July 01, 2010

Chtenia 11: Literal Poem Translations


Unknown Woman

Alexander Blok
Line by line literal translation

Evenings about the restaurants,
The hot air is wild and oppressive
And the shouts of the drunks are governed by
A springtime, rotten spirit.

Far above the dust of alleys
Above the boredom of suburban dachas,
The golden roll of a bakery can just be seen.
And a child’s crying resounds.

And every evening beyond the toll gates
Cocking their hats,
Among the canals, there walk with ladies
Jokers who have been around.

Above the lake the oarlocks creek.
And a woman’s squeal resounds,
And in the sky, inured to everything,
A disk grimaces senselessly.

And every evening my only friend
Is reflected in my glass
And affected by an acrid, mysterious liquid,
As I am, he is subdued and meek.

And next to me at neighboring tables
Sleepy lackey hang about
And drunks with the eyes of rabbits
Shout, “In vino veritas!”

And every evening, at a predetermined hour,
(Or am I only dreaming this?)
A girlish figure, wrapped in silks,
Moves in the fogged window.

And slowly, passing between the drunks,
Always without escorts, alone,
Breathing perfume and fog
She sits down at the window.

And they waft old superstitions,
Her resilient silks,
And the hat with mourning feathers,
And the rings on her narrow hand.

And transfixed by this strange proximity,
I look behind the dark veil,
And see an enchanted shore
And an enchanted distance.

Obscure secrets have been entrusted to me
Someone’s sun has been handed over to me,
And all the twists of my soul
Were penetrated by the acrid wine.

And the slanted ostrich feathers
Sway in my brain,
And eyes that are blue and bottomless
Will flower on the distant shore.

A treasure lies within my soul
And the key has been entrusted only to me!
You are right, drunk monster.
I know: truth lies in wine.

Translation by Lydia Razran Stone

An Unusual Adventure Befalling Vladimir Mayakovsky One Summer Vacation

Vladimir Mayakovsky
Line by line literal translation

With the power of one hundred and forty suns the sunset burned,
the summer rolled in in July,
there was heat
the heat flowed
this was at the dacha.

A humped hill in Pushkino
Akulova mountain,
and low on the mountain,
was a village,
with crooked roofs like bark.

And beyond the village,
was a hole
and into that hole, most likely
the sun descended every time
slowly and surely.

But the next day
in order to suffuse the world
the scarlet sun arose.
And day after day
all this
began to
make me
terribly angry.

And so once getting so angry
That everyone paled in terror,
I yelled at the sun,
“Climb down!
Enough of this messing around in the inferno!”

I yelled at the sun:
“Parasite!”
you have grown spoiled in the clouds,
but here, no matter if it is summer or winter,
you have to sit drawing posters!”

“I yelled at the sun,
“Wait!
listen, Golden Brow,
since you’ve nothing to do
you ought to come
have tea with me!?

What had I done!
I was done for!
Toward me,
of his own free will,
he, himself,
spreading his raylike steps,
the sun was striding through the field.

I don’t want to show my fear,
so I turn my back.
His eyes are already in the yard.
Already he is crossing the yard.

In through the window,
in through the door,
in through a crack, he enters,
and collapses;
catching his breath,
and said in a bass voice.

“I will drive back my fires
for the first time in creation.
You invited me?
Bring on the tea,
bring on, poet, the jam!”

Tears were in his eyes—
the heat had driven him mad,
but I led him
to the samovar
“Well, now,
have a seat, Heavenly Body!”

The devil had provoked my impudence
(so that I had) roared at him,
embarrassed,
I sat on the edge of my bench,
Afraid that things would get worse!

But a strange clarity from the sun
streamed,
and my prudence,
forgetting,
I sit and begin chatting
with the Heavenly Body
little by little.

About this
and about that I talk,
saying that Rosta has been killing me,
and the sun (says),
“Never mind,
don’t fret,
look at things simply!

You think for me,
shining
is easy.
“Well, try it then!
But once you do it,
have undertaken to do it,
then go — and shine with all your might.”

We chatted like that till dark,
till what used to be night, I mean.
What darkness could there have been?
We were using the familiar form,
with each other, feeling at ease.
And soon,
not hiding my friendship,
I was pounding him on the shoulder.

And the sun did the same, saying:
“You and I,
comrade, are two of a kind!
Let’s go poet,
to light up,
to sing to,
the world (steeped) in gray rubbish.
I, the sun, will pour out my light,
And you — your own,
Your verses.

