Boris Pasternak

Marburg

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I quivered. I flared up, and then was extinguished.
I shook. I had made a proposal - but late,
Too late. I was scared, and she had refused me.
I pity her tears, am more blessed than a saint.

I stepped into the square. I could be counted
Among the twice-born. Every leaf on the lime,
Every brick was alive, caring nothing for me,
And reared up to take leave for the last time.

The paving-stones glowed and the street's brow was swarthy,
From under their lids the cobbles looked grim,
Scowled up at the sky, and the wind like a boatman
Was rowing through limes. And each was an emblem.

Be that as it may, I avoided their glances,
Averted my gaze from their greeting or scowling.
I wanted no news of their getting and spending.
I had to get out, so as not to start howling.

The tiles were afloat, and an unblinking noon
Regarded the rooftops. And someone, somewhere
In Marburg, was whistling, at work on a crossbow,
And someone else dressing for the Trinity fair.

Devouring the clouds, the sand showed yellow,
A storm wind was rocking the bushes to and fro,
And the sky had congealed where it touched a sprig
Of woundwort that staunched its flow.

Like any rep Romeo hugging his tragedy,
I reeled through the city rehearsing you.
I carried you all that day, knew you by heart
From the comb in your hair to the foot in your shoe.

And when in your room I fell to my knees,
Embracing this mist, this perfection of frost
(How lovely you are!), this smothering turbulence,
What were you thinking? 'Be sensible!' Lost!

Here lived Martin Luther. The Brothers Grimm, there.
And all things remember and reach out to them:
The sharp-taloned roofs. The gravestones. The trees.
And each is alive. And each is an emblem.

I shall not go tomorrow. Refusal -
More final than parting. We're quits. áll is clear.
And if I abandon the streetlamps, the banks -
Old pavingstones, what will become of me here?

The mist on all sides will unpack its bags,
In both windows will hang up a moon.
And melancholy will slide over the books
And settle with one on the ottoman.

Then why am I scared? Insomnia I know
Like grammar, by heart. I have grown used to that.
In line with the four square panes of my window
Dawn will lay out her diaphanous mat.

The nights now sit down to play chess with me
Where ivory moonlight chequers the floor.
It smells of acacia, the windows are open,
And passion, a grey witness, stands by the door.

The poplar is king. I play with insomnia.
The queen is a nightingale I can hear calling.
I reach for the nightingale. And the night wins.
The pieces make way for the white face of morning.

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Boris Pasternak