Monday, 24 February 2020

Poetry Revisited: Bесна – Spring by Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev


(из книги Стихи и
политические статьи: 1886)

Зима недаром злится,
Прошла ее пора —
Весна в окно стучится
И гонит со двора.

И все засуетилось,
Все нудит Зиму вон —
И жаворонки в небе
Уж подняли трезвон.

Зима еще хлопочет
И на Весну ворчит.
Та ей в глаза хохочет
И пуще лишь шумит…

Взбесилась ведьма злая
И, снегу захватя,
Пустила, убегая,
В прекрасное дитя…

Весне и горя мало:
Умылася в снегу,
И лишь румяней стала,
Наперекор врагу.


Фёдор Иванович Тютчев (1803–1873)
Русский поэт, Диплома́т и государственный деятель


(from Poems and
Political Articles: 1886)

The winter not without reason grows wroth:
Her season is past,
Spring knocks at the window
And drives her out of doors.

And everything has begun to stir,
Everything drives the winter away
And the larks in the sky
Have already raised their chime.

Winter still makes trouble,
And grumbles at the spring,
But she laughs in her face,
And only clamours more.

The angry witch grew furious
And, snatching up the snow,
Threw it, running away,
At the pretty child.

For spring it was but little concern:
She washed herself in the snow,
And became only rosier
In spite of her foe.


Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev (1803–1873)
Russian poet, diplomat and statesman

Translation as published in
B. A. Rudzinsky, Stella Gardiner: Poems
selected from Karamzin, Pushkin, Tyutchev,
Lermontov, Count A. Tolstoy, Nikitin,
Pleshcheyev, Nadson, and Sologub.
H. S. Marshall, London; J. Menzies,
Edinburgh and Glasgow 1917.

Friday, 21 February 2020

Bookish Déjà-Vu: In Diamond Square by Mercè Rodoreda

Even in our modern times it can be quite a challenge for a woman to stand her own in a society that can’t deny its patriarchal and sexist heritage, moreover one that men still live either because they belong to those few who cling stubbornly to anachronistic views or because in their regions of the world it’s common practice. In a past, when in the Western world, too, to be born a woman almost inevitably meant to be doomed to a life of submission and suffering, only few had the chance and the courage to claim power over their own destiny. In Barcelona of the 1930s, the protagonist of In Diamond Square by Mercè Rodoreda, another bookish déjà-vu, vegetates beside her all-controlling husband until the need to feed her family and the adversities of the Civil War wake her up and force her to take life into her own hands…
Read my review »

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Back Reviews Reel: February 2017

The literary form of the epistolary novel was in my review focus this month three years ago. In So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ a Senegalese woman writes to her friend abroad about the grief when her husband took a second wife after over twenty years of marriage and then died. The correspondence of a divorced couple trying to lead their rebel son back in the right way in 1970s Israel builds the story of Black Box by Amos Oz. The Letters to Felician by Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachmann reveal the heart of a young woman who after the horrors of World War II yields to her romantic phantasies about an imagined lover. And finally, the mail of an English businessman and the diary of his brother preparing to become a Hindu monk reveal their views of each other and lead near Culcutta of the 1960s to A Meeting by the River by Christopher Isherwood.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Poetry Revisited: Winter and Spring by Hannah Flagg Gould

Winter and Spring

(from The Youth's Coronal: 1851)

“Adieu!“ Father Winter sadly said
To the world, when about withdrawing,
With his old white wig half off his head,
And his icicle fingers thawing.

“Adieu! I am going to the rocks and caves,
And must leave all here behind me;
Or, perhaps I shall sink in the Northern waves,
So deep that none can find me.“

“Good luck! good luck, to your hoary locks!“
Said the gay young Spring, advancing;
“You may take your rest mid the caves and rocks,
While I o'er the earth am dancing.

“But there is not a spot where your foot has trod,
You hard, and clumsy old fellow,
Not a hill, nor a field, nor a single sod,
But I must make haste to mellow.

“And then I shall carpet them o'er with grass,
Which will look so bright and cheering,
That none will regret that they let you pass
Far out of sight and of hearing.

“The fountains that you locked up so tight,
When I shall give them a sunning,
Will sparkle and play with my warmth and light,
And the streams will set to running.

“I'll speak in the earth to the palsied root,
That under your reign was sleeping;
I'll teach it the way in the dark to shoot,
And draw out the vine to creeping.

“The boughs that you cased so close in ice
It was chilling e'en to behold them,
I'll deck all over with buds so nice,
My breath can alone unfold them.

“And when all the trees are with blossoms dressed,
The bird with her song so merry
Will come to the branches to build her nest,
With a view to the future cherry.

“The earth will show by her loveliness,
The wonders I am doing,
While the skies look down, with a smile, to bless
The way that I'm pursuing!“

Said Winter, “Then I would have you learn
By me, my gay new-comer,
To push off too, when it comes your turn
And yield your place to Summer!“

Hannah Flagg Gould (1789-1865)
American poet

Monday, 10 February 2020

Poetry Revisited: Winter Heavens by George Meredith

Winter Heavens

(from A Reading of Earth: 1888)

Sharp is the night, but stars with frost alive
Leap off the rim of earth across the dome.
It is a night to make the heavens our home
More than the nest whereto apace we strive.
Lengths down our road each fir-tree seems a hive,
In swarms outrushing from the golden comb.
They waken waves of thoughts that burst to foam:
The living throb in me, the dead revive.
Yon mantle clothes us: there, past mortal breath,
Life glistens on the river of the death.
It folds us, flesh and dust; and have we knelt,
Or never knelt, or eyed as kine the springs
Of radiance, the radiance enrings:
And this is the soul's haven to have felt.

George Meredith (1828-1909)
English novelist and poet

Monday, 3 February 2020

Poetry Revisited: There’s A Certain Slant of Light by Emily Dickinson

There’s A Certain Slant of Light

(from Poems by Emily Dickinson. Series 1: 1890)

There's a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.

Heavenly hurt it gives us;
We can find no scar,
But internal difference
Where the meanings are.

None may teach it anything,
'T is the seal, despair,—
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the air.

When it comes, the landscape listens,
Shadows hold their breath;
When it goes, 't is like the distance
On the look of death.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
American poet