Хозяин (The Master) by Boris Slutsky

My master – he disliked me from the start.
He never knew me, never saw or heard me,
but all the same he feared me like the plague
and hated me with all his dreary heart.
When I bowed my head before him,
it seemed to him I hid a smile.
When he made me cry, he thought
my tears were crocodile.
And all my life I worked my heart out for him,
each night I lay down late, and got up early.
I loved him and was wounded for his sake.
But nothing I could do would ever take.
I took his portrait everywhere I went,
I hung it up in every hut and tent,
I looked and looked, and kept on looking,
and slowly, as the years went past,
his hatred hurt me less and less.
And nowadays it hardly seems to matter:
the age-old truth is men like me
are always hated by their master.

.

by Борис Абрамович Слуцкий
(Boris Abramovich Slutsky)
(1954)
translated by Margo Shohl Rosen

Slutsky’s poem recited by the actor Veniamin Smekhov

Beneath is the original Russian language version of the poem in Cyrillic.

Хозяин

А мой хозяин не любил меня —
Не знал меня, не слышал и не видел,
А всё-таки боялся, как огня,
И сумрачно, угрюмо ненавидел.

Когда меня он плакать заставлял,
Ему казалось: я притворно плачу.
Когда пред ним я голову склонял,
Ему казалось: я усмешку прячу.

А я всю жизнь работал на него,
Ложился поздно, поднимался рано,
Любил его. И за него был ранен.
Но мне не помогало ничего.

А я возил с собой его портрет.
В землянке вешал и в палатке вешал —
Смотрел, смотрел, не уставал смотреть.
И с каждым годом мне всё реже, реже

Обидною казалась нелюбовь.
И ныне настроенья мне не губит
Тот явный факт, что испокон веков
Таких, как я, хозяева не любят.

О, этот воздух, смутой пьяный… (‘On the black square of the Kremlin…’) by Osip Mandelstam

On the black square of the Kremlin

the air is drunk with mutiny.

A shaky ‘peace’ is rocked by rebels,

the poplars puff seditiously.

.

The wax faces of the cathedrals

and the dense forest of the bells

tell us – inside the stony rafters

a tongueless brigand is concealed.

.

But inside the sealed-up cathedrals

the air we breathe is cool and dark,

as though a Russian wine is coursing

through Greece’s earthenware jars.

.

Assumption’s paradise of arches

soars up in an astonished curve;

and now the green Annunciation

awakens, cooing like a dove.

.

The Archangel and Resurrection

let in the light like glowing palms –

everything is secretly burning,

the jugs are full of hidden flames.

.

.

by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam.)

His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)

(April 1916)

translated by Thomas de Waal

Mandelstam’s poem set to music composed and performed by the singer-songwriter Larisa Novoseltseva. Performed at the House of Journalists, Moscow, on February 24, 2010. She is composer and performer of songs and ballads on poems by more than forty Russian poets, mostly of the Silver Age. Check out more of her work on YouTube!

Beneath is the original Russian language version of the poem in Cyrillic.

О, этот воздух, смутой пьяный…

О, этот воздух, смутой пьяный,

На черной площади Кремля.

Качают шаткий «мир» смутьяны,

Тревожно пахнут тополя.

.

Соборов восковые лики,

Колоколов дремучий лес,

Как бы разбойник безъязыкий

В стропилах каменных исчез.

.

А в запечатанных соборах,

Где и прохладно и темно,

Как в нежных глиняных амфорах,

Играет русское вино.

.

Успенский, дивно округленный,

Весь удивленье райских дуг,

И Благовещенский, зеленый,

И, мнится, заворкует вдруг.

.

Архангельский и Воскресенья

Просвечивают, как ладонь,—

Повсюду скрытое горенье,

В кувшинах спрятанный огонь…

Домби и сын (Dombey and Son) by Osip Mandelstam

The shrillness of the English language

and Oliver’s dejected look

have merged: I see the youngster languish

among a pile of office books.

.

Charles Dickens – ask him; he will tell you

what was in London long ago:

the City, Dombey, assets’ value,

the River Thames’s rusty flow.

.

‘Mid rain and tears and counted money,

Paul Dombey’s curly-haired son

cannot believe that clerks are funny

and laughs at neither joke nor pun.

.

The office chairs are sorry splinters;

each broken farthing put to use,

and numbers swarm in springs and winters,

like bees perniciously let loose.

