Blue Notebook, No. 10 by Daniil Kharms

There once lived a red-headed man who had no eyes or ears.

He also had no hair, so he was only in a manner of speaking called red-haired.

He couldn’t speak, since he had no mouth. He had no nose either.

He didn’t even have arms or legs. And he had no stomach, and he had no back, and he had no spine, and he had no innards at all. He had nothing at all! So there’s no knowing who we are talking about.

We’d better not talk about him any more.

 

by Даниил Иванович Хармс (Daniil Ivanovich Kharms)

a.k.a. Даниил Иванович Ювачёв (Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachov)

(1937)

translated by Robert Chandler

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Everything’s Changed, Nothing Has Changed by Georgy Ivanov

Everything’s changed, nothing has changed

in the strange chill, strange chill of dawn.

I’ve dreamed many dreams over the years

and now I awake – with the years all gone.

 

Here we go, here I stand in an autumn field

(changed, unchanged, I don’t understand) –

as if I’ve been given my freedom

and my last hope has been torn from my hand.

 

by Георгий Владимирович Иванов (Georgii Vladimirovich Ivanov)

a.k.a. Georgy Ivanov

(1944-5)

translated by Robert Chandler

Careful, Puss, There’s An Owl by Anna Akhmatova

Careful, puss, there’s an owl

embroidered on the chair.

Grey puss, don’t growl –

or Grandpa will hear.

The candle’s gone out;

there are mice on the stair.

I’m afraid of the owl.

Nanny, who put it there?

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

(1911)

translation by Robert Chandler

Hay Square, 6 p.m. by Nikolay Alexeyevich

Hay Square, 6 p.m.;

a woman was being whipped.

Young, and a peasant woman.

Not a sound from her lips.

 

Not a whisper anywhere

but this whip and its whistle.

I said to my Muse,

‘Your sister!’

 

by Николай Алексеевич Некрасов (Nikolay Alexeyevich Nekrasov)

(1848)

translated by Robert Chandler

Tools by Varlam Shalamov

Our tools are primitive

and simple:

a rouble’s worth of paper,

a hurrying pencil,

 

we need no more

to build a castle –

high in the air –

above the world’s bustle.

 

Dante needed nothing else

to build gates

into that Hell hole

founded on ice.

 

by Варлам Тихонович Шаламов (Varlam Tikhonovich Shalamov)

(1954)

translated by Robert Chandler

To Ivan Pushchin by Alexander Pushkin

First friend, friend beyond price,

one morning I blessed fate

when sleigh bells, your sleigh bells

sang out and filled my lovely home

lost in its drifts of snow.

 

May my voice now, please God,

gladden your soul

in that same way

and lighten your exile

with light from our Lycée‘s clear day.

 

by Александр Сергеевич Пушкин (Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin)

a.k.a. Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin

(1826)

translated by  Robert Chandler

Farewell, Dear Friend, Farewell by Sergey Yesenin

Farewell, dear friend, farewell –

you’re present in my heart.

We’ll meet again, the stars foretell,

though now we have to part.

 

Goodbye for now, goodbye, dear friend –

no handshake, words or grief.

To die is nothing new – but then,

what new is there in life?

 

by Сергей Александрович Есенин (Sergei Alexandrovich Yesenin)

a.k.a. Sergey Yesenin / Esenin

(1925)

translated by Robert Chandler and Anthony Rudolf

Not so fun facts about the poem’s composition: On 28 of December in 1925 Yesenin was found dead in the room in the Hotel Angleterre in St Petersburg. His last poem Goodbye my friend, goodbye (До свиданья, друг мой, до свиданья) according to Wolf Ehrlich was written by him the day before he died. Yesenin complained that there was no ink in the room, and he was forced to write with his blood. According to the consensus among academic researchers of Yesenin’s life, the poet was in a state of depression a week after he escaped from a mental clinic and committed suicide by hanging. A theory exists that Yesenin’s death was actually a murder by OGPU agents who staged it to look like suicide.


Original Russian version:

До свиданья, друг мой, до свиданья

До свиданья, друг мой, до свиданья.
Милый мой, ты у меня в груди.
Предназначенное расставанье
Обещает встречу впереди.
До свиданья, друг мой, без руки, без слова,
Не грусти и не печаль бровей,-
В этой жизни умирать не ново,
Но и жить, конечно, не новей.