“At the round tables all made a din…” – A. Blok

Russian Silver Age poetry translations, 28/?

We return to another Alexander Blok poem, because one can always use more Blok in one’s life.

This one is restless and disturbing (the original also changes metre from line to line, and I am not aware of a musical setting, so I felt justified in being a bit looser with the metre in the translation as well). I am fascinated by the questions it poses, and reminded of some of the worse parties I have attended.

(The use of the word “cowed” is not in the original, but it fit the rhyme, the original does have her being in the corner, and certainly that is how I would be feeling in her place.)
At the round tables all made a din
Shifting places from side to side.
The wine fog turned everything dim.
Then over the voices, someone who came in
Said aloud, “Here is my bride.”

No one heard a thing of the cry,
As like mad beasts, every man roared.
And one, himself not knowing why,
Pointed at him, laughing and slapping his thigh,
And at the girl who had come through the door.

Then her handkerchief fell to the floor,
As if getting the ominous statement,
They all viciously fell to it, and not long before
With howls every shred into pieces they tore,
And with dust and their blood they stained it.

When then back to their seats came the crowd,
And sat, letting the hubbub subside,
He pointed to the girl in the corner cowed,
And piercing the gloom, he said aloud,
“Gentlemen! This is my bride.”

And suddenly the one who’d laughed, and rocked as well
With his hands about senselessly sweeping,
Down to the tabletop, trembling, fell.
And the ones who before would all madly yell
Now heard the sounds of weeping.

Aexander Blok, December 25, 1902; translation by Tamara Vardomskaya, August 2016.