Lyrics Volume IV – some of my translations

Some of my translations from Volume IV


(a society hostess and friend of Pushkin’s, who collected celebrities’ autographs)

You want my autograph – but why?
This name will die, a mournful roar
of breaking wave on far-off shore,
or in dark woods a night owl’s cry.

My name signed on your album page
will leave a mark that’s dead, the same
as when on tombs there’s carved a name
in script of a forgotten age.

This name – you’ll cease to think of it
when mired in turmoil and dissension:
and of our former friendship it
will bring you no fond recollection.

When lonely, though, in misery,
pronounce it then to ease your grief,
and say: “Someone remembers me;
there’s still one heart in which I live.”

626a.  ON GNEDICH  (c.1820)

(a friend of whose poetry Pushkin  thought poorly)

     If fault I find, I’m sure the worst is
that there’s a certain roughness in your verses;
I smooth a page and catch
my palm – there, look, a scratch!

665.  ECHO  (1831)

The poet speaks, but who is listening?

Should in dark woods a wild thing cry,
should thunder roar, horns blare nearby,
a girl’s voice sing a lullaby –
to any sound
you instantly give your reply,
though none’s around.

Yes, when you hear the thunder roar,
the crash of waves upon the shore,
a peasant shouting from his door,
response you send –
but get no answer: likewise for
you, poet-friend!

761.  MONUMENT (1836)                                   I have set up a monument… (Horace)

(written only a few months before Pushkin’s premature death)

I’ve raised my monument without a master-builder;
no public footpath leads there, overgrown with weeds;
efiantly it towers above the granite pillar
that honours Alexander’s deeds.

I’ll not all die: in my impassioned verse my spirit
shall outlive my remains and never know decay,
and I shall be renowned as long as on this planet
a single poet sees the day.

Throughout great Russia’s lands will stretch my reputation,
and all its many tongues will learn to speak my name,
not just proud Slavs, but Finns, Kalmýks – nomadic nation –
and the Tungús, as yet untamed.

By my compatriots for long I’ll be befriended
because to noble thoughts I’ve stirred them by my word,
because in this harsh age for freedom I’ve contended,
sought mercy, too, for those who’ve erred.

Obey the call of God, I charge you, Inspiration:
don’t fear abuse and don’t demand a victor’s crown;
receive with unconcern both praise and defamation,
and never quarrel with a clown.

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