Flight into Egypt (2), by Joseph Brodsky, translated by Seamus Heaney

In the cave—it sheltered them, at least,
safer than four square-set right angles—
in the cave the threesome felt secure
in the reek of straw and old clobber.

Straw for bedding. Outside the door,
blizzard, sandstorm, howling air,
Mule rubbed ox; they stirred and groaned
like sand and snowflake scourged in wind.

Mary prays; the fire soughs;
Joseph frowns into the blaze.
Too small to be fit to do a thing
but sleep, the infant is just sleeping.

Another day behind them now,
its worries past. And the “ho, ho, ho!”
of Herod who had sent the troops.
And the centuries a day closer too.

That night, as three, they were at peace.
Smoke like a retiring guest
slipped out the door. There was one far-off
heavy sigh from the mule. Or the ox.

The star looked in across the threshold.
The only one of them who could
know the meaning of that look
was the infant. But He did not speak.



В пещере (какой ни на есть, а кров!
Надежней суммы прямых углов!)
в пещере им было тепло втроем;
пахло соломою и тряпьем.

Соломенною была постель.
Снаружи молола песок метель.
И, вспоминая ее помол,
спросонья ворочались мул и вол.

Мария молилась; костер гудел.
Иосиф, насупясь, в огонь глядел.
Младенец, будучи слишком мал,
чтоб делать что-то еще, дремал.

Еще один день позади — с его
тревогами, страхами; с «о-го-го»
Ирода, выславшего войска;
и ближе еще на один — века.

Спокойно им было в ту ночь втроем.
Дым устремлялся в дверной проем,
чтоб не тревожить их. Только мул
во сне (или вол) тяжело вздохнул.

Звезда глядела через порог.
Единственным среди них, кто мог
знать, что взгляд ее означал,
был младенец; но он молчал.

Декабрь 1995




This year we said good-bye to Seamus Heaney, a cherished friend and a magnanimous poet. He and a group of Brodsky’s friends helped translate the cycle of Brodsky’s Nativity Poems after Brodsky’s death in 1996. Heaney’s last book was Human Chain.

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