open your window, wider, wider (Nabokov)




I read this poem a number of times over before I realised just how gentle and lovely it is. It reminds me now vividly of opening the shutter windows of a most homely home in Sardinia and, overlooking the early rural morning below, I heard the sound of waves of tinkling bells. (The shepherds were herding their sheep.)



Soft Sound


When in some coastal townlet, on a night

of low clouds and ennui, you open

the window – from afar

whispering sounds spill over.


Now listen closely and discern

the sound of seawaves breathing upon land,

protecting in the night

the soul that harkens unto them.


Daylong the murmur of the sea is muted,

but the unbidden day now passes

(tinkling as does an empty

tumbler on a glass shelf);


and once again amidst the sleepless hush

open your window, wider, wider,

and with the sea you are alone

in the enormous and calm world.


Not the sea’s sound . . . In the still night

I hear a different reverberation:

the soft sound of my native land,

her respiration and pulsation.


Therein blend all the shades of voices

so dear, so quickly interrupted

and melodies of Pushkin’s verse

and sighs of a remembered pine wood.


Repose and happiness are there,

a blessing upon exile;

yet the soft sound cannot be heard by day

drowned by the scurrying and rattling.


But in the compensating night,

in sleepless silence, one keeps listening

to one’s own country, to her murmuring,

her deathless deep.





– from ‘Collected Poems: Vladmir Nabokov’ (2012), translated by Dmitri Nabokov, edited by Thomas Karshan aa-and published by Penguin Classics, London, pp. 86-87!







1 Comment

Filed under Poetry turnstile

One response to “open your window, wider, wider (Nabokov)

  1. that cheeky little number eight!

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