White sail out in the bay billowing in the wind. Why sail so far away? Why leave so much behind?
Winds must play on the seas and masts creak in the wind. Fortune is not what he seeks, nor what he's left behind.
A golden light still pours down onto deep blue seas; this rebel, alas, seeks storms, as if in storms lies peace.
by Михаил Юрьевич Лермонтов (Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov) (1832) translated by Robert Chandler
Beneath is the original Russian Cyrillic version of the poem.
Белеет парус одинокой В тумане моря голубом!.. Что ищет он в стране далекой? Что кинул он в краю родном?... Играют волны — ветер свищет, И мачта гнется и скрыпит... Увы! Он счастия не ищет И не от счастия бежит! Под ним струя светлей лазури, Над ним луч солнца золотой... А он, мятежный, просит бури, Как будто в бурях есть покой!
Additional notes: This is an alternative translation of Lermontov’s poem Парус compared to that made by Frances Cornford and Esther Polianowsky Salaman which closely reproduced the original’s external form while this version is more condensed.
The Sail was written when Mikhail Lermontov was only 17 years old in 1832. This was the year when he was forced to leave Moscow and his university studies. Recorded in a letter sent by Maria Lopukhina, whom he had sent the first version of the poem, upon his arrival in Saint Petersburg Lermontov immediately produced this poem’s outline while walking along the Gulf of Finland’s shoreline.
Armed with wasp-vision, with the vision of wasps that suck, suck, suck the earth's axis, I'm filled by the whole deep vein of my life and hold it here in my heart and in vain.
And I don't draw, don't sing, don't draw a black-voiced bow over strings: I only drink, drink, drink in life and I love to envy wasp- waisted wasps their mighty cunning.
O if I too could be impelled past sleep, past death, stung by the summer's cheer and chir, by this new air to hear earth's axis, axis, axis.
by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam.) His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam) (8 February 1937) translated by Robert Chandler
Below is the original Russian Cyrillic version of the poem.
Вооруженный зреньем узких ос, Сосущих ось земную, ось земную, Я чую всё, с чем свидеться пришлось, И вспоминаю наизусть и всуе.
И не рисую я, и не пою, И не вожу смычком черпоголосым, Я только в жизнь впиваюсь и люблю Завидовать могучим, хитрым осам.
О, если б и меня когда-нибудь могло Заставить, сон и смерть минуя, Стрекало Еоздуха и летнее тепло Услышать ось земную, ось земную.
Extra information: The wasp-waist was a fashion regarding awomen’s fashion silhouette, produced by a style of corset and girdle, that has experienced various periods of popularity in the 19th and 20th centuries. Its primary feature is the abrupt transition from a natural-width rib cage to an exceedingly small waist, with the hips curving out below. It takes its name from its similarity to a wasp’s segmented body. The sharply cinched waistline also exaggerates the hips and bust.
To put it bluntly Mandelstam is talking about admiring women, at least in part, in this poem.
Mandelstam was said to have had an affair with the poet Anna Akhmatova. She insisted throughout her life that their relationship had always been a very deep friendship, rather than a sexual affair. In the 1910s, he was in love, secretly and unrequitedly, with a Georgian princess and St. Petersburg socialite Salomea Andronikova, to whom Mandelstam dedicated his poem “Solominka” (1916).
In 1922, Mandelstam married Nadezhda Khazina in Kiev, Ukraine, where she lived with her family. He continued to be attracted to other women, sometimes seriously. Their marriage was threatened by his falling in love with other women, notably Olga Vaksel in 1924-25 and Mariya Petrovykh in 1933-34.
During Mandelstam’s years of imprisonment, 1934–38, Nadezhda accompanied him into exile. Given the real danger that all copies of Osip’s poetry would be destroyed, she worked to memorize his entire corpus, as well as to hide and preserve select paper manuscripts, all the while dodging her own arrest. In the 1960s and 1970s, as the political climate thawed, she was largely responsible for arranging clandestine republication of Mandelstam’s poetry.
Forgotten, cold, my dust will fall asleep while you are entering your life's sweet May. One moment then, with magnanimity, read through these versesthat once came to me.
And with a maiden's keen and thoughtful heart you'll understand my words' wild ecstasy, and why it was I often left the world for trembling song, and you will follow me.
Through salutations springing from the grave the heart's eternal truth will be revealed. We two shall breathe a life outside of time; and we shall meet – here – as you read.
by Афанасий Афанасьевич Фет (Afanasy Afanasyevich Fet) a.k.a. Шеншин (Shenshin) (1883) translated by Robert Chandler
Beneath is the original Russian Cyrillic version:
Мой прах уснет забытый и холодный, А для тебя настанет жизни май; О, хоть на миг душою благородной Тогда стихам, звучавшим мне, внимай!
