I was given a body—what should I do with it,
So unique and so mine?

For the quiet happiness to breathe and to live,
Whom, say, should I thank?

I am the gardener, I am also the flower,
In the dungeon of the world I am not alone.

On the windowpane of eternity,
My breathing, my warmth have weighed down.

A pattern is being imprinted on it,
Recent yet unrecognizable.

Let the mist of the moment drip—
the dear pattern cannot be crossed out.

translated from the Russian by Motýlí Voko

Дано мне тело—что мне делать с ним,
Таким единым и таким моим?

За радость тихую дышать и жить
Кого, скажите, мне благодарить?

Я и садовник, я же и цветок,
В темнице мира я не одинок.

На стекла вечности уже легло
Мое дыхание, мое тепло.

Запечатлеется на нем узор,
Неузнаваемый с недавних пор.

Пускай мгновения стекает муть—
Узора милого не зачеркнуть.

~1909~

About the poem: In the symbolist stronghold of St. Petersburg, Osip Mandelshtam’s debut collection Kamen (Rock, published in 1913) rallied readers for whom words evoked a physical world of razor-sharp contours, rather than standing for an imagined realm of perplexing abstractions.

Jan Vihan is a contributing writer for In The Fray.

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