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This poem is taken from PN Review 1, Volume 4 Number 1, October - December 1977.

Two Poems Donald Davie

MANDELSTAM, ON DANTE

1
Russian Jew, for you
  To re-think Dante, dissolve
Into fluids that four-square slab
  Of Christendom, meant a resolve

(So it must seem) to taunt
  And tempt the unsteadied Gentile,
As it might be me, to act
  In nettled Stalin's style.

Dangerous, these corrosives
  You handle. First and last
Powder the graven image!
  'Jew' means 'iconoclast'.

Can we believe the impulse
  Consciously suicidal?
Or was the play of mind
  Lordly, the interest idle?
...


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