Wednesday, October 7, 2009

OSIP MANDELSTAM : THE AGE (1923)

My Age, my beast, who will be fit
To look into your eyes
As his blood binds
The vertebrae of two centuries?
Blood, the Builder erupts
From the throats of earth-bound things;
A parasite can but tremble
On the threshold of new days.

Blood, the Builder erupts
From the throats of earth-bound things
And flings burnt fish
Onto the coast of warm sinews from the sea.
And from high bird-nets
From wet azure clods,
It pours casually down
Onto your deadly wound.

So, as the Age wrenches itself out of captivity
So, as a new world begins,
A skein of knotted days
Must be twined within a flute.
This Age is lurching on waves
Of human anguish
And in the grass, a viper breathes
The measure of a golden age.

And buds will still swell,
Green shoots will emerge,
But your vertebrae are shattered,
My beautiful, wretched age!
And with mindless smile
You look back, violent and weak,
Like a once lithe beast,
On your paw prints behind.

(tr. Deborah Marshall&DouglasPenick)

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