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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winter Night

(The Summer Gardens in Winter, St. Petersburg, woodcut
by Anna Ostroumova-Lebedeva, 1871-1955, Russian artist)

“As they drove through Kamerger Street Yura [Zhivago] noticed that a candle had melted a patch in the icy crust on one of the windows. The light seemed to look into the street almost consciously, as if it were watching the passing carriages and waiting for someone.

“‘A candle burned on the table, a candle burned . . . ,’ he whispered to himself — the beginning of something confused, formless; he hoped that it would take shape of itself.”


It snowed and snowed, the whole world over,
Snow swept the world from end to end.
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.

As during summer, midges swarm
To beat their wings against a flame.
Out in the yard the snowflakes swarmed
To beat against the window pane.

The blizzard sculptured on the glass
Designs of arrows and of whorls.
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.

Distorted shadows fell
Upon the lighted ceiling:
Shadows of crossed arms, of crossed legs —
Of crossed destiny.

Two tiny shoes fell to the floor
And thudded.
A candle on a nightstand shed wax tears
Upon a dress.

All things vanished within
The snowy murk-white, hoary.
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.

A corner draft fluttered the flame
And the white fever of temptation
Upswept its angel wings that cast
A cruciform shadow.

It snowed hard throughout the month
Of February, and almost constantly
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.

~ Boris Pasternak (1890-1960), Russian poet and novelist; the above prose and poem are from his novel Doctor Zhivago

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