Lyrics Volume III – some of my translations

Some of my translations from Volume III

369, no.VIII
.  (1824)

On generosity: from Pushkin’s cycle of poems inspired by the Koran and dedicated to his neighbour Praskóvya Ósipova

When pondering in your heart the pallid poor that suffer,
don’t issue gifts with hands that calibrate your offer:
it pleases God that you be lavish with your gold.
On judgment day, like fields of waving corn, your bounty
(you sower jubilant and doughty!)
will recompense your work at least a hundredfold.

But if, belittling your work’s remuneration,
you offer one who begs a miserly donation,
clenching in jealous palm what more you might afford,
know this: that all your gifts, like clumps of muddy powder
washed down from rocks by a heavy shower,
will vanish – offerings rejected by the Lord.

449.  MOTION  (1825)

A comment on the Greek philosopher Parmenides, who had maintained that reality was unchanging and motion illusory

One bearded sage declared: “There is no motion!”
A second rose and mutely walked away.
To contradict there was no better way:
all praised the second sage’s clever notion.
This entertaining tale leads me to cite
another instance, sirs, that’s more surprising:
each day we see the sun before us rising,
but Galileo even so was right!

499.  (1827)

The poet and society

Most blest, in golden palace halls,
that poet to whom monarchs listen.
He raises laughs, makes teardrops glisten,
seasons with pungent truth what’s false,
rouses to energy effeteness,
and spurs complacency to greatness;
his presence graces festive days,
and earns him well-considered praise.
Meanwhile, outside the palace portals,
at a back gate, in jostling throngs
forced back by sentries, lesser mortals
catch from afar the poet’s songs.

504. THE TALISMAN  (1827)

Where the sea swell ever surges
seething round deserted cliffs,
where a tranquil moon emerges
through the balmy twilight mists,
where the Muslim takes his pleasure
on a harem girl’s divan,
there a sorceress at leisure
pressed on me a talisman.

Pressing, too, was her injunction:
“Keep it safe, my talisman!
It exerts a mystic function.
Love’s now given all it can.
Saving you from pain, affliction,
deluge, storm and hurricane,
from disaster and extinction –
not for that my talisman.

“This won’t draw in your direction
treasures from far eastern seas;
this won’t bring you in subjection
Allah’s Prophet’s devotees;
nor from lonely foreign places
northward to your native land
will it to a friend’s embraces
speed you – not my talisman!

“When a girl, though, slyly glancing,
spellbinds you unknowingly
or at rest, with night advancing,
kisses you unlovingly,
from misjudgements great or little,
from fresh heartache, dearest man,
from bad faith, from slights – then it’ll
keep you safe, my talisman.”


Mr Alexander Pushkin and Miss Annette Olénina

“Al– Al–”, instead of “Mr P”,
by a slip of tongue she fondly stammered,
confounding with embarrassed glee
a man already much enamoured.
I stand before her in a panic;
I cannot tear my eyes away.
“You’re kind, Miss O,” I stiffly say –
and think: “Oh, how I love you, Annie!”

551.  (1828)

For Borís Fyódorov, a bore

I do hope, Fyódorov, that you will now forsake me.
Stop putting me to sleep – or, if you do, don’t wake me.

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