Stalin Epigram

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Stalin Epigram
written by Osip Mandelstam
From Moscow Notebooks. See also Poems. Translated from Russian by Dmitri Smirnov (D. Smirnov-Sadovsky) In Russian: Мы живём, под собою не чуя страны. Link to further information

Autograph of "Stalin Epigram" written down at the questioning in prison.

 * * *[1]

 We are living, but can’t feel the land where we stay,
 More than ten steps away you can’t hear what we say.
 But if people would talk on occasion,
 They should mention the Kremlin Caucasian.
 His thick fingers are bulky and fat like live-baits,
 And his accurate words are as heavy as weights.
 Cucaracha’s moustaches are screaming,
 And his boot-tops are shining and gleaming.
 But around him a crowd of thin-necked henchmen,
 And he plays with the services of these half-men.
 Some are whistling, some meowing, some sniffing,
 He’s alone booming, poking and whiffing.
 He is forging his rules and decrees like horseshoes –
 Into groins, into foreheads, in eyes, and eyebrows.
 Every killing for him is delight,
 And Ossetian torso is wide.

November 1933

  1. This anti-Stalin poem written in November 1933 led to the poet’s arrest in 1934.

Other translations

  • "We live without feeling the country beneath us" Translated by David McDuff in Osip Mandelstam. Selected Poems. River Press Ltd. 1973, also: Writers and Readers 1983.
  • "We are alive but no longer feel the land under our feet..." Translated by Richard and Elizabeth McKane in Osip Mandelstam: The Moscow Notebooks. Bloodaxe Books, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1991.
  • "We exist, without sensing our country beneath us..." Translated by James Green in Osip Mandelstam: Selected Poems/ Penguin books, 1991. ISBN 0-14-018474-0

Cc-by.jpgCc-non commercial.jpg © Dmitri Smirnov, translation. Can be reproduced if non-commercial.