И вдумчивым и чутким сердцем девы Безумных снов волненья ты поймёшь И от чего в дрожащие напевы Я уходил - и ты за мной уйдёшь.
Приветами, встающими из гроба, Сердечных тайн бессмертье ты проверь. Вневременной повеем жизнью оба, И ты и я - мы встретимся - теперь!
Beneath is a recital of the Russian version of the poem set to music:
Additional information: [Теперь : verb: Now, Nowadays, Today]. I don’t know why Chandler chose to translate the title as ‘Here‘ save as a possible cultural equivilant for English speakers to understand a Russian nuance of the word Теперь implying ‘here, right now, in the present’. It’s also possible he wanted to ensure his translation would be distinctly titled, for ease of reference, from the work of others translating the same source material.
Not love, but rabid fury, has led God's servant to the truth. Her pride is justified - first high-born lady to seek a convict's fate.
Gripping her Old Believer's cross tight as a whip between her hands, she thunders out her final curses; the sleigh slips out of sight.
So this is how God's saints are born... Her hate more ardent than her love, she runs dry fingers through her dry, already frost-chilled hair.
by Варлам Тихонович Шаламов (Varlam Tikhonovich Shalamov) (1950) translated by Robert Chandler
The poem refers to Feodosia Prokopiyevna Morozova (Russian: Феодо́сия Проко́пьевна Моро́зова) (21 May 1632 – 1 December 1675) was one of the best-known partisans of the Old Believer movement. She was perceived as a martyr after she was arrested and died in prison.
She became a household name after being discussed by important Russian writers and depicted by Vasily Surikov. She was also taken as a heroine by some radical groups, who saw her as a symbol of resistance to state power. The People’s Will revolutionary movement promoted her, and her virtues were praised by writers of the Soviet era such as Anna Akhmatova, Varlam Shalamov and Fazil Iskander, who “symbolically enlisted her in their own causes of resistance”.
Below is the full Russian version in Cyrillic.
Попрощаться с сонною Москвою Женщина выходит на крыльцо. Бердыши тюремного конвоя Отражают хмурое лицо.
И широким знаменьем двуперстным Осеняет шапки и платки. Впереди – несчитанные версты, И снега – светлы и глубоки.
Перед ней склоняются иконы, Люди – перед силой прямоты Неземной – земные бьют поклоны И рисуют в воздухе кресты.
С той землей она не будет в мире, Первая из русских героинь, Знатная начетчица Псалтыри, Сторож исторических руин.
Возвышаясь над толпой порабощенной, Далеко и сказочно видна, Непрощающей и непрощеной Покидает торжище она.
Это – веку новому на диво Показала крепость старина, Чтобы верил даже юродивый В то, за что умрет она.
Не любовь, а бешеная ярость Водит к правде Божию рабу. Ей гордиться – первой из боярынь Встретить арестантскую судьбу.
Точно бич, раскольничье распятье В разъяренных стиснуто руках, И гремят последние проклятья С удаляющегося возка.
Так вот и рождаются святые, Ненавидя жарче, чем любя, Ледяные волосы сухие Пальцами сухими теребя.
She came in out of the frost, her cheeks glowing, and filled my whole room with the scent of fresh air and perfume and resonent chatter that did away with my last chance of getting anywhere in my work.
Straightaway she dropped a hefty art journal onto the floor and at once there was no room any more in my large room
All this was somewhat annoying, if not absurd. Next, she wanted Macbeth read aloud to her.
Barely had I reached the earth's bubbles which never failed to entrance me when I realized that she, no less entranced, was staring out of the window.
A large tabby cat was creeping along the edge of the roof towards some amorous pigeons. What angered me most was that it should be pigeons, not she and I, who were necking, and that the days of Paolo and Francesca were long gone.
by Александр Александрович Блок (Alexander Alexandrovich Blok) (1908) translated by Robert Chandler
‘The earth’s bubbles’ in this poem references a line from Act I, scene 3 of Shakespeare’s play Macbeth “The earth hath bubbles, as the water has, / And these are of them.” which Banquo says to Macbeth when the witches disappear after their encounter. Between 1904 and 1905 Blok wrote a poem cycle he titled ‘Bubbles of the Earth’, incorporating motifs from folk magic. In 1907 he wrote of Shakespeare, ‘ I love him deeply; and perhaps, most deely of all – in the whole of world literature – Macbeth’.