Hagia Sophia

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Hagia Sophia  (1912) 
by Osip Mandelstam, translated by Dmitri Smirnov
From "Stone".

Hagia Sophia, the Lord commanded
That nations and kings should stop here!
For your cupola, in the words of eye-witness,
As on a chain, is suspended from the heaven.

Justinian set an example for all ages,
When Diana of Ephesus permitted
To steal for alien Gods
One hundred and seven green marble columns.

But what was in the mind of your generous builder,
Dignified in his soul and thought,
When he located the apses and the exedras,
Pointing them to West and East?

The temple bathed in the world is beautiful,
And the forty windows are the triumph of light;
And the four archangels in the pendentives
Beneath the cupola are the most striking.

And the wise spherical construction
Will survive nations and centuries,
And the seraphim’s resonant sobbing
Will not distort the dark gilded surfaces.


This is a translation and has a separate copyright status from the original text. The license for the translation applies to this edition only.
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1938, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 75 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

This work is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

Other translations:[edit]

Translation by Ian Probstein