Each one sways on the azure;
They approach one another, then drift apart,
Meeting at random, floating on the wind, knocking against each other.
When they touch, they rattle like shaken nut-shells,
When windows, come together, two neighbouring faces touch.
All is momentary, the kiss, the clasping of a loved hand;
Then good-bye till they meet again
After an age of moving in circles.
Cottages in space, and windows
~With a breath-taking view into fathomless abysses.
Open your door, and from your threshold
Descend to the next cottage,
Swinging through space.
You’ll leave no foot-prints, you’ll find no traces.
Draw nearer, stumble, totter:
Fly to your neighbour’s embrace.
In sheer delight you will toss each other UP in the air.
Settling down in space,
All things are still on the move,
Knocking against one another,
Edge against edge.
Where shall we hang our favourite pictures from earth,
There are no walls.
W. I-I. AUDI~N writes: “Considered by many of his compatriots to be the best living Croatian poet, N~r:oLA ~ov was born at Jajce, Bosnia, in I9o4. He was crippled for life during Hitler’s bombardment of Belgrade in I94x. ’Cottages in Space’ is taken from his volume Space Poems (~957).” Another long poem by Sop (“Space Visits”), also translated by Brusar and Auden, was published in the May ~965 ENcousTsa
Unlock your trunks with caution,
Lift their lids very slo~vly,
Or everything will fly away:
Our little earthly things are out-of-date here.
Things of another substance are needed,
With another point of balance,
Weightless, unpossessive, in concord,
Things that don’t get lost
How delightful, this first feast,
With obieets settling down quietly~
Getting used to a new order.
The guests~ however, have not yet arrived.
Have they lost their way in the new situation~
Do their feet still slip, is their step still awkward,
Does a level space still look to them like an abyss?
Peer through the window and listen,
Listen for something that flies in circles.
All is in order, ready for the guests.
Slender threads tie the plates to the table
And the food to the plates,
To prevent them from flying away,
Because~ in the lightness~ all things i~utter~
Are breezy~ blu% like feathers.
But the expected guests; where have they got to?
Where has their lightness carried them?
lkound the table~ attached to new spaces, arm-chairs
Wait for the invited ones to hold on to them,
Lest their lightness suddenly snatch them away
Everything hereabouts has lost its weight,
So you must tie it down lest it fly away.
Every obiect is a winged bird:
Let it flutter in its cage.
How ~vonderful it will be when, deeply moved~
He raises his glass to propose a toast in the language~
The voice we still remember so well
He will weep, hut the tears won’t fall,
Won’t slide down his cheeks.
Instead, shining and twinkling, they ~ill remain
A necklace of tears, afloat in the air~
Strung on an invisible thread.
I keep forgetting that all things are weightless.
I open windows and, suddenly,
All my things fly out into space like birds,
Out and away~ and I fly after them
We find it so hard to arrange the things in our rooms
In the new weightless order.
How long will it take us to learn
They are things of another substance, with another point of balance,
Things in concord that won’t get lost?
Make no mistakes, my guests,
Things no longer stand in their old relations,
Ownership has become vague.
When you have learned the new point of balance, you will be light,
You will sleep peacefully
Over gulfs and abysses.
A long life to you all, my first guests, in these new spaces~
l~emembering forever the old reality.
Gravity is deadly:
It lowers things into human hands
That make them their own.
From gravity ownership was derived, the desire to possess was born.
But here things float, they belong to all;
Each one seems everybody’s~ as it circles in an unbounded calm;
It doesn’t belong to a limited space,
It detaches itself from an owner’s catalogue
Yes, it is from gravity that ownership was derived.
Gravity bound things and tamed them: caged in,
They served man gladly, liked to call themselves his,
Wherever they were, inside the house or outside, or on the roof.
At night, exhausted by service,
They fell asleep on their shadows:
All their dreams were about smoke.
Oh, to be suddenly set free,
To be with it, to be it,
Detached, fluent, light, up there,
Meanwhile, my guests, you have gathered here~
Swaying in concord, I see, with a new point of balance,
l~eady to clink glasses;
None will get cracked or broken.
How jolly it is to see spilled wine
Floating like a red cloud.
We marvel still at the phenomenon, forgetting
That forces, unknown hitherto, are keeping it afloat.
Well, my guests, now we have clinked glasses.
Good health to you all.
But please stop talking. Silence, please.
I hear something ticking somewhere.
In somebody’s pocket, it seems, an earthly watch must be ticking.
Somebody’s hiding one:
Somebody’s measuring time after the out-of-date manner.
Whoever he be, what’s the use of the gadget to him?
There’s no more getting up or working by it,
No more sleeping according to its whims;
Not since we dropped anchor in space.
Let us consider this gadget.
A box into ~vhich, it is said, time pours,
That records in advance hours and seconds
On a small round face of glass.
But no: time does not necessarily move when the hands move:
No, it’s a spring inside that moves the hands.
Time stops or rushes past the watch,
Takes away~ destroys, renews.
What’s the use of a clapper striking,
Or the cuckoo of an earthly cupboard-clock?
In the cupboard all thir~gs have become transfigured.
Nobody guesses that what we used to call worm-holes
Are in fact the beds of new streams.
Inside a grinding goes on in secret,
Not the dry exhalation from a time-worn interior,
Like an old library, where on entering, we behold
The crumbling effect of worms on old grey letters,
And leaf through the past, hardly daring to breathe,
Lest everything should crumble to dust.
No, it’s not the dry exhalation from a time-worn interior,
But a transfiguration.
Filled to overflowing with new things that breathe,
The old cupboard bursts open;
At the pressure inside
The key is ejected from the lock.
Inside the cupboard a clock
Desperately cuckoos the old time,
As new things fly out of it,
Unfamiliar obiects with enchanting edges.
The purpose of this, the name of that,
Has still to be learned.
You’ll have to stop each object and ask it its name,
Hold it close to you and listen
To its unfamiliar pulse,
Or, perhaps~ with a child’s curiosity
Turn it over~ prise it open and peer inside
To learn what its hidden secret is~
What is inside~ serving anew purpose,
Shake the obiecto hear it tinkle
Look, my chance-come guests, ~vhat do I see?
One of you feels like sleeping here in the earthly manner;
His head is nodding.
He must be the one
With an earthly watch concealed in his pocket.
Look at him! He’s fast asleep:
Some of his midnight hours must have struck for him.
Be quiet and listen. He is still talking nonsense. How strange!
How did this late-comer ever reach these spaces?
On Phaeton’s chariot, you whisper to me,
You, the girl who sways on my right.
Yes, that must be it. The uninvited guest arrived on Phaeton’s chariot,
Which he must have found in some corner,
Shattered to be sure, but still winged.
On it he soared,
Bringing all his old things with him, his earthly furniture,
With those bygone weights of his, those shapes and possessions,
He expects to sway, to balance.
Speak softly. Look, the sleeper is starting to s~vay: the new harmony
Is gradually taking hold of him.
Hush, hush. In silence gather his things together,
Load them on to the chariot and himself with them.
Send him toppling headlong to Earth, to Hades.
translated by Branko Brusar & IV. H. Auden