Bring Me To The Brink // Osip Mandelstam

Bring me to the brink of mountains, mystic,
Dread, rapture of fear I feel and … fail.
Still: the swallow slicing blue is beautiful.
Still: the cloud-tugged bell tower’s frozen music.

There is in me a man alive, a man alone,
Who, heart-stopped above a deep abyss,
Can hear a snowball grow one snowflake less,
The clock-tick accretions of dust becoming stone.

No. I am not that man, not that sadness
With its precise ice, its exquisite rue.
The pain that sings in me does not sing, and is true.

O whirlwind, O real wind
In which the avalanche is happening,
All my soul is bells, which will not ring.


Translated by Christian Wiman

Cathedral, Empty // Osip Mandelstam

When light, failing,

Through stained glass,

The long grass
At the feet of christ,

I crawl diabolical
To the foot of the cross

To sip the infinite

From destroyed

An air of thriving

Like a lone cypress

Holding on
To some airless

Annihilating height.




Translated by Christian Wiman

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