The Nacreous Oughts

28 April 2004

"The sea-shell

It may be, night, you don't need me;
Out of the world's abyss,
Like a shell without pearls,
I'm hurled on your shores.

You stir the waves indifferently
And incorrigibly sing;
But you shall loyally esteem
This equivocal, unnecessary thing.

You lie down on the sand close by,
Wrap your chasuble around,
And indissolubly bind to the shell
The colossal bell of the waves.

The walls of the brittle shell,
Like a heart where no one lives,
Your whispering spray shall fill
With wind and rain and mist."

Osip Mandelshtam (translated by James Greene) in The Eyesight of Wasps (1989)

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