In The Train Car by Innokenty Annensky

We’ve done enough, we’ve said enough –

let’s sit in silence, without smiling;

low-lying clouds are shedding snow

and heaven’s light is slowly fading.

 

The brittle willows rage and split

in an unspeakable pitched battle.

‘Until tomorrow, then,’ I say.

‘As for today, let’s call it settled.’

 

Even if boundlessly at fault,

I wish – not dreaming, not entreating –

to stare out at the fields of white

through windows swathed in cotton fleecing.

 

While you, show off your beauty, shine…

assure me that I have your pardon –

shine with that stream of eventide

around which everything has hardened.

 

by Иннокентий Фёдорович Анненский (Innokenty Fyodorovich Annensky)

(1906)

translated by Boris Dralyuk

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They Played Pushkin On A Grand Piano by Sergey Chudakov

They played Pushkin on a grand piano.

They killed Pushkin in a duel one day.

He had asked them for a plate of cloudberries

and, lying near a bookshelf, passed away.

 

In icy water, full of frozen clods,

they buried Pushkin, hallowed be his name.

And we too tend to meet too many bullets;

we hang ourselves, and open up our veins.

 

All too often we are hit by cars,

get tossed down stairwells in a drunken state.

We live – and all our petty intrigues

wound little Pushkin in some way.

 

Little, cast in iron, celebrated –

in a park deserted thanks to frost –

he stands (his understudy and replacement),

bitterly regretful at the loss

 

of youth, and of the title Kammerjunker,

of songs, of glory, of the girls in Kishinyov,

of Goncharova in her white lace petticoat,

and of death that cannot be shrugged off.

 

by Сергей Иванович Чудаков (Sergeĭ Ivanovich Chudakov)

translated by Boris Dralyuk

You Will Not Grasp Her With Your Mind by Fyodor Tyutchev

You will not grasp her with your mind

or cover with a common label,

for Russia is one of a kind –

believe in her, if you are able…

 

by Фёдор Иванович Тютчев (Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev)

(1866)

translated by Anatoly Liberman


 

The poet Igor Guberman retorted to this:

High fucking time that someone tried

to grasp our Russia with their mind

(translated by Boris Dralyuk)

By The Fireplace by Afanasy Fet

The embers fade. A lucid flame

flickers in the half-light,

like a butterfly’s azure wing

on a scarlet poppy.

 

A scattering of motley visions

soothes my tired eyes.

Faces I can’t quite distinguish

gaze from the grey ash.

 

Past happiness and sadness rise –

a friendly, tender pair;

the soul pretends it can get by

without all it held so dear.

 

by Афанасий Афанасьевич Фет (Afanasy Afanasyevich Fet)

(1856)

translated by Boris Dralyuk

Red Nosed Frost [extract] by Nikolay Nekrasov

Not the autumn wind in the forest,

not streams hurtling down to the plains –

what we hear is Frost the Commander,

patrolling his far-flung domains.

 

Has snow been swept by the blizzards

over every pathway and track?

Is there any bare ground still showing,

any last brown fissure or crack?

 

Have the oak trees been handsomely dappled,

are the tops of the pines fluffed just right?

Have the ice floes been shackled together

so that every lake is gripped tight?

 

Frost comes striding over the treetops;

shards of ice crackle under his tread.

Lord Frost moves closer and closer;

beams of sunlight dance in his beard.

 

What pathway is closed to a wizard?

Ever nearer the widow he draws.

Now Frost is looming above her,

rehearsing his wintry laws.

 

There he stands in a pine tree,

beating time with his cane,

boasting of his own glory

and repeating his old refrain:

 

‘No need to be bashful, sweet maiden,

see how fine a Commander I am!

Speak truthfully now: have you ever

glimpsed a more handsome young man?

 

‘Blizzards, downpours and whirlwinds –

I can quieten them all in a trice;

I can stroll out over the ocean

and build myself chambers of ice.

 

‘One breath – and the greatest of rivers

lie silenced beneath my yoke,

transformed to the strongest of bridges,

broad roads for the merchant folk.

 

‘I love dropping down into graves

to scatter diamonds over the dead,

to freeze the blood in their veins

and ice the brains in their heads.

 

‘I love frightening a lonely robber

riding home with a purse he’s plundered:

in the depth of the forest silence

I make branches resound like thunder.

 

‘Old women go rushing back home,

their heads full of spirits and devils.

But there’s more pleasure still to be had

with drunkards returning from revels.

 

‘I don’t need chalk to whiten their faces!

I set their noses ablaze without fire!

I freeze beards to reins in a tangle

not even an axe can sever!

 

‘I’m rich, there’s no counting my treasure;

my fortune’s as great as the world.

Every day I bejewel my kingdom

anew with silver and pearls.

 

‘Dear Maiden, I bid you now enter

my empire. Let me make you my queen!

We shall reign in glory all winter,

then let summer slip by in a dream.

 

‘Come, maiden, and let me warm you

in a palace of pale blue ice!’

So Lord Frost sings out above her

as he swings his sparkling mace.

 

‘Are you warm enough there, dear maiden?’

he calls from high in the pine.

‘Oh yes,’ the young widow answers –

and icy shivers run down her spine.

 

Now Frost has dropped down lower,

his mace swinging ever so near,

and he whispers softly and tenderly:

‘Warm enough?’ ‘Oh yes, my dear!’

 

Warm enough – but what does she feel?

Frost’s breath has already numbed her

and needles of ice from his beard,

though colder and sharper than steel,

are lulling her into slumber.

 

‘Are you warm enough now?’ Frost whispers,

his arms now encircling her waist –

and she hears not Frost but Proklyusha

and all she sees is long past.

 

On her lips and her eyes and her shoulders

Darya feels the wizard’s long kisses –

and she sees not Frost but her husband

and she drinks in his honeyed whispers.

 

He’s talking to her of a wedding,

his words so caressing and sweet

that Darya’s eyes are now closing

and her axe lies still by her feet.

 

And the arc of a smile now parts

the poor lips of the wretched widow.

White flakes now cover her eyelids

and needles of ice her brow…

 

A lump of snow falls on Darya

as a squirrel takes a flying leap,

but Darya does not lift a finger;

she’s frozen, enchanted, asleep.

 

by Николай Алексеевич Некрасов (Nikolay Alexeyevich Nekrasov)

(1864)

translated by Robert Chandler and Boris Dralyuk