Сенокос (The Hay Harvest) by Apollon Maikov

The smell of hay is on the field,

and singing as they go

the women toss the heavy yield

and spread it row by row.

 

And yonder where the hay is dry

each man his forkful throws,

until the wagon loaded high

is like a house that grows.

 

The poor old horse who draws the cart

stands rooted in the heat,

with sagging knees and ears apart,

asleep upon his feet.

 

But little zhuchka speeds away

in barking brave commotion,

to dip and flounder in the hay

as in a grassy ocean.

 

by Аполлон Николаевич Майков (Apollon Nikolayevich Maikov)

(1856)

translated by Frances Cornford and Esther Polianowsky Salaman


Fun facts: Zhuchka means ‘Bug’, as in a small insect using diminutive terminology as жучка (zhuchka) is a diminutive of жук (Zhuk). In Russian, perhaps even more so than in English even due to it’s various tonal aspects and gendered form (which if you look at the original version below clearly has alternating hard and soft line endings (though only in the first and last stanzas does it have what might be considered Pushkin verse i.e. alternating masculine and feminine lines), diminutives are used within children’s works to create a gentler tone.

This used to be the first poem that Russian children would learn due to it’s simple words and easy rhyme scheme (when in the original Russian obviously though the above translation gives a good translation of it with a little necessary artistic license due to the differences in the language). Here is a recital of the poem in Russian.

Maikov was best known for his lyric verse showcasing images of Russian villages, nature, and history. His love for ancient Greece and Rome, which he studied for much of his life, is also reflected in his works. Maikov spent four years translating the epic The Tale of Igor’s Campaign (1870) into modern Russian. He translated the folklore of Belarus, Greece, Serbia and Spain, as well as works by Heine, Adam Mickiewicz and Goethe, among others. Several of Maykov’s poems were set to music by Russian composers, among them Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky.

Innokenty Annensky once wrote:

“a poet usually chooses their own, particular method of communication with nature, and often this sis sport. Poets of the future may be cyclists or aeronauts. Byron was a swimmer, Goethe a skater, Lermontov a rider, many others of our poets (Turgenev, both Tolstoys, Nekrasov, Fet, Yazykov) were hunters. Maikov was a passionate fisherman and this occupation was in perfect harmony with his contemplative nature, with his love for a fair, sunny day, all of which is so vividly expressed in his poetry.”

Here is the poem in it’s original form:

СЕНОКОС

Пахнет сеном над лугами…
В песне душу веселя,
Бабы с граблями рядами
Ходят, сено шевеля.

Там – сухое убирают;
Мужички его кругом
На воз вилами кидают…
Воз растет, растет, как дом.

В ожиданьи конь убогий
Точно вкопанный стоит…
Уши врозь, дугою ноги
И как будто стоя спит…

Только жучка удалая
В рыхлом сене, как в волнах,
То взлетая, то ныряя,
Скачет, лая впопыхах.

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Billowing Dust by Afanasy Fet

Billowing dust

so far away.

On horse, on foot?

Hard to say…

 

There! Galloping

on a swift steed…

O far-flung friend,

remember me!

 

by Афанасий Афанасьевич Фет (Afanasy Afanasyevich Fet)

a.k.a. Шеншин (Shenshin)

(1843)

translated by Robert Chandler


 

I’m going to including this song for no clear reason…

It has nothing to do with the poem but it came to mind while reading it…

Борис Пастернак [Boris Pasternak] by Anna Akhmatova

He who compared himself to the eye of a horse,

Peers, looks, sees, recognizes,

And instantly puddles shine, ice

Pines away, like a melting of diamonds.

 

Backyards drowse in lilac haze. Branch-

Line platforms, logs, clouds, leaves…

The engine’s whistle, watermelon’s crunch,

A timid hand in a fragrant kid glove. He’s

 

Ringing, thundering, grinding, up to his breast

In breakers… and suddenly is quiet… This means

He is tiptoeing over pine needles, feaful lest

He should startle space awake from its light sleep.

 

It means he counts the grains in the empty ears,

And it means he has come back

From another funeral, back to Darya’s

Gorge, the tombstone, cursed and black.

 

And burns again, the Moscow tedium,

In the distance death’s sleigh-bell rings…

Who has got lost two steps from home,

Where the snow is waist-deep, an end to everything?

 

Because he compared smoke with Laocoön,

Made songs out of graveyard thistles,

Because he filled the world with a sound no-one

Has heard before, in a new space of mirrored

 

Verses, he has been rewarded with a form

Of eternal childhood, with the stars’ vigilant love,

The whole earth has been passed down to him,

And he has shared it with everyone.

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

(19 January 1936)

from Тростник (Reed) / Из шести книг (From the Sixth Book)

translation by D. M. Thomas

Shaggy Doggerel by Eric Finney

Sir Fitz, gallant knight,

Rides over the plain

Wearly now, in darkness and rain.

His day has been full

Of incredible deeds;

A hot bath and bed

Are now just what he needs.

He’s not brought his mac,

And water’s got in at the front

And the back.

Lem, his horse, is exhausted –

He’s a great weight is Sir –

And he hardly responds

To the touch of the spur.

But look! Far ahead

There’s the sight of a light –

For Fitz and his gee gee

A right welcome sight.

‘It’s a castle!’ cries Fitz,

‘One last effort, old nag,

Think of warm stables,

And hay in a bag!’

Soon the drawbridge is lowered,

The portcullis grinds up,

And our heroes plod in

For a bite and a sup.

Can you picture their faces,

Can you see their dismay

When they’re told

By the Lord of the place

They can’t stay?

Sir Fitz, it appears,

Who kills rogues by the dozen,

Has knocked off, amongst them,

The Lord’s second cousin.

‘Besides,’ growls the Lord.

If you want further reason,

We’re full up with tourists

This time of season.’

‘We’re both whacked,’ pleads Sir Fitz,

‘And old Lem’s got a cough.’

But the Lord of the castle again says,

‘Push off.’

‘At least,’ says Sir Fitz

With desperate force,

‘Let old Lem stay with you,

And give me a fresh horse.’

‘We’ve no horses to spare:

None to lend, none to flog;

I’ll tell you what, though,

I can find you a dog.’

‘A dog to ride out on!’ snorts Fitz,

‘Funny joke!’

‘Not at all,’ roars the Lord,

Laughter making him choke.

And the servants bring on,

At his word, a huge cur –

A mean-looking creature

with coarse ginger fur,

Cross-eyed and lop-sided,

Face fixed in a leer,

With a stump for a tail

And only one ear.

‘Well, Sir Fitz,’ says the Lord,

‘Doggy’s raring to go;

Saddle up and get mounted.’

Fitz’s answer came slow:

‘What’s a stupid suggestion;

I’m not going – that’s flat.

You can’t send a knight out

On a dog like that.’

 

by Eric Finney