SilentiumOsip Mandel’shtam

She has not yet been born,
She is both music and word,
Just as there is an unbreakable bond
Between all living things.

The breast of the sea breathes peacefully,
But, like a madman, the day dawned,
And the pale lilac foam
Forms a misty azure vessel.

And my lips find
The original muteness,
Like a crystal note,
That is pure from birth!

Remain as foam, Aphrodite,
And word, return to music,
And heart, be ashamed of heart,
Fused with the fundamentals of life!


About Erik

Husband, father, biblioholic, singer, drummer, Pagan, UU
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6 Responses to Silentium

  1. redshoes says:

    That is a really great poem! I especially love the 2nd verse.

  2. Erik says:

    Glad you liked it! For me, the first and final verses in particular speak to something fundamental about the nature of Aphrodite: more than just sex, or even love per se, I think Her realm most properly understood is *all* the forces that make life both possible and worthwhile. I have recently come to a reading of the story of Her birth from the sea considered in the light of what we know of evolution, and I’m finding it adds several new layers of meaning to an already rich myth.

    Mandel’shtam (or often Mandelstam, depending on which transliteration from the Cyrillic you prefer) was a leading proponent of a short-lived poetic movement called Acmeism that grew out of the (much larger and better known) Symbolist movement… both movements drew heavily on imagery from myth, the main difference between them being that the Symbolists tended to use rather obscure and elliptical imagery, and the Acmeists championed more clear and straightforward language. Both will reward the investment of time.

  3. redshoes says:

    Oh that is a lovely idea! I like mixing up evolution with Greek myth too. I especially liked parts of the Orphic creation myth for that reason – some parts in particular are just begging for it! The one most confusing thing for me is that every time I get “soaked up” so to say, in the myths of a deity and start mixing them with the natural world…I find it hard to realise the fact that another culture has another deity relating to one or more of the same areas of life. With, in some cases, extremely different myths/personality. As I am not really into the idea of there only being one pantheon this can get pretty confusing. But I do have a talent for being confused, so…

    I liked the second verse mainly because of the use of words, to be honest. ” like a madman, the day dawned” is just beautiful, and it’s not even the original language. I agree the 1st and last verse are most meaningful. I’m just a sucker for interesting use of language…and I’m pretty sure I will be looking into the Acmeists. I love densely woven language, but I like the clarity of this a lot. Somewhat random but have you read Sonya Taaffe? and are one of the few of her poems I can easily find online – her book is great though, if you like that sort of thing. She uses myths and such a lot in her poetry – I think she is also a classicist. Not sure though.

  4. Erik says:

    Ooh, very nice… I was not familiar, but I’ll be looking her up! I loved this:

    He should be ice in a northern garden

    sheltered forever by a symbolist’s afternoon


  5. Kullervo says:

    There’s a hell of a lot in that poem to be unpacked. I agree emphatically with you about Aphrodite encompassing a lot more than just love and sex, but in some ways I think that’s because love and sex encompass a lot more than just love and sex. They’re rivers with tributaries that flow out of every single important mountain in the human landscape. Because love and sex are connected to everything, Aphrodite is connected to everything.

  6. Erik says:

    There is much in what you say!

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