The Lutheran

On Sunday, walking past a Protestant cathedral,
I came upon a funeral in motion.
In passing, absent-mindedly I noticed
that congregation's rigorous commotion.

Their foreign language was too far to hear
And only polished bridles brightly shone,
The emptiness of festive thoroughfare
Reflected lazy horseshoes' ringless tone.

And in elastic darkness of the chariot
Where hypocritic sadness hid her face,
Wordless and tearless, indifferent to greetings,
Some potted autumn roses interlaced.

The foreign men walked on, a black procession,
And tearful women followed in their stead,
Their rosy cheeks half-hidden under veils',
The hearseman reined above them: on! ahead!

Dead Lutheran, whoever in life you were,
They lightly buried you and lightly sang.
Their eyes were fogged with decent tears
And with reserve above you church-bells rang.

And then I thought: it's useless to orate.
We are no prophets, nor ordained, nor lay.
No love for Heaven, and for Hell no fear,
we burn like candles in the white of day.



Osip Mandelstam
Transl: Roman Turovsky