A Russian poem
Updated: Mar 10, 2022
Update: This blog post was originally published weeks before the attack on Ukraine. Please excuse any perceived insensitivity.
I've been learning Russian for a little while now and recently I started trying to read Russian poetry. My attempts are...feeble, at best; I don't understand many of the words I am reading. But regardless of my fluency level, I was able to appreciate this one. I've only read a handful of Russian poems so far but I look forward to finding more like this. It's funny though--I wasn't even searching for poetry when I came across this Pasternak poem. I had pulled a book of tattoo scripts from my shelf that I hadn't looked at in years, and this poem was in there, used as an example in the Cyrillic section.
Февраль. Достать чернил и плакать!
Писать о феврале навзрыд,
Пока грохочущая слякоть
Весною черною горит.
Достать пролетку. За шесть гривен,
Чрез благовест, чрез клик колес,
Перенестись туда, где ливень
Еще шумней чернил и слез.
Где, как обугленные груши,
С деревьев тысячи грачей
Сорвутся в лужи и обрушат
Сухую грусть на дно очей.
Под ней проталины чернеют,
И ветер криками изрыт,
И чем случайней, тем вернее
Слагаются стихи навзрыд.
-Борис Пастернак (Boris Pasternak)
Translation of the above poem [translation by Sasha Dugdale]:
February. Get out the ink and weep! Sob in February, sob and sing While the wet snow rumbles in the street And burns with the black spring. Take a cab. For a coin Be carried through church bells, the chirp of tyres To a place where the torrential rain Is louder still than ink or tears Where, like charred pears A thousand rooks break from the bough Fall to puddles, cast their parched cares Into eyes of melted snow. There gaps open black in the snow’s expanse And the crow-pocked wind throbs And the surest poems come by chance Wrought from sobs.
A different translation of the Russian poem [translated by A.Z. Foreman]b. I've blogged before about translation. Poetry can be especially challenging to translate, and interpretation varies--sometimes widely:
February. Get ink. Weep.
Write the heart out about it. Sing
Another song of February
While raucous slush burns black with spring.
Six grivnas for a buggy ride
Past booming bells, on screaming gears,
Out to a place where rain pours down
Louder than any ink or tears
Where like a flock of charcoal pears,
A thousand blackbirds, ripped awry
From trees to puddles, knock dry grief
Into the deep end of the eye.
A thaw patch blackens underfoot.
The wind is gutted with a scream.
True verses are the most haphazard,
Rhyming the heart out on a theme.