В электрическом свете (Хини/Кружков)

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В электрическом свете / Electric Light
автор Шеймас Хини (1939—2013), пер. Григорий Михайлович Кружков (p. 1945)
Язык оригинала: английский. Название в оригинале: Electric Light. — Опубл.: 2001 / пер. «Дружба народов» 2003 № 6. Источник: ЖЗ


Григорий Кружков:

В ЭЛЕКТРИЧЕСКОМ СВЕТЕ

Застывший жир свечи в потеках сажи
От фитиля… И заскорузлый ноготь
Большого искалеченного пальца,

Как раковина древнего моллюска…
Впервые электрическую лампу
Я видел в доме бабушки. В тот день

Она сидела, как обычно, в кресле
В своих ушастых войлочных обувках,
Твердя в испуге: «Боже, что с тобой?»
 
Но я был безутешен. Позже, в спальне,
Укрывшись простыней от желтой лампы,
Всю ночь включенной, я лежал и плакал…

«Что тебя мучит, дитятко мое?»
Беспомощный, далекий, слабый шепот,
Как плеск воды в пещерной темноте.

 *
И снова — шорох волн, и прорицанья
Сирен английских. И пустой причал,
Куда я неминуемо пришел,

Когда пришла пора. Паром, скребущий
Гладь серого Белфастского залива,
Утренний поезд, как припев из песни:

«Прощай и не забудь!» Тылы домов,
Похожие на спины старых женщин,
Цистерны, заводские корпуса,

И пугало воронье на задворках,
Забор, пустырь, футбольная площадка —
И вспаханная даль, как пах пространства.

Я вышел в Саутворке из метро —
Из тьмы на свет. И вдруг «на чуждом бреге»
Повеяло родным Майольским ветром…

 *
Подставив стул, я дотянуться мог
До выключателя. Мне разрешалось
Свершать — одним касаньем — волшебство.

Мне также разрешалось, щелкнув ручкой,
Включать приемник. Сквозь иллюминатор
Шкалы сочился свет — и мир звучал!

Потом я помню: шторы, затемненье…
Приемник отключили. Бой Биг-Бена,
Последние известья — все умолкло;

Лишь в тишине пощелкивали спицы
Да ветер выл в трубе. Она сидела
В своих обувках войлочных, и лампа

Горела лихорадочно над нами;
Я помню до сих пор тот страшный ноготь —
Такой потрескавшийся, слюдяной

И твердый, словно плектр: когда-нибудь
Его найдут в земле меж позвонков
И бусин каменных — и подивятся.


Seamus Heaney:

Electric Light

Candle grease congealed, dark-streaked with wick-soot.
Rucked alps from above. The smashed thumbnail
of that ancient mangled thumb was puckered pearl,

moonlit quartz, a bleached and littered Cumae.
In the first house where I saw electric light
she sat with her fur-lined felt slippers unzipped,

year in, year out, in the same chair, and whispered
in a voice that at its loudest did nothing else
but whisper. We were both desperate

the night I was left to stay with her and wept
under the clothes, under the waste of light
left turned on in the bedroom. "What ails you, child,

what ails you, for God's sake?" Urgent, sorrowing
ails, far-off and old. Scaresome cavern waters
lapping a boatslip. Her helplessness no help.

 *
Lisp and relapse. Eddy of sibylline English.
Splashes between a ship and dock, to which,
animula, I would come alive in time

as ferries churned and turned down Belfast Lough
towards the brow-to-glass transport of a morning train,
the very "there-you-are-and-where-are-you?"

of poetry itself. Backs of houses
like the back of hers, meat safes and mangles
in the railway-facing yards of fleeting England,

an allotment scarecrow among patted rigs,
then a town-edge soccer pitch, the groin of distance,
fields of grain like the Field of the Cloth of Gold,

tunnel gauntlet and horizon keep. To Southwark,
too, I came, from tube mouth into sunlight,
Moyola-breath by Thames's "straunge strond."

 *
If I stood on the bow-backed chair, I could reach
the light switch. They let me and they watched me,
A touch of the little pip would work the magic.

