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“Yet to die. Unalone still.”

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Yet to die. Unalone still.
For now your pauper-friend is with you.
Together you delight in the grandeur of the plains,
And the dark, the cold, the storms of snow.

Live quiet and consoled
In gaudy poverty, in powerful destitution. 
Blessed are those days and nights.  
The work of this sweet voice is without sin.   

Misery is he whom, like a shadow,   
A dog’s barking frightens, the wind cuts down.   
Poor is he who, half-alive himself   
Begs his shade for pittance.

January 15-16, 1937
Source: Poetry (April 2009)

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

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“Yet to die. Unalone still.”

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  • 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. Mandelstam eventually studied at the city’s prestigious Tenishev School, but he failed to distinguish himself. Continuing his education abroad, he attended both the Sorbonne in Paris and the University of Heidelberg in Germany. After returning home Mandelstam—despite his Jewish ancestry and his somewhat unimpressive record at Tenishev—gained acceptance to the University of St. Petersburg, a rather exclusive, and exclusively Christian, institution.
     
    By this time, the early 1910s, Mandelstam had already forsaken his actual studies in favor of writing, and he had begun contributing...

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