I made her from the depth of all the things
that are dearest to me, she’s something I don’t understand.

—Cesare Pavese, “Encounter,” Selected Poems (Penguin Books, 1971)

Death and the Earth

You are like a country
that no one has ever named.
You wait for nothing
if not the word
that would gush from the depths
like a fruit between the boughs.
Like a wind, it reaches you
and the dry, twice-dead things
that encumber you fly away.
Ancient limbs, ancient words—
you tremble in summer.
—Cesare Pavese, “Death and the Earth.” The American Poetry Review, Vol 26, No. 5 (1997).

The Island

O great Island, Island of my love,
many a night of them I fancied
the great ocean itself restless
agitated with love of you
as you lay on the sea…
—Sorley Maclean, “The Island,” 1940. (Oxford University Press, 2001)

Heart’s Memory of Sun

Heart’s memory of sun grows fainter,
sallow is the grass;
a few flakes toss in the wind
scarcely, scarcely.
The narrow canals no longer flow,
they are frozen over.
Nothing will ever happen here,
oh, never!
In the bleak sky the willow spreads
its bare-boned fan.
Maybe I’m better off as I am,
not as your wife.
Heart’s memory of sun grows fainter.
What now? Darkness?
Perhaps! This very night unfolds
the winter.
—Anna Akhmatova, Kiev, 1911. Taken from Poems of Anna Akhmatova, selected, translated, and introduced by Stanley Kunitz and Max Hayward.

In Russian:


The Eyes of Beauty

You are a sky of autumn, pale and rose;
But all the sea of sadness in my blood
Surges, and ebbing, leaves my lips morose,
Salt with the memory of the bitter flood.

In vain your hand glides my faint bosom o’er,
That which you seek, beloved, is desecrate
By woman’s tooth and talon; ah, no more
Seek in me for a heart which those dogs ate.

It is a ruin where the jackals rest,
And rend and tear and glut themselves and slay–
A perfume swims about your naked breast!

Beauty, hard scourge of spirits, have your way!
With flame-like eyes that at bright feasts have flared
Burn up these tatters that the beasts have spared!

—Charles Baudelaire, “The Eyes of Beauty” from The Poems and Prose Poems of Charles Baudelaire. Ed. James Huneker. New York: Brentano’s, 1919.