Insomnia, Homer, taut sails, by Osip Mandelshtam

Translated by Philip Nikolayev


Insomnia, Homer, taut sails: my lips have lisped
Down to the middle the detailed list of ships,
That long brood and angular train of cranes
That rose above Hellas once on wings of waves.

A wedge of cranes into far foreign lands –
Divine white froth forming upon kings’ heads –
Where have you hoist sail to? If it were not for Helen
What would Troy alone be to you, Achaean men?

The sea and Homer – as all – are moved by love;
Which should I hark? Homer the first to fall
Silent, the black sea’s cries still rhapsodize,
Reaching to where I lie with sleep-filled eyes.


Drawing by Hannah Wachs, done especially for Magnetic Links