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:
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,
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,
I sat on the edge of my bench,
Afraid that things would get worse!

But a strange clarity from the sun
and my prudence,
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,
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

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