|From the book Stanzas in the Manner of Alexander Pope|
In Memory of Nabokov
|And then the gradual and|
As night unites the
viewer and the view.
There is a certain gift, not the greatest of gifts;
it’s like the disposition of the spheres,
like in a billiard game – but what if a hundred all at once,
touched by a single one, fly into nothingness?
My poor friend, can you imagine
a basket of incomparable darkness?
no way. Here is the idea of the game:
its size is the pin of a needle.
Dense winter, solstice,
when frost burns its torch.
The stern constellation, the centaur,
stands aiming at the lower fire
with another one – and hark!, an arrow swishes.
And the stuffed alpine eagle
Speaks to me, as if it were a horn,
Beyond the gap of earthʼs mortality.
How strange it is to be and not to be, then to begin
to be a little; to compare and perceive,
like a butterfly, a flying tent
with a cozy corner and a lamp, with lines of draperies;
to finish one thing and to think of another;
to fill the entire house, like a cloud,
to descend into a chest, to merge with a needle
and to roll with it into a crack in some corner.
And to be lying for three hundred years in the dust,
and suddenly to sound like the distant striking of a clock.
The silent music is heard better.
Having collected myriad scattered rays,
it plays for us around the corner
with a huge fire-starting glass.
I like its simple message
that everyone is not here and here once again,
that tinted crystal of hearing sparkles
like snowy gunpowder in a furry chasm...
What is it, a harp, a clavichord, my friend?
That sound will not remind us of anything.
It is an impenetrable blizzard in the Alps,
it is an airy spirit trumpeting its horns.
It is the spirit of accords, of two and two again,
the distant spirit that flew far away,
filling to the brim this line of verse like
the Thule cup in the depths of the sea.
Among old, worn-out coins
and banknotes of states which are no more,
guineas, ducats, and sequins –
among all things that a clever treasurer
has collected from all over the world and has sent back,
to where the undersea collector of coins would count everything,
the spirit speaks from the waves like treasure
corroded with the salt of the abyss.
I swear that we were safekeeping more jealously this gift
than a king from unknown Thules
and the incomparable work,
and this all-encompassing urn,
preserved by ages
for some new wine: only the salt
can take it when I choose,
like emptiness, to see the void.
Because, dying before it,
the living flesh is filled with shadows
or visions: blowing on a burnt spot,
immortality is playing like a horn.
And it is delightful to exist
among your own images, spheres,
tents and their rows. But it is most delightful
to leave them all, without remembering anything.
And all those who torment others,
who with their vile mouths, chew up
vile verses, who stuff textbooks
of slaves into coffins: "we are not slaves," –
who desire evil as though evil were their food,
and who forever loathe themselves,
and who will be aired out like kitchen smoke,
I pity all of them. But let them be silent.
No one knows where he will be alive
where he lives now, dividing separation
into the fluctuations of the visual wave
of phosphorescent depths,
like a spirit and shadow. It will unite all
and scatter all. The regal magnet,
the gift that brings in many other gifts
and pours, like a downpour, from the spheres.
Let us drink this cup, formed just like salt,
to this life that resembles pain
and at the same time–the shepherd’s pipe.
To the distant sound that lit the mind
and warmed up the heart–and the camera obscura
could not become anything else.
And for the fact that we are lamentably evil.
The point of a needle in place of mercy.
|Slava I. Yastremski and Michel Naydan |
|The Thule cup is a reference to Geothe’s poem "The King of Thule", 1774, in which the cup is given to the king by his dying lover. At every feast the king drinks from the cup remembering his dead beloved. Just before his own death the king drinks from the cup for the very last time and throws it into the sea.|
| ||Fourth Stanzas. In Memory of Nabokov|