Blizzards have whirled all night, but the morning's clear.
Still a Sunday laziness crawls across my body,
and the Church of the Annunciation hasn't yet
come out of mass. I go out to the yard.
How small, all of it: a little house, a little
twist of smoke above the roof! Silvery-rosy,
the frost-vapour. It forms its pillars that rise
from behind the houses, up to the dome of heaven
as if they were the wings of giant angels.
How miniature, suddenly, seems the burly
figure of Sergei Ivanych, my neighbour.
There he is, in sheepskin coat and felt boots.
Firewood is scattered round him in the snow.
With both his arms tensing, lifting up
the heavy chopper above his head, he
swings it - but Tock! Tock! Tock! goes each
unresounding blow: sky, snow and cold
are swallowing the sound… "Greetings, neighbour."
"Ah, good morning!" - and I sort out my own
firewood, too. His Tock! My Tock! But it soon
gets on my nerves, chopping. I straighten up,
and say: "Hang on there a minute, isn't that
some kind of music?" Sergei Ivanych
pauses in his work, raises up his head
just a little bit - nothing that he can hear,
but he's trying hard to listen… "You must have
imagined it," he tells me. "No, look,
you have to get attuned to it. Such a clear sound."
He's listening again. "Well, maybe - are they
burying a soldier? Only somehow I
can't make it out." But I don't let it go.
"Forgive me, but now it's really clear.
And the music's coming somehow from above.
I can hear a cello, and there are harps, perhaps…
That's such good playing! Stop bashing -"
and poor old Sergei Ivanych once more
holds off from chopping. He doesn't hear a thing,
but wishing not to spoil it for me, tries hard
not to look annoyed. Funny, how he's standing
in the middle of the yard, afraid to interrupt
an inaudible symphony. And I regret,
eventually, the way I've made him stop.
I declare: "It's finished." Once again we
get down to our axes: Tock! Tock! Tock! - while
the sky stays as high as ever, and up there
still the same, the feathery angels shining.