Lyrics Volume II – some of my translations

Some of my translations from Volume II

163.  FOR A DREAMER (1818)

The reality of love.  Possibly addressed by Pushkin to his younger self.

You revel in the grief of deeply felt emotions:
there’s joy for you in shedding tears,
in wearying your soul with unrequited yearning,
in treasuring despair within your silent heart.
But that’s not love you feel, believe me, boyish dreamer.
Instead of cherishing dejection, were you truly
to be possessed by love, by its horrendous mania,
were you to feel your blood seethe, poisoned by that love,
were you to toss in bed for long, uncounted hours,
sleepless, and ever racked with unrelenting pain,
were you to plead for futile rest
and vainly close your eyes in anguish
and clutch the burning sheets around you as you sob,
your mouth parched with the rage of unfulfilled desire –
believe me, you’d not then indulge
in dreams so false and unrewarding!
No! you’d have dropped down at the feet
of your proud unresponsive girl,
pallid, beside yourself and shaking;
and you’d have pleaded with the gods:
“Give back to me, you gods, the mind that love has darkened,
and take away from me this vision that bodes death.
Enough for me of love: give back to me my peace!”
But even then dark love and that relentless vision
to haunt you still would never cease.

230.  EPIGRAM (1820)

To a doctor, who had pretensions as a poet

Forget your medicine – as poet, seek renown:
don’t polish off the sick, but grind the healthy down.

251.  GIRLS  (1821)

“Beware of pretty girls!” I used to counsel you.
“They inescapably entrap men’s hearts.”  I knew!
When your girl’s with you, friend, you’ll not, if you are wise,
gaze at another miss or strive to catch her eyes.
Though hopeless, lads renounce the solace of flirtation
and, when their girl’s near, flush in fervent expectation.
Even ambitious men, spoiled sons of destiny,
plead for their girlfriend’s love in meek humility.
But in return she shows repugnance and suspicion
and, lowering her eyes, declines to look or listen.

315.  (1822)

To the widow of a fighter in the Greek war of independence

You loyal wife, don’t weep! It’s for your Greece he perished,
a hero – pierced by a foeman’s leaden shot.
Don’t weep – you did yourself choose for the man you cherished
zthat bloody path of honour, did you not?
Divining that (alas!) long absence was portended,
your husband then to you a solemn hand extended,
and, overcome with tears, he blessed his little son.
But then he heard the cheers for Freedom’s black flag flying:
a true Greek warrior, myrtle round his sword he wound
and dashed into the fray. Eternal fame he won
as, stricken, he fell dying.

340.   THE CART OF LIFE  (1823)

Great loads though it may sometimes carry,
a nifty vehicle is life’s cart,
with coachman Time, grey-haired and canny,
its tireless driver from the start.

We mount the cart as day is dawning –
and, keen to ride at breakneck pace,
all lethargy and comfort scorning,
we shout: “Get moving, * * *!”

By noon we’re finished with such folly:
we’re shaken up by every jolt;
we dread each gradient and gully
and shout: “Ease up, you reckless dolt!”

The cart runs on, its speed unchanging;
by dusk we’re used to the regime;
we doze now till we reach night’s lodging –
but onward still Time whips his team.

346.  FOR DAVÝDOV  (1824)

Pushkin’s friend Alexándr Davýdov was a corpulent bon viveur who had invited him to come on a cruise to the Crimea

I can’t, my fat friend Aristippus!…
Much as I love your conversation,
your charming croak, your charming manner,
your taste, your penchant for good food,
I sadly can’t set sail with you
for south Crimea’s sunny shores.
But, please, you favourite of Bacchus
and Venus, don’t forget your friend!

When Virgil, gaunt from his consumption,
creator of that thin Aeneid,
at length set out for Greece by sea,
Horace, that canny courtier,
Augustus’ poet-flatterer,
sent to his friend in celebration
an ode that promised him good weather.

But flattering odes are not my way –
and you, thank God, aren’t gaunt and ailing;
for you, then, here’s what I shall pray:
you’ll keep your appetite while sailing!

351.  FOR A SHIP  (1824)

Pushkin’s current love had just set sail on the same cruise to the Crimea as Davýdov (above)

You wingèd beauty of the ocean,
I call to you: sail on unchecked.
I’ve pledged to you prayers, hopes, devotion:
your priceless cargo please protect.

And fill those sails, you morning zephyr;
a favoured voyage may it be.
With sudden tossing never vex her,
but waft her safe across the sea.

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