“A girl sang in the cathedral choir” – A. Blok

Russian Silver Age Poetry translations, 3/?

Alexander Blok
“A girl sang in the cathedral choir”

Well, on deciding to do this as a series, I realized that I didn’t have as large a stockpile of Silver Age poetry translations as I thought (with a good distribution of authors and moods, so it’s neither all-Gumilev nor all-depressing all the time) so…gotta make more. This poem by Alexander Blok, the most famous of the Symbolists, I’d first heard a girl recite at a Russian church school graduation when I was about six.

A girl sang in the cathedral choir
Of all the ships that had gone to sea,
Of all the travellers lost and tired,
Of all who’d forgotten what joys may be.

And on her white shoulder a sunbeam glistened,
As up her voice soared to the dome’s far height,
And in the darkness all watched and listened
To the singing white dress in the ray of light.

And it seemed to each watcher that joy was nearing,
That all ships were in harbours calm and secure,
That in faraway lands people lost and weary
Had found new lives shining bright and sure.

Sweet was her voice, the ray slim and fine…
Only up on high, where all Truths are learned
At God’s pearly gates — a child was crying
That no one gone out would ever return.

Alexander Blok, 1913; translation by Tamara Vardomskaya, July 2016.