Love And Friendship – E. Baratynsky

Russian Golden Age and Romantic poetry translation series, 2/?

Evgeny Baratynsky (sometimes spelled Boratynsky in both alphabets as that was the spelling in the original Polish of his family name) (1800-1844) was a contemporary of Pushkin who strove to write differently than Pushkin did. He was a close friend of Pushkin and Anton Delvig during their army service at the time this poem was written, as each of them strove to develop his own voice in poetry. His poetry lacked the striving for social justice seen in many other poems at this time when the Decembrist revolt was in the air. He was shy and poor at showing off while others were developing an effective image in self-promotion. However, Pushkin greatly admired his lyric gifts, as did the Symbolists when they rediscovered him.

In this translation I’ve had to use a few more terms and constructions anchored to older modern English than Baratynsky actually uses in the older modern Russian of the original. But I will allow this compromise as it gets at some of why the Golden Age of Russian poetry (1810s – 1840s) feels different from the much later Silver Age (1880s – 1920s). Its message still remains applicable.

Love and Friendship (An Album Inscription)

Friendship and Love they split, in speaking,
But how’d one tell apart the twain?
Both equally we all are seeking,
But one we’re told to hide again.
Vain is that thought! Deceit is erring!
Friendship may be so blazing, caring,
Moving the blood, clenching the heart,
And though it hide its dangerous flaming
Yet with a maiden fair, its naming
From Love can fain be told apart.

Evgeny Baratynsky, 1818 — beginning of 1819; translation by Tamara Vardomskaya, October 2016

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