How I wish I could fly
where no-one could see me
behind the beam of light
leaving no trace.
But you let the light encircle you,
that’s the one happiness.
Learn from the star the meaning
If it’s a beam, if it’s light
that’s only because
the whisper and chatter of lovers
strengthen and warm it.
And I want to tell you
that I am whispering,
I’m giving you up to the light,
Little one in whispers.
Just for its potters the dark blue island
Crete is great, and so light-hearted. When they worked the clay
into rings, you can hear their genius:
Do you hear the fins of
dolphins beating deep in the clay?
Speak of this sea and it will rise
in the clay, to smile in its oven,
and the frozen power of the vessel
becomes half sea, half
Blue island, give me back what is mine.
Flying Crete, give back my work to me.
Fill the baked vessel
from the beasts of the
This was done, and was sung, and turned blue
in the days before Odysseus,
before food and drink
were called “my” and
Grow strong again and shine
o star of ox-eyed heavens
and you, flying fish of chance,
and you, oh water, saying:
Olip Mandelstam 15 January [O.S. 3 January] 1891 – 27 December 1938) was a Russian poet and essayist who lived in Russia during and after its revolution and the rise of the Soviet Union. However when he was young he studied at both the Sorbonne in Paris and in Heidelberg Germany, and his poetry is truly modern European in its breadth and style.He was one of the foremost members of the Acmeist school of poets, which included his great friend Anna Akmatova. He admired and loved Maria Tsetyeva (see her poems Milestones and later posts in Great Poetry Circle) another famous Russian poet of the pre-revolutionary period before she was forced into exile in the years of starvation in 1922. Though many of his poems were inevitably black and cynical because of the times he lived in, some of his poetry was full of life with images from countries he had never even visited. Mandelstam was arrested by Joseph Stalin's government during the repression of the 1930s and sent into internal exile with his wife Nadezhda. Given a reprieve of sorts, they moved to Voronezh in southwestern Russia. In 1938 Mandelstam was arrested again and sentenced to a camp in Siberia. He died that year at a transit camp near Vladivostock.
Adapted from Wikipedia