We continue our series of contemporary Russian poetry in translation. One of the early masterpieces of Joseph Brodsky was written in the transit prison after his infamous trial in 1964. The translation of this poem was submitted at the first MPT Poetry Translation Competition 2011.
“Freedom” by Joseph Brodsky
( Gripping my ration of the exile… )
Gripping my ration of the exile
in embrace with the rattling lock,
arriving at the places of dying,
again I turn to my native tongue.
The radiance of the Russian iambic
is more stubborn – and hotter than fire,
like the finest lamp,
in the night it illuminates me.
I can hardly raise my pen,
and my heart is fearfully beating.
But the shadow from behind my back over Russia,
like the bird in the grove, cries,
and the proud scattered echo
caught in my chest in white pallor.
Only hatred from the South to the North
hastens, overtaking the spring.
Burning up with a hacking cough,
bowing still lower in the night,
I am almost ablaze. Thereby
I obstinately keep the likeness of a candle
from dying out, like the very last wall.
And this great flame flickers along with me.
March 25th, 1964
Arkhangelsk Transit Prison
Translated by Elena Dimov