Avva directed me to this site, which reproduces the 1922 Petrograd Berlin [thanks, Anatoly!] edition of Osip Mandelshtam‘s Tristia; scroll down past a couple of introductions for jpg files of each page with transliterations and (shaky) literal translations of each poem, as well as notes on both text and content. It’s a wonderful resource…

…so I’ll try not to quibble about the fact that in the seven years it’s been online somebody might have done something about notes like these:

Note about skalds (Scandinavian singers?) here
Note about Levites here


  1. One minor quibble is that it was published in Berlin, not in Petrograd (and indeed couldn’t be published in Petrograd, given the old orthography).

  2. Excellent point, and one which should have occurred to me. I’ll make the change, and many thanks for the correction.

  3. This is wonderful, many thanks to both of you.
    What can you tell me about the “black sun” image in Mandelstam’s work?

  4. Well, it’s an apocalyptic image; go to The Wrath of God (if you don’t mind Geocities popups) and check for suns going out: Joel 3:30 The sun shall be turned to darkness, Isaiah 13:10 the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, Mark 13:24 …the sun will be darkened, Rev 6: 12 …and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair. Clare Cavanaugh in her excellent Osip Mandelstam and the Modernist Creation of Tradition says “The poem’s Judea does not recognize the black sun that spells the end of one era and the beginning of the next. It cannot see the sign that marks the birth of a new time and that presages humankind’s final salvation. The poem’s Israelites are trapped in the light of the yellow sun; they are governed by repetition, by a time that will not yield to cosmic revelation.” (p. 133, referring to the poem “This night is irreparable” [Eta noch’ nepopravima]) But the image is complicated in Mandelshtam, associated with funerals (the poem is about the funeral of his mother), and I may have to do a post about it.

  5. By the way, in the course of Googling around I came across this page for a seminar on M., with the wonderful line “knowledge of Russian (three ears or equivalent) is very desiarable but not absolutely necessary.” I wonder how many people fulfil the three-ear prerequisite?

  6. Anatoly says

    I don’t get the three-ears thing.

  7. It’s a typo for three years.

  8. Anatoly says

    Oh! How silly of me not to notice!

Speak Your Mind