Osip Emilevich Mandelstam

(1891 - 1938 / Warsaw)

Tortoise - Poem by Osip Emilevich Mandelstam

On the stony spurs of Pierius
The Muses conducted the first round dance
So like bees, blind lyrists might give us Ionic honey.
A great chill blew
From the prominent virginal brow
So the tender graves of the Archipelago
Might be uncovered for distant grandsons.


2

Spring rushes to trample the meadows of Hellas,
Sappho puts on a dappled boot,
Cicadas click like hammers forging out a ring,
As in the little song.
A stout carpenter built a tall house,
They strangled all the hens for a wedding,
An inept cobbler stretched
All five ox-hides for shoes.


3

The sluggish lyre-tortoise
Toeless barely creeps along,
Sets herself down in the sun of Epirus,
Quietly warming her golden belly.
Who will caress someone like her,
Who will turn her over while she sleeps --
She awaits Terpander in her dream,
Sensing the sudden sweep of dry fingers.


4

A cold sprinkle waters the oaks,
The bareheaded grasses murmur,
The honeysuckle smells, to the joy of the bees.
O where are you, sacred islands,
Where they do not eat broken bread,
Where there is only wine, milk and honey,
Creaking toil does not darken the sky, and
The wheel turns easily?


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 7, 2010



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