To Tamara Karsavina
To Tamara Karsavina
Russian Silver Age poetry translation series, 44/?
I have just been picking poems by browsing through the Wikisource list of eight-line Russian poems, and stopping at ones that I both like and see a way into translating. (I admit that this is a creative outlet I can do in downtime at work when I am bored.) However, people will doubtless point out to me that the this is the third one in a row to mention or feature storms, on sea or land, and my subconscious is trying to tell me something.
I am not sure what. I do like Konstantin Balmont a lot, and I liked the central image of this poem.
Sea roses are the whitest roses.
When gales toss the sea, they bloom
When furious breakers in opposing
Torture the turquoise with their boom
And beat and fling it up in rumbling,
Upset it with the thunder’s roars,
And with dead laughter, for a flash they bring
The splendour of a full white rose.
Konstantin Balmont, 1908; translation by Tamara Vardomskaya, September 6, 2019
Russian Silver Age poetry translation series, 43/?
I was looking through short poems on Wikisource today, and stumbled upon this one by Mirra Lokhvitskaya, whom I had translated before. (https://vardomskaya.com/2016/08/04/some-wait-for-joy-some-seek-ovations-m-lokhvitskaya/ ) Again, this is quick and sensual, but I love the details she describes, that a hundred and twenty years later still occur before summer storms.
Thunder coming soon! I know it
In the poplars’ quivering tight,
In the alleys’ stifling gloam,
In the heavy wet half-light,
In the strength of white-hot glows
Clouds conceal in the skies,
In the weary dragging closed
Of your so-beloved eyes.
1896-1898; translation by Tamara Vardomskaya, September 5, 2019
Russian Silver Age poetry translation series, 42/?
I am resuming this, because I was reading Andrei Bely this morning, and wanted to translate one of his shorter works.
This requires a great many interpretation decisions on my part, as Russian can omit possessives when they are of inalienable possessions like body parts or relatives. So in English, I have to make clear that the narrator is talking about his own body and that he is the object of the verbs in the last line, something that most interpreters of this poem agree is the case — that it narrates a subjective experience of fever or madness — but it is not actually in the Russian words. I also added some internal rhymes to try to preserve at least some of the internal rhymes in the original.
Flashes swarming. It’s morning: again I am free and at will.
Open the curtains: in diamonds, in amber, in fire
Are crossed steeples uphill. Am I ill? Oh no, I am not ill.
All silvered my hands from death-bed rising mountains higher.
Yonder purple the dawns, there are storms, there is purple-born storming.
See me, catch this: I’m risen, see, risen I am from the dead.
My coffin will float away, gold in the gold-azure dawning…
They caught me, brought me down, and laid a cold cloth on my head.
Andrei Bely, 1907; translation by Tamara Vardomskaya, September 3, 2019.