1913: As though, in night's terrible mirror Man, raving, denied his image And tried to disappear, -



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In Petersburg we'll gather again,
Around the grave where we buried the sun. 

MANDELSTAM

Petersburg, 1913. Lyrical interlude: last recollection
in Tsarskoye Selo. A wind, reminiscent or prophetic,
mutters:

Bonfires cooked the geese of Christmas,
Carriages toppled from bridges,
The whole funereal city swam
On a blind assignation
            Down the Neva or against it  
- Only away, away from its graves.
All its arches were throbbing black molars,
The Summer Garden's vane was crowing
Thinly, a bright moon turned a colder
Silver over the silver age.
Since, along all roads and
Towards all thresholds, slowly
A shadow advanced, the wind
Was ripping posters off the
            Walls, smoke whirled in cossack       
Dances on the roofs,
Lilac breathed a graveyard smell, and
The city, demented and dostoyevsky,
Wrapped itself in its fog.
Peter, old genius, old assassin,
Stared again out of blankness,
Beat an execution drum ...
And always, something not thunder
Under the profligate frost, a rumble
Of war before it began.
But then it was heard so faintly
It scarcely touched the ear, as flakes to
The Neva's drifts it drowned.
As though, in night's terrible mirror
Man, raving, denied his image
And tried to disappear, -
While along the embankment of history,
Not the calendar - the existing
Twentieth century drew near ..

And now to go home, swiftly,
Through the Cameron gallery,
To the icy mysterious park,
Where the waterfalls are silent,
Where I must make all nine glad
As once I was dear to you.
Beyond the park, beyond the island,
Can it be that our eyes won't
Meet with their clear former gaze?
Won't you really ever whisper
To me again that word which
kills
death
And is my life's one clue?







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