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

Subscribe Here

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

Some of Our Books

At the Circus

At the Circus

This wonderful novella by Alexander Kuprin tells the story of the wrestler Arbuzov and his battle against a renowned American wrestler. Rich in detail and characterization, At the Circus brims with excitement and life. You can smell the sawdust in the big top, see the vivid and colorful characters, sense the tension build as Arbuzov readies to face off against the American.
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.  
The Moscow Eccentric

The Moscow Eccentric

Advance reviewers are calling this new translation "a coup" and "a remarkable achievement." This rediscovered gem of a novel by one of Russia's finest writers explores some of the thorniest issues of the early twentieth century.
The Little Humpbacked Horse

The Little Humpbacked Horse

A beloved Russian classic about a resourceful Russian peasant, Vanya, and his miracle-working horse, who together undergo various trials, exploits and adventures at the whim of a laughable tsar, told in rich, narrative poetry.
The Frogs Who Begged for a Tsar

The Frogs Who Begged for a Tsar

The fables of Ivan Krylov are rich fonts of Russian cultural wisdom and experience – reading and understanding them is vital to grasping the Russian worldview. This new edition of 62 of Krylov’s tales presents them side-by-side in English and Russian. The wonderfully lyrical translations by Lydia Razran Stone are accompanied by original, whimsical color illustrations by Katya Korobkina.
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...
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.
93 Untranslatable Russian Words

93 Untranslatable Russian Words

Every language has concepts, ideas, words and idioms that are nearly impossible to translate into another language. This book looks at nearly 100 such Russian words and offers paths to their understanding and translation by way of examples from literature and everyday life. Difficult to translate words and concepts are introduced with dictionary definitions, then elucidated with citations from literature, speech and prose, helping the student of Russian comprehend the word/concept in context.
Murder at the Dacha

Murder at the Dacha

Senior Lieutenant Pavel Matyushkin has a problem. Several, actually. Not the least of them is the fact that a powerful Soviet boss has been murdered, and Matyushkin's surly commander has given him an unreasonably short time frame to close the case.
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.
A Taste of Russia

A Taste of Russia

The definitive modern cookbook on Russian cuisine has been totally updated and redesigned in a 30th Anniversary Edition. Layering superbly researched recipes with informative essays on the dishes' rich historical and cultural context, A Taste of Russia includes over 200 recipes on everything from borshch to blini, from Salmon Coulibiac to Beef Stew with Rum, from Marinated Mushrooms to Walnut-honey Filled Pies. A Taste of Russia shows off the best that Russian cooking has to offer. Full of great quotes from Russian literature about Russian food and designed in a convenient wide format that stays open during use.

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