In 1940


When you bury an epoch
You do not sing psalms at the tomb.
Soon, nettles and thistles
Will be in bloom.
And onlybodies won't wait!
The gravediggers toil;
And it's quiet, Lord, so quiet,
Time has become audible.
And one day the age will rise,
Like a corpse in a spring river
But no mother's son will recognize
The body of his mother.
Grandsons will bow their heads.
The moon like a pendulum swinging.
 
And nowover stricken Paris
Silence is winging.

2
To the Londoners
Shakespeare's play, his twenty-fourth
Time is writing it impassively.
By the leaden river what can we,
Who know what such feasts are,
Do, except read Hamlet, Caesar, Lear?
Or escort Juliet to her bed, and christen
Her death, poor dove, with torches and singing;
Or peep through the window at Macbeth,
Trembling with the one who kills from greed
Only not this one, not this one, not this one,
This one we do not have the strength to read.

3

Shade

What does a certain woman know
about the hour of her death?
O. Mandelstam
Tallest, most elegant of us, why does memory
Insist you swim up from the years, pass
Swaying down a train, searching for me,
Transparent profile through the carriage-glass ?
Were you angel or bird ?how we argued it!
A poet took you for his drinking-straw.
Your Georgian eyes through sable lashes lit
With the same even gentleness, all they saw.
shade! Forgive me, but clear sky, Flaubert,
Insomnia, the lilacs flowering late,
Have brought youbeauty of the year
'13and your unclouded temperate day,
Back to my mind, in memories that appear
Uncomfortable to me now. shade!

4
I thought I knew all the paths
And precipices of insomnia,
But this is a trumpet-blast
And like a charge of cavalry.
I enter an empty house
That used to be someone's home,
It's quiet, only white shadows
In a stranger's mirrors swim.
And what is that in a mist?
Denmark ? Normandy? or some time
In the past did I live here,
And thisa new edition
Of moments forever lost?

5
But I warn you,
I am living for the last time.
Not as a swallow, not as a maple,
Not as a reed nor as a star,
Not as water from a spring,
Not as bells in a tower
Shall I return to trouble you
Nor visit other people's dreams
With lamentation.

1940

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