Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Letter to a Roman friend

Elaine blath, Feainnewedd
Dearme aen a’caelme tedd
Eigean evelienn deireadh
Que’n esse, va en esseath
Feainnewedd, elaine blath!
(Elven nursery rhyme, from Blood of Elves by Sapkowski)

Censored by yours truly. Translated from Russian.

I’m sending to you, Postum-friend, some reading.
How’s the capital? Soft bed and rude awakening?
How’s Caesar? What’s he doing? Still intriguing?
Still intriguing, I imagine, and engorging.

In my garden, I am sitting with a night-light
No maid nor mate, not even a companion,
But instead of weak and mighty of this planet,
Buzzing pests in their unanimous dominion.

Here was laid away an Asian merchant. Clever
Merchant was he — very diligent yet decent.
He died suddenly — malaria. To barter
Business did he come, and surely not for this one.

Next to him — a legionnaire under a quartz grave.
In the battles he brought fame to the Empire.
Many times could been killed! Yet died an old brave.
Even here, there is no ordinance, my dear.

Maybe, chickens really aren’t birds, my Postum,
Yet a chicken brain should rather take precautions.
An empire, if you happened to be born to,
Better live in distant province, by the ocean.

Far away from Caesar and from tempests.
No need to cringe, to rush or to be fearful.
You are saying all procurators are looters,
But I’d rather choose a looter than a slayer.


Here, we’ve covered more than half of our life span
As an old slave, by the tavern, has just said it:
«Turning back, we look, but only see old ruins».
Surely, his view is barbaric, but yet candid.

Been to hills and now busy with some flowers.
Have to find a pitcher and to pour them water.
How’s in Libya, my Postum, or wherever?
Is it possible that we are still at war there?


Do come here, we’ll have a drink with bread and olives —
Or with plums. You’ll tell me news about the nation.
In the garden you will sleep under clear heavens,
And I’ll tell you how they name the constellations.

Postum, friend of yours once tendered to addition,
Soon shall reimburse deduction, his old duty…
Take the savings, which you’ll find under my cushion.
Haven’t got much, but for funeral — it’s plenty.


Laurel’s leaves so green — it makes your body shudder.
Wide ajar the door — a tiny window’s dusty —
Long deserted bed — an armchair is abandoned —
Noontime sun has been absorbed by the upholstery.

With the wind, by sea point cape, a boat is wrestling.
Roars the gulf behind the black fence of the pine trees.
On the old and wind-cracked bench — Pliny the Elder.
And a thrush is chirping in the mane of cypress.

(Joseph Brodsky)

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