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(62) 1914
Nature is Roman, and mirrored in Rome. We see its forms of civic grandeur In transparent air, like a sky-blue circus, In the forum of fields, in the colonnades of trees.
Nature is Roman, and it seems Pointless to trouble any gods again: There are sacrificial entrails to foretell war, Slaves to keep silence, stones to build!
(65) 1914
Sleeplessness. Homer. Taut sails. I have counted half the catalogue of ships: That caravan of cranes, that expansive host, Which once rose above Hellas.
Like a wedge of cranes towards alien shores – On the kings’ heads godlike spray – Where are you sailing? Without Helen What could Troy mean to you, Achaean men?
Both the sea and Homer – all is moved by love. To whom shall I listen? Now Homer falls silent, And a black sea, thunderous orator, Breaks on my pillow with a roar.
(78) 1915
Herds of horses gaily neigh or graze, The valley rusts like Rome; Time’s translucent rapids wash away A classical Spring’s dry gold.
In Autumn as I tread the oak-leaves, Thickly scattered on deserted paths, I shall remember Caesar’s lovely profile: Effeminate features, treacherous hook-nose.
Now Capitol and Forum are far away, Nature is quietly fading; Even on the earth’s rim I hear The age of Augustus roll, a majestic orb.
When I am old may my sadness gleam. I was born in Rome; it has come back to me; Kind Autumn was my she-wolf And August – month of the Caesars – smiled on me.
(80) 1915
Newly reaped ears Lie in level rows; Fingertips tremble, pressed against Fingers fragile as themselves.
The hunters have trapped you: Stag, the forests shall mourn!
You can have my black coat, sun, But preserve my living power!
(165) 1913
The old men of Euripides, an abject throng, Shamble out like sheep. I slither like a snake, In my heart – dark injury.
But it will not be long Before I shake off sadness, Like a boy in the evening Shaking sand from his sandals.
(178) 1914




– How the splendour of these veils and of this dress Weighs me down in my disgrace!
– In stony Troezen there shall be A notorious disaster, The royal stairs Shall redden with shame And a black sun rise For the amorous mother.
– Oh if it were hatred seething in my breast, – But, you see, the confession burst from my own lips.
– In broad daylight Phaedra burns With a black flame. In broad daylight A funeral taper smoulders. Hippolytus, beware of your mother: Phaedra – the night – stalks you In broad daylight.
– With my black love I have sullied the sun… – We are afraid, we do not dare To succour the imperial grief. Stung by Theseus, night fell on him. We shall bring the dead home with our burial chant; We shall cool the black sun Of its savage, insomniac passion.
(82) 1916
We shall die in transparent Petropolis, Where Proserpina rules over us. We drink the deadly air with every breath, And every hour is the anniversary of our death. Goddess of the sea, dread Athena, Remove your mighty helmet of stone. We shall die in transparent Petropolis: Here Proserpina is tsar, not you.
(89) 1916
This night is irredeemable. Where you are, it is still light. At Jerusalem’s gates A black sun has risen.
The yellow sun is more terrible – Hush-a-bye, baby. Jews in the bright temple Buried my mother.
Bereft of priests, devoid of grace, Jews in the bright temple Sang the service Over this woman’s ashes.
The voice of Israelites rang out Over my mother. I woke in a radiant cradle, Lit by a black sun.
(91) 1916
Disbelieving the miracle of resurrection, We wandered through the cemetery. – You know, the earth everywhere Reminds me of those hills Where Russia stops abruptly Above the black and deafly roaring sea.
From these monastic slopes An ample field runs down. As it was I didn’t want to travel south Away from spacious Vladimir, But to stay there with that occluded nun In the dark wooden village of god’s fools Would have spelled disaster.
I kiss your sunburnt elbow And a wax-like patch of forehead – Still white, I know, Under a strand of dark-complexioned gold. I kiss your wrist whose turquoise bracelet Leaves a band of white: Here, in Tauris, ardent summers Work their wonders.
How quickly you went dark And came to the Redeemer’s meagre icon And couldn’t be torn away from kissing – You who in Moscow had been so proud. For us only a name remains, A miraculous sound for a long time to come. Take from me these grains of sand: I’m pouring them from hand to hand.
(90) 1916
Out of the bottle the stream of golden honey poured so slowly That she had time to murmur (she who had invited us): Here, in sad Tauris, where fate has led us, We shan’t be bored. – She glanced over her shoulder.