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This review is taken from PN Review 90, Volume 19 Number 4, March - April 1993.

EN PASSANT Osip Mandelstam, A Necklace of Bees: selected poems, translated by Maria Enzensberger (Menard/King's) £6;
Fernando Pessoa, Message, translated by Jonathan Griffin (Menard/King's) £9

All but seven of the poems selected for A Necklace of Bees, which comprises twenty-six poems in all, are from the 1930s and are 'posthumous' therefore; as, sadly, Maria Enzensberger's translations are. Amongst them are some unfamiliar in spite of all the versions of Mandelstam undertaken over the last twenty years, 'Charlie Chaplin' from 1937 for example. But even where translators have trodden flat the ground, Maria Enzensberger animates the poems in a most persuasive way, from the earliest poem here:
 
I am blessed with a body - what shall I
    do with it,
All of a piece and so much my own?
                        (from Stone, dated 1909)


through one of the Persephone poems in Tristia:
 
What's left to us, is only a kiss -
The kisses bristly like the little bees
That die the moment they desert the hive.
                                   (1920)


into the 1930s, where the 'flavour of smoke and grief blends with the 'resin of patience' to produce 'half hard, half soft, half sweet, half bitter' sounds and sights at once consoling and tormenting. A Necklace of Bees reaffirms how necessary a figure the once-forgotten Mandelstam has become, even in poems that scarcely violate the silence of the blank page:
 
There were two eyes sharper than
   scythes,
A cuckoo in each pupil and a drop of
   dew.

They were barely ...


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