From Paul Celan’s radio-essay on Osip Mandelstam, here is a further Mandelstam poem — a very literal translation of Celan’s German version. Earlier extracts of this piece can be found here, here and here.
JANUARY 1, 1924
Whoever kisses time’s sore brow
will often, like a son, think tenderly
how she, time, laid down to sleep outside
in high heaped wheat drifts, in the corn.
Whoever has raised the century’s eyelid
– both slumber-apples, large and heavy – ,
hears noise, hears the streams roar
the lying times, relentlessly
Imperious century, with loam-beautiful mouth
and two apples, asleep – yet
before it dies: to the son’s hand, so shrunken,
it bends down its lip.
Life’s breath, I know, ebbs away each day,
one more small one, a small one – and
deceased is the song of mortification, loam and plague,
with lead they seal your mouth.
Oh loam-and-life! Oh centrury’s death!
Only to the one, I’m afraid, does its meaning reveal itself,
in whom there was a smile, helpless – to the inheritor,
the man who lost himself.
Oh pain, oh to search for the lost word.
oh lid and lid to raise, sick and weak,
for generations, the strangest, with lime in your blood
to gather the grass and the weed of night!
Time. The lime in the blood of the sick son
turns hard. Moscow, that wooden coffer, sleeps.
Time, the sovereign. And no escape anywhere…
The snow’s apple-scent, as always.
The sill here: I wish I could leave it.
Whereto? The street – darkness.
And, as if it were salt, so white, there on the pavement
lies my conscience, spread out before me.
Through winding lanes, through slipways
the journey goes, somehow:
a bad passenger sits in a sled,
pulls a blanket over the knees.
The lanes, the shimmering lanes, the by-lanes
the runners crunch’s like apples under the tooth.
The strap, I can’t grab it,
it doesn’t want me to, and the hand is clammy.
Night, cartwoman, with what scrap and iron
are you rolling through Moscow?
Fish thud here, and there, from pink houses,
it steams toward you – scalegold!
Moscow, anew. Ah, I greet you, once more!
Forgive, excuse – my misery wasn’t very great.
I like to call them, as always, my brethren:
the pike’s saying and the hard frost!
The snow in the pharmacy’s raspberry light…
A clattering, from afar, an Underwood…
The coachman’s back… the roadway, blown away…
What more do you want? They won’t kill you.
Winter – beauty. And skyward the white,
the starmilk – it streams, streams away and blinks.
The horsehair blanket crunches along the icy
runners – the horsehair blanket sings!
The little lanes, smoking, the petroleum, always – :
swallowed by snow, raspberry colored.
They hear the Soviet-sonatina jingle,
remember the year twenty.
Does it make me swear and damn?
– The frost’s apple-scent, again –
Oh oath that I swore to the fourth estate!
Oh my promise, heavy with tears!
Oh whom will you kill? Whom will you praise?
And what lie, tell me, are you going to make up?
Tear off this cartilage, the keys of the machine:
the pike’s bones you lay open.
The lime in the blood of the sick son: it fades.
A laughter, blissful, frees itself –
Sonatas, powerful… The little sonatina
of the typewriter – : only its shadow!