Thursday, 28 September 2017
National Poetry Day: Osip Mandelstam's 'The Twilight of Freedom'
Today is National Poetry Day in the UK, and the theme for 2017 is 'Freedom'.
For this year's theme, the poem I have chosen is by Russian poet Osip Mandelstam: 'The Twilight of Freedom' (translated by Clarence Brown and WS Merwin).
This is one of Mandelstam's earlier poems, from his collection Stone (1913). "O sun, judge, people, desolate/are the years into which you are rising!" he writes - presciently, considering that the regime had not yet arrived under which he would eventually die (in 1938, in a transit camp, after years of persecution).
The lines "In the deepening twilight the earth swims into the nets/and the sun can't be seen" made me think of Isaiah 25:7. Mandelstam urges courage, but with a keen, sad understanding of the extent to which the world has drifted from what it should be, in humanity's insatiable quest for power.