“The drifting smoke was melting in the frosty air” (“В морозном воздухе растаял легкий дым”), Osip Mandelstam

Mandelstam in 1909
Mandelstam in 1909

An early poem from 1909. Mandelstam was 18, and a student at the University of Heidelberg.

The drifting smoke was melting in the frosty air,
And I, oppressed by freedom’s sadness, lingering there,
Wished only to ascend to cold and quiet singing,
To disappear for ever, but my fate was bringing

Me down the snowy street upon the evening hour
Where dog was barking at the sunset’s clinging power.
With passers-by approaching me my heart was pounding.
Don’t speak to me! What can I say? It’s too confounding.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

В морозном воздухе растаял легкий дым,
И я, печальною свободою томим,
Хотел бы вознестись в холодном, тихом гимне,
Исчезнуть навсегда, но суждено идти мне

По снежной улице, в вечерний этот час
Собачий слышен лай и запад не погас,
И попадаются прохожие навстречу.
Не говори со мной! Что я тебе отвечу?

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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