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)

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