Hops (Boris Pasternak)

July 27, 2009


Beneath the willow wound round with ivy
we take cover from the worst
of the storm, with a greatcoat round
our shoulders and my hands around your waist.

I’ve got it wrong. That isn’t ivy
entwined in the bushes round
the wood, but hops. You intoxicate me!
Let’s spread the greatcoat on the ground.

(Trans. by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France)


Recent news of a friend landing a job at a brewery on Old Mission Peninsula (upper lower Michigan) got me thinking of this Pasternak poem–the only Pasternak poem I have ever managed to remember. The surprising turn in the second stanza is brilliant, I think, and elevates the poem to something, well, memorable. Read it a couple times, aloud. Let it wash down like a cold oat soda.

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