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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Osip Mandelstam

There is no need for words

There is no need for words:
nothing must be heard.
How sad, and fine,
an animal’s dark mind.

Nothing it must make heard:
it has no use for words,
a young dolphin, plunging, steep,
along the world’s grey deep.

I wanted to write today about Osip Mandelstam, about some of his poems, but I realized that I'm not sure what I've done with the only translation of his work I've found that I'm truly happy with. It was one of those books that I kept shoving in people's face, or stopping them (people I know, of course) and saying, "Listen to this!" And reading poems to them. Which means that it was the sort of book that I'm prone to lending, or giving away on impulse because I just couldn't keep it to myself.

Now after an hour of sitting here, remembering when and where I bought it and following myself to the spot under a lilac where I first sat with a coffee and read it, and who of the people I know I'm likely to have ambushed with it over the following few weeks, I have an idea of where the book is. But I can't remember if I lent or gave it. So I'll have to ask the person if he has it, and if I can borrow it for a few days. If so, I'll put up some thoughts about some poems of his that flattened me. Until then I'll have to make do with the above poem, which is the most satisfactory translation of his work that I can find online (got it here).

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