“I see the heavens, dull and stony” (“Я вижу каменное небо”), Osip Mandelstam

Portrait by Lev Aleksandrovitc Bruni

An early poem, from 1910.

I see the heavens, dull and stony
Above the waters’ sluggish web.
And Erebus, soul’s hateful crony,
Enfolds me in his tedious ebb.

I comprehend this dread appalling,
And there’s a link I understand:
Not crumbling, still the sky is falling,
Not foaming, still sea strikes the strand.

Oh, pale chimeras’ shadows hover
Upon the rough sand’s glimmer-gold,
And, oh, the grey sail’s trefoil’s cover
Is cross-nailed, like my yearning’s hold!


Я вижу каменное небо
Над тусклой паутиной вод.
В тисках постылого Эреба
Душа томительно живет.

Я понимаю этот ужас
И постигаю эту связь:
И небо падает, не рушась,
И море плещет, не пенясь.

О, крылья бледные химеры,
На грубом золоте песка,
И паруса трилистник серый,
Распятый, как моя тоска!

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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