.

Attorneys study every letter;

in smoke and stench they hone their stings,

and, from a noose, the luckless debtor –

a piece of bast – in silence swings.

.

His foes enjoy their lawful robbing,

lost are for him all earthly boons,

and lo! His only daughter, sobbing,

embraces checkered pantaloons.

.

.

by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam.)

His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)

(1913)

translated by Anatoly Liberman

from the poetry collection камен (Stone)

.

‘This is a hauntingly beautiful lyric, though all the references are wrong; Oliver Twist does not spend a minute in the office, Paul Dombey never deals with his father’s clerks, no one cracks jokes in his presence, no debtor hangs himself in that novel, and the Thames is not Yellow.’

– Anatoly Liberman
The poem recited in Russian by Stanislav Komardin.

Beneath is the original, Russian Cyrillic, version of the poem.

Домби и сын

Когда, пронзительнее свиста,

Я слышу английский язык —

Я вижу Оливера Твиста

Над кипами конторских книг.

.

У Чарльза Диккенса спросите,

Что было в Лондоне тогда:

Контора Домби в старом Сити

И Темзы желтая вода…

.

Дожди и слезы. Белокурый

И нежный мальчик — Домби-сын;

Веселых клэрков каламбуры

Не понимает он один.

.

В конторе сломанные стулья,

На шиллинги и пенсы счет;

Как пчелы, вылетев из улья,

Роятся цифры круглый год.

.

А грязных адвокатов жало

Работает в табачной мгле —

И вот, как старая мочала,

Банкрот болтается в петле.

.

На стороне врагов законы:

Ему ничем нельзя помочь!

И клетчатые панталоны,

Рыдая, обнимает дочь…

Мужья со своими делами, нервами… (‘Always busy, plagued by anxiety…’ a.k.a ‘Husbands with their doings and nerves…’) by Boris Slutsky

Always busy, plagued by anxiety,

guilt-ridden, duty to be done –

husbands should be the first to die;

never the ones who’re left alone.

.

Wives should grow old slowly. Aim

for the four-score-and-twenty mark, even;

not every day, but from time to time

remembering their men.

.

You should not have left the way

you did. That was wrong.

With a kind smile on your face

you should have lived on,

you should have lived long.

.

Until their hair turns white –

for wives, that’s the way to wait,

.

getting on with things around the home,

breaking the odd heart if they can,

and even (well, where’s the harm?)

toasting the memory of their old man.

.

.

by Борис Абрамович Слуцкий

(Boris Abramovich Slutsky)

(1977)

translated by G. S. Smith

.

Here is an alternative translation of this poem by Gerald S. Smith.

Beneath is the original Russian version of the poem in Cyrillic.

.

Мужья со своими делами, нервами…

Мужья со своими делами, нервами,
чувством долга, чувством вины
должны умирать первыми, первыми,
вторыми они умирать не должны.

Жены должны стареть понемногу,
хоть до столетних дойдя рубежей,
изредка, впрочем, снова и снова
вспоминая своих мужей.

Ты не должна была делать так,
как ты сделала. Ты не должна была.
С доброй улыбкою на устах
жить ты должна была,
долго должна была.

Жить до старости, до седины
жены обязаны и должны,

делая в доме свои дела,
чьи-нибудь сердца разбивая
или даже — была не была —
чарку — в память мужей — распивая.

The Fridge by Boris Slutsky

What a sturdy square block of a thing you are!
Such a fine, white, self-satisfied creature!
 
Sometimes you stand dumb as a boulder
or drop off into a cold sleep, or
Sometimes your metal belly rumbles, but there's
no point in working out your meaning.
 
Of all machines the fridge must be the
most good-natured; hog-fat and
roomy as a snow-drift, it
must be said to hold the purest heart.
 
Firmly under human domination
even the cold that creeps out from it
is only a small cold blast, too small
to threaten any freeze-up of our future.
 
If ever robots rise in revolution,
if ever they attack the human race,
at least you refrigerators won't be
amongst the ones to break the peace.
 
For you are the house-dog of machinery
a faithful and contented animal;
so give your door a docile wag for Man,
your living friend, and show him how you smile.
 

by Борис Абрамович Слуцкий
(Boris Abramovich Slutsky)
(19??)
translated by Elaine Feinstein