Celan Reads Mandelstam


Here is a basic translation into English of this poem by A. S. Kline (see a Kline— Mandelstam site here). Unhappily the attempt to reproduce rhyme schemes etc. simply kills the poem or at least diminishes it a lot, still it does give a narrative account of OM’s poem. Note also that Kline seems unaware of what is the most famous appearance of the “black sun” image: it’s central position in Paul Celan’s “Todefuge.”


This night is irredeemable.

Where you are, it is still bright.

At the gates of Jerusalem,

a black sun is alight.

The yellow sun is hurting,

sleep, baby, sleep.

The Jews in the Temple’s burning

buried my mother deep.

Without rabbi, without blessing,

over her ashes, there,

the Jews in the Temple’s burning

chanted the prayer.

Over this mother,

Israel’s voice was sung.

I woke in a glittering cradle,

lit by a black sun.

Note: Written in 1916 it glitters with a terrible prophecy. The black sun recurs as an image in Mandelshtam, associated also with Pushkin’s burial at night and  Euripides’ ‘Phaedra’. See the fragments of Mandelshtam’s unpublished essay ‘Pushkin and Scriabin’, the poem  Phaedra in ‘Tristia’, and the poem  ‘We shall meet again in Petersburg.’ (Translated in my small selection of  Russian Poems: ‘Clear Voices’)  

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