Pasternak pp 67-72 | Cite as

Notes on Poetry (1923)

  • Osip Mandel’shtam
Part of the Modern Judgements book series


Contemporary Russian poetry did not drop straight from the skies, but was predicted by the whole poetic past of our country — for did not the crackling and clicking of Yazykov predict Pasternak, and is not this one example enough to show how the batteries of poetry talk to each other by long-range exchange of gunfire, not troubled in the least by the indifference of the time that divides them. In poetry there is always warfare. And only in epochs of social imbecility does there come peace or a truce. The leading roots, like battalion leaders, take up arms against each other. Roots of words wage war in the dark, snatching each other’s food and earthly sap. The struggle of Russian, that is of the secular, unwritten speech, whose words have grown from domestic roots, the tongue of the lay people, against the written language of the monks, with their Church-Slavonic, hostile, Byzantine literacy — this struggle is still to be sensed.


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© Macmillan Publishers Limited 1969

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  • Osip Mandel’shtam

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