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Delicious Reverie

blog of developer & bookworm benjamin read

Poetry: Osip Mandelshtam / Philip Nikolayev

Since reading Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago, I've been deeply moved by his poetry. I've just discovered the wonderful contemporary Russian poet Osip Mandelshtam, who, like Pasternak, evokes some wonderful imagery and delightful reveries.

Philip Nikolayev has a wonderful command of the English language, and his translations of Mandelshtam's poems is really delightful, particularly in his use of alliteration. Here's my favourite one:

Insomnia, Homer, taut sails: my lips have lisped
Down to the middle the detailed list of ships,
That long brood and angular train of cranes
That rose above Hellas once on wings of waves.

A wedge of cranes into far foreign lands -
Divine white froth forming upon kings' heads -
Where have you hoist sail to/ If it were not for Helen
What would Troy alone be to you, Achaean men?

The sea and Homer - as all - are moved by love;
Which should I hark? Homer the first to fall
Silent, the black sea's cries still rhapsodize
Reaching to where I lie with sleep-filled eyes.

If you want to find out more about Osip Mandelshtam, there's [a dedicated facebook page](https://www.facebook.com/osipmandelshtampage/ "Osip Mandelshtam on Facebook"). The translator, Philip Nicolayev, is curator of [Fulcrum: an annual of poetry and aesthetics](https://www.facebook.com/FulcrumPoetry "Fulcrum: an annual of poetry and aesthetics").

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