‘The Century’ by Osip Mandelshtam 1922

My age, my beast, who can
Gaze into your pupils
And with his blood cement
The vertebrae of two centuries?
Blood the Builder gushes
From the throat of earthly things,
The parasite must tremble
On the threshold of new days.
A creature drags its backbone
As long as it’s alive,
While a wave toys
With the invisible spine.
The age of infant earth
Is like a child’s soft cartilage –
Again the tender skull of life
Is brought to sacrifice like a lamb.
To wrest the age from captivity,
To begin a new world,
We must bind together like a flute
The knees of knobby days.
The age rocks the wave
With human anguish,
And the grass adder breathes
The golden rhythm of the age.
Although the buds will swell,
And a spray of green will sprout
Your spine has been broken,
My fair, pitiful age!
And with a meaningless smile
You look back, cruel and weak,
Like a once-agile beast,
On the track of its own prints.
Blood the Builder gushes
From the throat of earthly things,
And the warm cartilage of the seas,
Splashes to shore like a hot fish.
And from the high bird net,
From the damp azure boulders
Pours, pours indifference
On your mortal wound.

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