Osip Emilevich Mandelstam

(1891 - 1938 / Warsaw)

The Menagerie - Poem by Osip Emilevich Mandelstam

The rejected word 'peace'
At the beginning of an outraged era;
A church lamp in a grotto
And the air of mountain lands
An ether we did not want to,
Or would not breathe.
Again, with a goat-voice,
The shaggy reed-pipes sing.

While sheep and oxen grazed
On fertile pastures,
And friendly eagles perched
On the shoulders of sleepy crags --
A German reared an eagle,
A lion submitted to a Briton,
And a Gallic comb appeared
From a rooster's crest.

But now the savage has captured
The sacred mace of Heracles,
The black earth has dried up,
Ungrateful, as before.
I will get the withered wand
And draw the fire from it;
Let the startled beasts go away
With me into the deaf night.

The cock, the lion, the dark brown
Eagle, the affectionate bear --
We shall build a chamber for war,
And warm the wild beasts' hides.
But I sing the wine [*] of the times --
The font of Italic speech --
And in a Great-Aryan cradle,
Slavonic and Germanic flax!

Italy, is it really worth
Disturbing the chariots of Rome
For the clucking of a domestic bird
Flying across your fence?
And you, neighbor, don't seek damages;
The eagle bristles in anger.
What if for your sling
A heavy stone is of no use?

While the beasts are in the menagerie,
We will settle down a while,
The Volga stays at high tide,
The Rhine's current grows brighte --
The wise man will unwillingly honor
A foreigner as a demigod
With the revelry of a dance
On the shores of great rivers.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 7, 2010

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