Desmond Painter. Mandelstam se wetenskap van die wedersiens

Osip Mandelstam

Osip Mandelstam

Osip Mandelstam se beroemde gedig Tristia begin met hierdie woorde: “I have learned the science of farewell”. Ek het ook al ander vertalings hiervan gelees: “I have studied the science of departures”; en: “The essence of farewell I have extracted…” Watter van hierdie vertalings die oorspronklike Russies die beste weergee weet ek nie, maar ek verkies beslis “I have learned the science of farewell.” “Studied” is vir my ‘n te aktiewe werkwoord hier; dit dui op ‘n doelgerigte handeling, terwyl “learned” ook meer passief kan verwys na iets wat met jou gebeur, iets wat jy geleer het of jy nou wou of nie. Dalk selfs teen jou sin. 

Volgens Jacques Ranciere is skeiding, afsondering en afwesigheid meer as net ‘n ongelukkige stand van sake waaroor Mandelstam skryf in sy gedigte. Afsondering “is the very principle of the poem, the science of the poet. For Mandelstam there is no poetic power except from the point of view of exile. There is no moment of recognition except by the power of separation that divides ‘the frothing nocturnal waters,’ which is not a farewell to the Soviet night but the interior movement that rearranges it and makes visible the stratification of meaning and image that compose it.”

Miskien daarom dat Mandelstam ook sulke treffende verse oor die verbeelde wedersiens kon skryf, in daardie selfde ontstuimige Sowjetnag… Vergelyk die twee vertalings hieronder (deur Onbekend en A.S. Kline onderskeidelik) van sy In Petersburg We’ll Meet Again. Die idee van die “blessed, senseless word” in die eerste vertaling (en die “sacred meaningless word” in die tweede) staan sentraal in hierdie gedig. Volgens Ranciere: “In the Soviet night — the night of resemblances — the blessed word, the ‘raving’ word, must be made to shine […] [I]t is possible to tear the poetic signifiers of the new life from their state-symbolist appropriation, to give them back their power: the power that the Russian language maintains from its double origin, from the Byzantine marriage of Hellenic culture, and from the Christian word: from the word made flesh of Christian religion and from the legend of Psyche, the soul, visitor of the Underworld… It is this active flesh of the word that must be risked in the Soviet night to provoke the event, the lightning of the encounter. The suffering of the Christian Word is identical to the free joy of Greek Psyche. The heroic calling of the poem is one with its ludic calling. The politics of the poem is the identity of them both, which hunts equally the phantoms of art for art’s sake, or of art at the service of the proletariat.” [Uit J. Ranciere, The Flesh of Words: The Politics of Writing, Stanford University Press, 2004] 


In Petersburg we’ll meet again – Osip Mandelstam

In Petersburg we’ll meet again,
As though we’d buried the sun there,
And for the first time utter
The blessed, senseless word.
In the black velvet of Soviet night,
In the velvet of worldwide emptiness,
The kind eyes of touched women still sing,
The immortal flowers still bloom.


The capitol arches like a wildcat,
A patrol is standing on the bridge,
A single angry motor speeds by in the dark,
And cries out like a cuckoo.
I do not need a pass for the evening,
I am not afraid of the sentries:
I will pray in the Soviet night
For the blessed and senseless word.


I hear the theater’s light rustling
And a young girl’s ‘Oh’ —
In Kypris’ arms, a huge bunch
Of immortal roses.
Out of boredom, we warm ourselves
By a bonfire. Perhaps centuries will pass,
And the kind hands of touched women
Will gather up the light ashes.


Somewhere the red rows of the gallery,
The sumptuous chiffon of the boxes;
The clockwork-puppet of the officer;
Not for black souls or vile hypocrites . . .
Right. Put out, please, our candles
In the black velvet of worldwide emptiness,
The sloped shoulders of blessed women still sing,
But you won’t notice the night sun.


We shall meet again in Petersburg – Osip Mandelstam


We shall meet again in Petersburg,

as though there we’d buried the sun,

and for the first time, speak the word

the sacred, the meaningless one.

In black velvet of the Soviet night,

in the velvet of earth’s emptiness,

flowers still flower everlasting, bright,

women sing, beloved eyes are blessed.


The city is arched there like a lynx,

the bridge-patrol stands its ground,

an angry motor dissects the mist

crying out with a cuckoo’s sound.

I don’t need a pass for tonight,

I have no fear of the guard:

I’ll pray in the Soviet night.

for the sacred meaningless word.


Amid the theatre’s soft rustling

I hear a girl’s startled: ‘Ah!’ –

and Cypris holds everlasting

roses, clasped in her soft arms.

Bored, by a fire we warm ourselves,

perhaps the centuries will pass,

and beloved hands, women’s, blessed,

will gather up the weightless ash.


Somewhere sweet Orphean choirs sound,

dark the beloved pupils of their eyes,

and programmes, fluttering to the ground,

fall towards the stalls, like doves in flight.

You might as well blow out our candles then:

in the black velvet of earth’s emptiness

women’s shoulders, rounded, blessed, still sing,

but the night sun will not shine here, a guest.

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