the vigil stretches the night’s last hour.
I honored the ritual of the crowing night
When I took up the traveler’s heavy grief.
I saw in a woman’s distant eyes
Tears mingling with the Muses’ song.
What awaits us in the rooster’s call
When a fire burns in the acropolis?
And at the dawn of a new life,
While the oxen chew lazily in the barn,
Why the rooster, herald of the new day,
Beats its wings on the city wall?
Look, drifting towards us like swan’s down,
Barefoot Delia comes flying!
How poor the foundation of our lives,
How plain the language of joy!
Everything has come before and will again,
But only the moment of recognition is sweet.
So be it: a transparent shape
Lies on a clean, earthen dish
Like the stretched hide of a squirrel.
A girl, bending over the wax, reads it.
It is not ours to tell the future of Greek Erebus:
Wax is for women as bronze is for men.
Our lot is to fall in battle,
Their’s to die by prophecy.
—Translated from the Russian by Kevin J. Kinsella
Or the prince of mosquitoes drone?
To blaze up like a match in the dark,
Or nudge night awake with my shoulder.
To shake up a heavy sack
Chock-full of caraway seeds.
So that the flow of blood
And the ringing of dry grass
Every after would ripple on
Through the ages, the hayloft, the dream.
Reprinted from Twentieth-Century Russian Poetry, edited by John Glad and Daniel Weissbort (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1992). Copyright ©1992 by University of Iowa Press. Reprinted by permission of the University of Iowa Press.