16 September 2016

On the Death of Yu. L. Mikhailov / На смерть Ю.Л.Михайлова

V. Gerasimov, N. Loseff, L. Loseff and Yu. Mikhailov ca. 1961. Photo: Lev Loseff

On the Death of Yu. L. Mikhailov

My poem was seeking you...

Not rosary smoothness nor icon face—
what plucks at my heart is a splinter.
You were bull-like for all your time under God.
Time short. God strong. Bull fragile.

In champagne country the word lay in wait.
It was here that our dialogue ruptured—
along comes Vyazemsky, then Mandelstam,
then a palindrome, ‘smert′/Rheims’—stupid.

‘What to do? God takes the best’, they say.
He takes? Like a letter or money?
More weak or more strong, you were brother to me,
God is merciful. Now I’ve no brother.

It’s nine days now since I spoke of you.
But I pray that you’ll not be forgotten,
to the lucent Rose, to the bright-coloured Ray,
to the motes that swirl in the sunshine.

12-18 September 1990

[From Новые сведения о Карле и Кларе (New Information about Karl and Klara), 1996]

(Translation ©2016 G.S. Smith)

Lev Loseff’s close friend, the poet Yurii Leonidovich Mikhailov (8 June 1933-5 September 1990), was expelled from Leningrad University in 1952 for political reasons; he returned after the death of Stalin, graduated, and worked as a journalist. 

The epigraph comes from the first stanza of the poem Приписка [Codicil, 1854] by Prince Petr Vyazemsky (1792-1878): ‘Так из чужбины отдаленной/Мой стих искал тебя, Денис!/А уж тебя ждал неизменный/Не виноград, а кипарис’ [‘And so from a distant alien land/Denis, my poem was seeking you!/But awaiting you was the ever-present/not grapevine, but cypress’]. The poem was written as a codicil to a verse epistle Vyazemsky addressed to Denis Davydov (1784-1839), the famous hero of the war against Napoleon. In a letter, Vyazemsky explained: ‘At the end of 1838 the author, who was visiting Epernay, recalled Davydov’s story about how in 1814 he was in Epernay with his detachment of partisans, and encountered many friends there, and they burst into tears of joy at the encounter and later on had a joyful celebration. There the author wrote the first part of his epistle to Davydov, which remains unpublished, and it was the last he ever wrote to him. Davydov died soon after, and the author expressed the feelings aroused by the news of his death in the second
part of the epistle, which was written in 1854.’ 

На смерть Ю.Л.Михайлова

Мой стих искал тебя...

Не гладкие четки, не писанный лик,
Хватает на сердце зарубок.
Весь век свой под Богом ты был как бы бык.
Век краток. Бог крепок. Бык хрупок.

В шампанской стране меня слух поджидал.
Вот где диалог наш надломан:
то Вяземский ввяжется, то Мандельштам,
то глупый смерть-Реймс палиндромон.

Что ж делать - Бог лучших прибрал - говорят.
Прибрал? Как письмо иль монету?
То сильный, то слабый, ты был мне как брат.
Бог милостив. Брата вот нету.

Девятый уж день по тебе я молчу.
Молюсь, чтоб тебя не забыли,
светящейся Розе, цветному Лучу,
крутящейся солнечной пыли.

12-18 сентября 1990 года

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