Piper Wheeler

An Untitled Poem by Osip Mandelshtam


Du, Doppelgänger, du, bleicher Geselle!…

The organ’s gothic arches kept quiet that night.
They sang to us from Schubert—dear cozy cradle!
The mill rasped, the hurricane sang
with boozy blue-eyed laughter.

The world of ancient song: green and brown
but always young,
where with insane fury the forest-king
rocks the rumbling tops of thrush-filled lindens.

And the terrible power of nighttime return,
its song savage as black wine:
That's the double—empty apparition—
who looks, senseless, into my cold window.

January 1918




From Tristia. Dedicated to Anna Akhmatova. At the end of December, 1917, Mandelshtam and Akhmatova had gone together to a concert where a famous soloist sang selections of Schubert. The two poets were spending so much time together during that “revolutionary winter” that Akhmatova finally pushed him away: “I had to explain to Osip that we’d better quit meeting so often, as it might give people material for erroneous theories about the nature of our relationship. After that, around March, Mandelshtam disappeared. At that time everybody disappeared and appeared again, to the surprise of no one.”

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