A wall of shadows,
a prison of nights
fell under the sun’s double-barrel(ed rifle).
Commotion of verse and light
shine on no matter what!

Someone will be tired
and want the night
to lie down,
blank sleep.
Suddenly, I’ll
shine with all my might
and day will ring out again.

To shine for ever,
to shine everywhere,
till the days of the last message,
to shine—
and not let anything stop us.
That is my motto
and the sun’s!

Translation by Lydia Razran Stone

Subscribe Here

Like this post? Get a weekly email digest + member-only deals

Some of Our Books

Fish: A History of One Migration

Fish: A History of One Migration

This mesmerizing novel from one of Russia’s most important modern authors traces the life journey of a selfless Russian everywoman. In the wake of the Soviet breakup, inexorable forces drag Vera across the breadth of the Russian empire. Facing a relentless onslaught of human and social trials, she swims against the current of life, countering adversity and pain with compassion and hope, in many ways personifying Mother Russia’s torment and resilience amid the Soviet disintegration.
Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

A book that dares to explore the humanity of priests and pilgrims, saints and sinners, Faith & Humor has been both a runaway bestseller in Russia and the focus of heated controversy – as often happens when a thoughtful writer takes on sacred cows. The stories, aphorisms, anecdotes, dialogues and adventures in this volume comprise an encyclopedia of modern Russian Orthodoxy, and thereby of Russian life.
The Latchkey Murders

The Latchkey Murders

Senior Lieutenant Pavel Matyushkin is back on the case in this prequel to the popular mystery Murder at the Dacha, in which a serial killer is on the loose in Khrushchev’s Moscow...
Moscow and Muscovites

Moscow and Muscovites

Vladimir Gilyarovsky's classic portrait of the Russian capital is one of Russians’ most beloved books. Yet it has never before been translated into English. Until now! It is a spectactular verbal pastiche: conversation, from gutter gibberish to the drawing room; oratory, from illiterates to aristocrats; prose, from boilerplate to Tolstoy; poetry, from earthy humor to Pushkin. 
Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod is a mid-sized provincial city that exists only in Russian metaphorical space. It has its roots in Gogol, and Ilf and Petrov, and is a place far from Moscow, but close to Russian hearts. It is a place of mystery and normality, of provincial innocence and Black Earth wisdom. Strange, inexplicable things happen in Stargorod. So do good things. And bad things. A lot like life everywhere, one might say. Only with a heavy dose of vodka, longing and mystery.
Driving Down Russia's Spine

Driving Down Russia's Spine

The story of the epic Spine of Russia trip, intertwining fascinating subject profiles with digressions into historical and cultural themes relevant to understanding modern Russia. 
Murder and the Muse

Murder and the Muse

KGB Chief Andropov has tapped Matyushkin to solve a brazen jewel heist from Picasso’s wife at the posh Metropole Hotel. But when the case bleeds over into murder, machinations, and international intrigue, not everyone is eager to see where the clues might lead.
Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

The Life Stories collection is a nice introduction to contemporary Russian fiction: many of the 19 authors featured here have won major Russian literary prizes and/or become bestsellers. These are life-affirming stories of love, family, hope, rebirth, mystery and imagination, masterfully translated by some of the best Russian-English translators working today. The selections reassert the power of Russian literature to affect readers of all cultures in profound and lasting ways. Best of all, 100% of the profits from the sale of this book are going to benefit Russian hospice—not-for-profit care for fellow human beings who are nearing the end of their own life stories.
The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

This exciting new trilogy by a Russian author – who has been compared to Orhan Pamuk and Umberto Eco – vividly recreates a lost world, yet its passions and characters are entirely relevant to the present day. Full of mystery, memorable characters, and non-stop adventure, The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas is a must read for lovers of historical fiction and international thrillers.  
Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

This astonishingly gripping autobiography by the founder of the Russian Women’s Death Battallion in World War I is an eye-opening documentary of life before, during and after the Bolshevik Revolution.
A Taste of Chekhov

A Taste of Chekhov

This compact volume is an introduction to the works of Chekhov the master storyteller, via nine stories spanning the last twenty years of his life.

About Us

Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

Latest Posts

Our Contacts

Russian Life
73 Main Street, Suite 402
Montpelier VT 05602

802-223-4955