"In a crystal whirlpool, such steepness!"

by Osip Mandelstam

Osip Mandelstam

In a crystal whirlpool, such steepness!
Behind us the sienna mountains stand out,
Jagged cathedrals of raving mad cliffs
Are suspended in the air,
Where there is wool and silence.
From the hanging staircase of prophets and kings,
Descends an organ, the fortress of the Holy Ghost,
The brave barking and gentle ferocity of sheepdogs,
The sheepskins of shepherds, and the staffs of judges.
Here is motionless ground, and along with it
I drink the cold mountain air of Christianity,
The abrupt Credo and the psalmist's pause,
The keys and tatters of apostolic churches.
What sort of line could deliver
Crystal high notes in the fortified ether,
And from the Christian mountains in the astounded space,
Grace descends, like a song of Palestine.

Last updated January 14, 2019