Do not disturb the silence, do not awaken it with meaningless noise,
There is a law of the deep, unnoticed, forgotten in everyday life:
In every dark corner, in every rumbling gorge, a reflected depth
Is imprinted, and an echo is hidden behind the cliffs.
If you cannot see the sky, do not look for a solution;
You will find only your own reflection in the depths of the well.
If you haven’t seen the peaks, do not go in search of a ghost in the mountains;
If you have seen them, be silent, for an echo will come back as a shot.
Translated from Russian by Nina Kossman
Не тревожь тишины, не буди ее звуками смутными,
Есть закон глубины, незаметный, забытый меж буднями:
В каждом темном углу, в каждом гулком ущельи впечатана
Отраженная глубь, и за скалами эхо припрятано.
Если неба не видно тебе — не ищи ты решения;
В самой глуби колодца найдешь лишь свое отражение.
Не видавший вершин, не зови с собой в горы за призраком,
А видавший — молчи, ибо эхо обрушится выстрелом.
New York, 1978
Michael Kossman was a poet, prose writer, translator of poetry from English and German, and literary critic. He was born in Moscow, where he graduated from high school and began his university studies. He emigrated from the USSR in 1972. He spent one year in Israel. In 1973, he arrived in the US, first settling in Cleveland where his father had a college teaching job, then in New York. He graduated from Columbia University with a master’s degree in Russian literature. He wrote amazing poems and short stories but was indifferent to publication and refused to publish his work. Unfortunately, most of his best poems and short stories are lost, as he did not want to keep them. He translated poems by W.B. Yeats (from English) and Hermann Hesse (from German) into Russian. He authored studies on Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita” and on Zamyatin’s unfinished novel “The Scourge of God”. He was not only a unique poet and short story writer, but also a thinker, and his thinking often verged on the prophetic. He saw life and death so clearly, that in some of his poems written many years ago, he predicted his own death. He passed away on the same night and at the same time as his father, Jan. 22, 2010. After his passing, his sister found an envelope with a few of his poems and arranged for their publication.
This collection, compiled, translated, and edited by poet and scholar Ian Probstein, provides Anglophone audiences with a powerful selection of Mandelstam’s most beloved and haunting poems.
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