A turn of their wireless knob and light came on
in the dial. They let me and they watched me
as I roamed at will the stations of the world.

Then they were gone and Big Ben and the news
were over. The set had been switched off,
all quiet behind the blackout except for

knitting needles ticking, wind in the flue.
She sat with her fur-lined felt slippers unzipped,
electric light shone over us, I feared

the dirt-tracked flint and fissure of her nail,
so plectrum-hard, glit-glittery, it must still keep
among beads and vertebrae in the Derry ground.

© Seamus Heaney


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Lux perpetua

Seamus Heaney on the making of his recent collection, Electric Light

Seamus Heaney

Saturday 16 June 2001 18.35 BST First published on Saturday 16 June 2001 18.35 BST

For a long time I couldn't decide what to call the collection. At first it seemed that it should be The Real Names because the names of so many real people appear in its pages and because what happens in the poem of that title is what's happening throughout the book. Incidents from childhood and adolescence and the recent past swim up into memory: moments that were radiant or distressful at the time come back in the light of a more distanced and more informed consciousness.

"Informed consciousness"? Well, in the writing of any poem, there's usually a line being cast from the circumference of your whole understanding towards intuitions and images down there in the memory pool. If you're lucky, you feel life moving at the other end of the line; the remembered thing starts off a chain reaction of words and associations, and at that point what you need is the whole of your acquired knowledge and understanding, your cultural memory and literary awareness. You need them to come to your aid and throw a shape that will match and make sense of your excitement.


In many of the poems, however - "Out of the Bag", "The Loose Box", "Known Word", "The Real Names", the poem in memory of Ted Hughes, the title poem, and several others - it was not a single shape that was thrown, but several. Different sections of the poems represent the different casts made. The pleasure of doing it that way was in following each new impulse, finding and trusting approaches that allowed both oneself and the subject to stretch their wings. The risk was that the poem might then range too freely beyond the reader's ken - but it still seemed a risk worth taking.

"Electric Light" is a case in point. The first and third sections are probably straightforward enough: I don't say that the old woman is my grandmother, but there are clues to show that she is ancient, archetypal and central to the family. The risk is in trusting that the reader will go with the middle section, which is an evocation of my first trips to London, by ferry and train, but is also meant to suggest a journey into poetic vocation. It should signal a connection between the strange and slightly literary word "ails", spoken by the sibylline grandmother to the distressed child, and the aspiring poet's sense of historical and literary England, seen first from the train window and then deliberately sought out in the Southwark of Chaucer's Tabard Inn and Shakespeare's Globe.

Once "Electric Light" got written, I had no doubt about it as the title poem. Apart from anything else, the brightness of my grandmother's house is associated in my mind with a beautiful line from the Mass for the Dead - "Et lux perpetua luceat eis", "And let perpetual light shine upon them" - a line which is also echoed in one of the sections of "The Real Names". Then, once I settled on the title, I began to see what I hadn't seen before, that there was light all over the place, from the shine on the weir in the very first poem to the "reprieving light" of my father's smile in the penultimate line of the penultimate poem in the book. And as well as this, there is an almost equally pervasive note of elegy.

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"The stilly night" is mentioned and to anyone who knows the Thomas Moore song, the phrase inevitably calls up "the light / Of other days around me". At several places in the collection, a brightness of other days falls from the classical air, from the imagined weather of Virgil's Eclogues and from the actual skies above sites in the Pelopponese and other legendary parts of Greece. And some of that brightness casts its beams even farther north, to shine on the Bann Valley on the eve of the third millennium, or to turn a rented smallholding in Co Wicklow at the end of the 20th century into the equivalent of a farm in the Mantuan countryside, confiscated and resettled on the eve of the first.

The book could even carry a Virgilian epigraph: it is full of mortalia, by people and things we must pass away from or that have had to pass away from us. Deaths of poets and of friends, and of friends who were poets. Sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt.

This article was written for the current issue of the Poetry Book Society Bulletin. For more details about the PBS, ring 020-8870 8403.