Milestones (2015)

Generally looked on as Tsvetaeva’s first mature volume, Milestones offers a lyrical diary for 1916, the year before Tsarist Russia disappeared irrevocably. Nearly twenty years later, she wrote in a letter that ‘I was the first to speak thus of Moscow. (And, so far, the last, it would seem.) It makes me happy and proud, for that was Moscow of the last hour and time’.
And again: ‘When you talk about being deafening, you must also talk of quietness. I have certain lines so quiet no one else has anything like them.’ Besides her paean to pre-revolutionary Moscow, the book contains cycles addressed to Blok and Akhmatova, as well as individual poems to Osip Mandelstam.
Oh, how delicate and faint
the whistling is amidst the pines!
In a dream I caught a glimpse
of a child. Its eyes were black.
Dripping down the shapely tree,
see the burning resin flow
while, in my exquisite night,
a saw cuts its teeth on my heart.

August 8th 1916

Not something I can get worked up about –
what happens to the seeds.
Not me, someone enormous wanted that,
angel, lion combined.
It’s dizziness I watch for in young eyes,
blackness, intensity.
My business – starting fires, from heart to heart,
from home to home.
Curls get dishevelled, collars are torn open…
Emptiness! Flight!
Clouds moving onwards, over me the burning
city, too, moves.

August 2nd 1916

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‘Whyte has made a highly significant contribution to the work by Tsvetaeva available in English, in poems that not only do justice to the meanings, but honour the poetry of the originals’.
– Rose France, Translation and Literature

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