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Where Does Tenderness Come From, I'm Glad Your Sickness & Bent With Worry-Poems by Marina Tsvetaeva

Updated: Dec 3, 2023

Translated from the Russian language into the English language by Elain Feinstein

Where Does Such Tenderness Come From?

To O. Mandelstam

Where does such tenderness come from?

These are not the-first curls

I have stroked slowly- and lips

I have know are-darker than yours.

The stars rise often and go out again

(where does this tenderness come from?);

so many eyes have risen and died out

in front of these eyes of mine

and yet no such song have

I heard in the darkness of night before

(where does such tenderness come from?)

here, on the ribs of the singer

Where does such tenderness come from?

And what shall I do you have to do with it,

sly singer, just passing by?

Your lashes are longer than anyone's.

I'm Glad Your Sickness

I'm glad your sickness is not caused by me.

Mine is not caused by you. I'm glad to know

The heavy earth will never flow away

from us, beneath our feet, and so

we can relax together, and not watch

our words. When our sleeves touch

we shall not drown in waves of rising blush.

I'm glad to see you calmly now embrace

another girl in front of me, without

any wish to cause me pain, as you

don't burn if I kiss someone else.

I know you never use my tender name,

my tender spirit, day or night. And

no one in the silence of a church

will sing their Hallelujahs over us.

Thank you for loving me like this,

for you feel love, although you do not know it.

Thank you for the nights I've spent in quiet.

Thank you for the walks under the moon

you've spared me and those sunset meetings unshared.

Thank you. The sun will never bless our heads.

Take my sad thanks for this: you do not cause

my sickness. And I don't cause yours.

Bent With Worry

Bent with worry, God

paused, to smile.

And look, there were many

holy angels with bodies of

the radiance he had

given them,

some with enormous wings and

others without any,

which is why I weep

so much

because even more than God

himself I love his fair angels

Review & Analysis

Where does such tenderness come from?

The hidden variations of emotions and the essence of female perception are conveyed in this poem. The protagonist, a woman deeply in love, endeavors to comprehend the origin of such tenderness.

Marina Tsvetaeva and Osip Mandelstam shared an extraordinary bond. The young poet, whom she discovered a few years after their initial encounter, awakened previously unexplored sentiments within her. To gain insight into these emotions, one must delve into the verses of "Where does such tenderness come from?" by Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva.

This poem, dedicated to O. Mandelstam, was composed in 1916. Their connection transcended that of mere lovers, as they became close friends. Their first meeting occurred at M. Voloshin's country house, where the aspiring poet failed to leave a lasting impression on Tsvetaeva. However, it was only after spending several days together in Moscow that Marina Ivanovna truly appreciated him. In the poem "Where does such tenderness come from?", Tsvetaeva contemplates within herself, attempting to fathom the source of such intense emotions for a person who was almost a stranger.

I'm Glad Your Sickness

The poem, in my interpretation, conveys the emotional depth from a unique perspective. By holding back romantic involvement, the individuals in question experience a sense of peace and freedom, devoid of the difficulties and dissatisfaction that passionate intimacy often brings.

This state of being is a rarity, particularly for individuals as exceptional and sensitive as poets, artists, and eccentrics. However, the concluding remark offers a wise observation that every choice eliminates other beautiful realities.

The poem serves as a reminder to the narrator about the significance of their decision, perhaps hinting at a time when their relationship was not as settled, when they were still in their earliest state and the connection wasn't serene and harmonious.

This poem serves as a bittersweet tribute to a particular virtue, and I envision it as a motto spoken by a woman to herself, as a means of fortifying her resolve against the unpredictable nature of doubt.

Bent With Worry

Marina Tsvetaeva's poetry is characterized by its intense emotional depth and vivid imagery. Her lyrical poems are often marked by a sense of longing and despair, as she explores themes of love, separation, and loss. In her satirical works, she uses biting wit and irony to critique the social and political realities of her time.

Marina Tsvetaeva's passionate nature is vividly expressed in her lyrical and satirical poems, where her intense and vibrant emotions are unmistakably evident. The brilliant and sincere themes explored in this poet's works often revolve around Moscow, faith, hell, love, separation, and despair. In her writings, she exalts God and proclaims that the angels he has crafted are even more exquisite than the divine Creator Himself.

Overall, Marina Tsvetaeva's poetry is a testament to the power of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Her intense and vibrant emotions are unmistakably evident in her work, making her one of the most compelling and enduring voices in Russian literature.

Poem's Author - Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva

Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva
Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva

Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva, daughter of Ivan Tsvetaev, a professor of art history and founder of the Museum of Fine Arts, and Mariya Meyn, a talented concert pianist, was born in Moscow. Tsvetaeva's childhood was marked by extensive travel, attending schools in Switzerland, Germany, and at the Sorbonne in Paris. She began writing poetry at a young age and made her debut at 18 with the collection Evening Album, which paid tribute to her childhood.

