Jeffrey Robinson: Pocket Dante: Keats and Mandelstam

Spring '10 TOC

Introduction
Dante walks in back pockets of both poets, making the air tremble and sigh. In 1818
Keats carries “those three little volumes” to Scotland, to Burns country where weary feet
forget themselves and Eagles may
                                    seem
                                                to sleep wing wide
                                                                        upon the Air.
In 1937 Mandelstam—whose name, Osip, echoed that of Iosif Stalin’s  “Anticipating his
arrest. . ,—obtained an edition of The Divine Comedy in small format and always had it
with him in his pocket, just in case he was arrested not at home but in the street.”


                        “blind world” “no plaint was heard
                        Except of sighs”
                                                “that made the eternal air
                        tremble”

                        Broad-chested imps of power,
                        fingers like worms
                                                            decree
                                    plunge of song

                        In this world are rhymes.
                        Wrench them apart and
                        the world shudders.

                        Nightingale: a divine
                        concentrated
                        melodic comedy

                        Goldfinch: with Jewish yellows and blacks,
                        flush of Jewish doom on your chin
                        “What a flashy finch you are!”

                        a poet’s speech begins
                        a great way off:
                                                the way of comets

Mandelstam:     “It’s not for me to build a home,
                        Settling at the crossroads.”
                        I get lost in the sky.”

Keats:              “I then suddenly forgot which was North or South.”

                        1934:  singer soon disappeared

                                    to sing
                                                or fell timber
                                    for bread
                        lay like a mouse  on bed
                        restlessness all over him
                        I see his lips moving
                                                Dead now
                        treading
                                    his lips still moving

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Not Enough Night
Not Enough Night
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