“Alone I stare into the frost’s white face”

By Osip Mandelstam 1891–1938 Osip Mandelstam

Translated By John High and Matvei Yankelevich Read the translator's notes

Alone I stare into the frost’s white face.   
It’s going nowhere, and I—from nowhere.   
Everything ironed flat, pleated without a wrinkle:   
Miraculous, the breathing plain.   

Meanwhile the sun squints at this starched poverty—
The squint itself consoled, at ease . . .   
The ten-fold forest almost the same . . .   
And snow crunches in the eyes, innocent, like clean bread.   

January 16, 1937

Source: Poetry (April 2009).


This poem originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2009
 Osip  Mandelstam


Osip Mandelstam ranks among the most significant Russian poets of the twentieth century. He was born in Warsaw, Poland in or around 1891, but soon afterward his family moved to St. Petersburg, Russia. In St. Petersburg, the Jewish Mandelstams—on the strength, according to some critics, of the father’s fine standing as a leather merchant—managed to live relatively free of the anti-Semitic hostilities which were then pervasive. . . .

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SUBJECT Nature, Winter


Poetic Terms Free Verse

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