Osip Mandelstam. Translated by Ian Probstein

Also in Translations:

1. image-Osip(1)
Osip Mandelstam. Translated by Ian Probstein

Poems for N[atalia] Е. Shtempel
Unwillingly clinging to a bare land,

With an uneven sweet gait

She goes—a little bit ahead

Of a swift girlfriend and her young groom.

She is drawn by the constrained freedom

Of an uplifting imperfection.

Perhaps a clear prediction

Clings to her gait, longing to stay:

That this spring weather

Is for us a grave’s foremother,

And this will begin forever.
Some women are kin to damp earth,

Their each step is a resonant dirge,

They are summoned to accompany

The risen and be the first to greet the dead.

It is a crime to demand their caresses,

And it is impossible to leave them.

Today — an angel, tomorrow — a grave’s worm,

And the next day—just a shadow . . .

What was a posture will be gone . . .

Flowers are immortal, the sky is wholesome,

And everything to come — is just a promise.

May 4, 1937
The Original
Стихи к H[аталии] Е. Штемпель
К пустой земле невольно припадая,

Неравномерной сладкою походкой

Она идёт—чуть-чуть опережая

Подругу быструю и юношу-погодка.

Её влечёт стеснённая свобода

Одушевляющего недостатка,

И, может статься, ясная догадка

В её походке хочет задержаться —

О том, что эта вешняя погода

Для нас — праматерь гробового свода,

И это будет вечно начинаться.
Есть женщины, сырой земле родные,

И каждый шаг их — гулкое рыданье,

Сопровождать воскресших и впервые

Приветствовать умерших—их призванье.

И ласки требовать от них преступно,

И расставаться с ними непосильно.

Сегодня — ангел, завтра — червь могильный,

А послезавтра—только очертанье…

Что было—поступь — станет недоступно…

Цветы бессмертны. Небо целокупно.

И всё, что будет, — только обещанье.

4 мая 1937
From Centuries Encircle Me with Fire: Selected Poems of Osip Mandelstam. A Bilingual English–Russian Edition; translations by Ian Probstein. Academic Studies Press (2022)

About the Author:

Mandelshtam17 (2)
Osip Mandelstam
Russia/ The Soviet Union

Osip Mandelstam [Rus. Осип Мандельштам] (14 January 1891 – 27 December 1938) was one of the greatest Russian poets of the 20th century.  He was arrested in the 1930s and sent into internal exile with Nadezhda Mandelshtam, his wife. Given a reprieve of sorts, they moved to Voronezh in southwestern Russia. In 1938 Mandelstam was arrested again and sentenced to five years in a GULAG camp in the Soviet Far East. He died that year at a transit camp near Vladivostok.

About the Translator:

Ian . (1)
Ian Probstein
New York, USA

Ian Probstein is a poet, scholar, and translator of poetry. His most recent book in English is The River of Time: Time-Space, Language and History in Avant-Garde, Modernist, and Contemporary Poetry.  Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2017, Complete annotated edition of T. S. Eliot’s Poetry and Plays (St. Petersburg: Azbuka, 2019), Charles Bernstein. Sign Under Test: Selected Poems and Essays. (Moscow: Russian Gulliver-Center 2020).

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