Osip Emilevich Mandelstam

(1891 - 1938 / Warsaw)

Beneath a veil of milky white


Beneath a veil of milky white
Stands Isaac's like a hoary dovecote,
The crozier irritates the grey silences,
The heart understands the airy rite.

The wandering specter of the centennial requiem,
The grand bearing of the shroud
And in a decrepit seine, the Gennesarian gloom
Of the Lenten Week.

The Old Testament smoke on warm altars,
And the final, orphaned cry of the priest,
A regal, humble man: clean snow on his shoulders,
And the savage purple mantles.

The eternal cathedrals of Sofia and Peter,
Storehouses of air and light, the possessions
Of the universal granary
And the threshing barn of the New Testament.

The spirit is not drawn to you in sorely troubled times,
Here drags the wolf's track of unhappiness
Along the cloudy steps;
We will never betray it:

For the slave is free, has overcome fear,
And preserved beyond measure
In the cool granaries, in deep combines,
Is the kernel of deep, full faith.

Submitted: Wednesday, April 07, 2010

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