Summer Solstice By Osip Mandelstam
Orioles live in the elms, and in classical verse
the length of the vowels alone determines the measure.
Once and once only a year nature knows quantity
stretched to the limit, as in Homer’s meter.
O this is a day that yawns like a caesura:
serene from the start, almost painfully slowed.
Oxen browse in the field, and a golden languor
keeps me from drawing a rich, whole note from my reed.
TRANSLATED FROM THE RUSSIAN BY STANLEY KUNITZ
From “Passing Through” by Stanley Kunitz (W.W. Norton: 176 pp., $12 paper)