[Heaviness, tenderness—sisters—your marks are the same.]

Osip Mandelstam
Translated from the Russian by Peter France

Heaviness, tenderness—sisters—your marks are the same.
The wasps and the honey bees suck at the heavy rose.
Man dies, heat drains from the once warm sand,
and on a black bier they carry off yesterday's sun.

O, you tender nets and you heavy honeycombs,
easier to lift a stone than to speak your name!
Only one care is left me in the world:
a care that is golden, to shed the burden of time.

I drink the mutinous air like some dark water.
Time is turned up by the plow, and the rose was earth.
Slowly they eddy, the heavy, the tender roses,
roses of heaviness, tenderness, twofold wreath.

March 1920

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Photo of Osip Mandelstam

Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938) was born in Warsaw and grew up in a Jewish family in St. Petersburg. He was a member of the Acmeist group. After a nomadic life, he was arrested, sentenced to hard labor, and died in eastern Siberia.

Photo of Peter France

Peter France has published widely on French, Russian, and comparative literature, including The Oxford Guide to Literature in English Translation. New Directions publishes his translations of the Chuvash poet Gennady Aygi: Field-Russia and Child-And-Rose.

"It seems almost impossible to pay adequate homage to the poetic genius and personal courage of Osip Mandelstam, manifested during a time in the Soviet Union of tyrannical repression and terror. These spirited and meticulous versions by the masterful translator Peter France, bring us considerably closer to achieving that goal. They attest to the extraordinary range and depth of Mandelstam's complex artistic sensibility and intellect. Let us, simply enough, gratefully welcome them."
—Michael Palmer

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