Night Song // Osip Mandelstam

Night Song

by Osip Mandelstam


The bread is blight and the air’s acetylene,

Wounds impossible to doctor.

Joseph, by his own blood bartered

Off to Egypt, grieved for home no harder.


Unslaked sky. Sleetlight of stars.

And the stallioned Bedouins, avatars

Of the day’s vagueness, and the pain

Of vagueness, close their eyes and improvise


Out of nothing more than the mist

Of events through which they’ve passed:

Coarse wind, a horse traded for grain, small wars

With sand in which an arrow was lost.


And if the song’s in search of earth, and if the song’s

Ensouled, then everything vanishes

To void, and the stars by which it’s known,

And the voice that lets it all be and be gone.






Translated by Christian Wiman


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