“Verses in April”, by Joseph Brodsky


Before April – “the cruellest of months” – is gone, I’d like to share a marvellous poem by comrade Brodsky, whose calid words helped me out a lot in the task of not going mad during the previous months of frosty temperatures. Reading his poems has been a solace to keep me sane through the whirlwinds and snowstorms and frozen landscapes of my first Canadian winter. It was hardcore winter, for sure, and I wish myself well at the coming of spring!…

by Joseph Brodsky (April 1969)

Once again this past winter
I did not go mad. As for winter itself –
one glances; it’s gone. But I can divide
the din of ice cracking from the green
shroud of earth. So I’m sane.
I wish myself well
at the coming of spring;
blinded by the Fontanka (1),
I break myself up into dozens of parts.
I run my flat hand
up and over my face. The snow-crust is settling
in my brain, as it does in the woods.

Having lived to the time of gray hairs,
I observe how a tug threads its way,
among ice floes, toward open sea.
For me
to forgive you in writing would be
just as harsh and unfair
as to charge you with wrong.
Please excuse me
for this lofty style:
though there’s no end to our discontent,
there’s an end to our winters (2).
For the essence of change lies in this –
in the wrangling of Muses who swarm
at Mnemosyne’s banquet.



(1) The Fontanka is one of the majors rivers in Leningrad, the other being the Neva. In April its surface would be “blinding” because still covered with ice.

(2) Cf. the opening lines of Shakespeare’s Richard III:
Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York.