In 1912, Tsvetaeva married Sergei Efron and had two daughters and a son. She demonstrated her technical mastery with Magic Lantern and followed it up with a selection of poems from her first collections in 1913. Tsvetaeva's cycle of poems called Girlfriend was inspired by her affair with poet and opera librettist Sofiia Parnok, whose career was halted in the late 1920s when she was no longer allowed to publish. The poems composed between 1917 and 1921 were published in 1957 under the title The Demesne of the Swans. Tsvetaeva's relationship with Konstantin Rodzevich, an ex-Red Army officer, inspired her to write Poem of the Mountain and Poem of the End.

Following the 1917 Revolution, Tsvetaeva was trapped in Moscow for five years. During the famine, one of her daughters died of starvation. Tsvetaeva's poetry reflects her growing interest in folk song and the techniques of major symbolist poets such as Aleksander Blok and Anna Akhmatova. In 1922, Tsvetaeva emigrated with her family to Berlin, where she reunited with her husband, and then to Prague. This period was highly productive for Tsvetaeva, as she published five collections of verse, as well as a number of narrative poems, plays, and essays.

During her time in Paris, Tsvetaeva composed two sections of the intended dramatic trilogy. The final compilation released during her lifetime, titled "After Russia," made its debut in 1928. This publication, consisting of 100 numbered copies, was exclusively sold through a special subscription. The family endured poverty while residing in Paris, as their income relied heavily on Tsvetaeva's writings. However, when her husband began working for the Soviet security service, the Russian community in Paris turned against Tsvetaeva. Consequently, her opportunities for publishing poetry became limited, leading her to shift her focus towards prose. In 1937, Tsvetaeva's remarkable prose work, "MOY PUSHKIN," was published. Additionally, she ventured into producing short stories, memoirs, and critical articles to supplement her income.

During her exile, Tsvetaeva experienced an increasing sense of isolation. She returned to the Soviet Union in 1938, where her son and husband were already residing, facing a lack of friends and financial hardship. Tragically, the following year, her husband was executed, and her daughter was sent to a labor camp. Tsvetaeva faced official ostracization and was unable to publish her works. As the German Army invaded the USSR in 1941, Tsvetaeva was evacuated to the small provincial town of Elabuga with her son. Overwhelmed by despair, she took her own life just ten days later, on August 31, 1941.

Book's Author - Elaine Feinstein

Elaine Feinstein, who passed away at the age of 88, was a renowned poet who brought a new sense of internationalism to British verse. In 1961, she made history by publishing the first English translations of Marina Tsvetaeva's works. Additionally, she delved into the tragic life of the esteemed Russian poet and produced a biography titled "A Captive Lion" in 1987.

Elaine's dedication to Russian poetry persisted throughout her life, as evidenced by her biographies on Pushkin in 1998 and Anna Akhmatova in 2005. She also contributed to the literary world by translating the works of contemporary Russian women poets.

As a poet herself, Elaine possessed a unique voice. In 1970, she released her first novel, "The Circle," which coincided with the publication of influential books such as Germaine Greer's "The Female Eunuch" and Kate Millett's "Sexual Politics." These works collectively fueled a cultural zeitgeist.

Elaine's literary repertoire expanded to include short stories, radio and TV dramas, and an impressive 13 additional novels. Among these, "The Glass Alembic" (1973) solidified her reputation on both sides of the Atlantic, while "Mother's Girl" (1988) showcased her versatility. She also ventured into biographies, criticism, and edited volumes, culminating in her autobiography titled "It Goes With the Territory" (2013), subtitled "Memoirs of a Poet." Elaine's career was exemplary, not only due to the enduring impact of her work but also due to the breadth and depth of her literary connections.

Elaine's professional journey included positions at Cambridge University Press from 1959 to 1962, Hockerill teacher training college from 1963 to 1966, and Donald Davie's newly established comparative literature department at the University of Essex until 1970. It was in that year that she decided to pursue writing full-time. Her novels "The Survivors" (1982) and "The Border" (1984) explored stories of Holocaust survival.

Recognized for her contributions, Elaine became a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1981 and was granted a Civil List pension in 2005. Her works were widely translated, and she embarked on literary fellowships for the British Council in Norway and Singapore.


T︠S︡vetaeva, M., & Feinstein, E. (1994). Selected poems. Penguin Books.

Sampson, F. (2019, October 3). Elaine Feinstein obituary. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/oct/01/elaine-feinstein-obituary

Selected poems. (n.d.). Goodreads. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/626685.Selected_Poems

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/womanshour/ram/2002_27_tue_03.ram "Elaine Feinstein" Tuesday 2 July 2002

The Elaine Feinstein page. (n.d.). http://www.elainefeinstein.com/


http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record "She Means It When She Rhymes:

 Marina Tsvetaeva: Selected Poems." Review from ''Thumbscrew''. No 17 - Winter 2000/1

Interview with Elaine Feinstein in The Times May 30 2005.

Poetry Foundation. (n.d.). Marina Tsvetaeva | Poetry Foundation. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/marina-tsvetaeva

http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=5145 Review of ''Daylight'' in ''Ambit'' No 150 - 1997



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