Ласточки (Swallows) by Afanasy Fet

Nature’s ever indolent spy,

forgetting cares and tasks, I’m fond

of watching darkening swallows fly

above a twilit pond.

.

I watch an arrow almost touch

the pond’s clear glass – until I fear

a hostile element may snatch

this winged lightning from the air.

.

Once more this upsurge of elation,

once more black water sliding by…

But is not this true inspiration?

The very breath of being alive?

.

Do poets not seek ways forbidden

to beings made from dust and clay?

Do I not dream of what lies hidden

and long to scoop a drop away?

.

by Афанасий Афанасьевич Фет (Afanasy Afanasyevich Fet)

a.k.a. Шеншин (Shenshin)

(1884)

translated by Anonymous, revised by Robert Chandler, Boris Dralyuk and Irina Mashinski

.

A reading of the poem in Russian by the actor Sergey Chonishvili (Сергей Чонишвили)

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

Ласточки

Природы праздный соглядатай,
Люблю, забывши всё кругом,
Следить за ласточкой стрельчатой
Над вечереющим прудом.

Вот понеслась и зачертила —
И страшно, чтобы гладь стекла
Стихией чуждой не схватила
Молниевидного крыла.

И снова то же дерзновенье
И та же тёмная струя, —
Не таково ли вдохновенье
И человеческого я?

Не так ли я, сосуд скудельный,
Дерзаю на запретный путь,
Стихии чуждой, запредельной,
Стремясь хоть каплю зачерпнуть?

.

Extra information: Here is the Wikipedia page about swallows and here is the RSPB page which has lots of interesting information about swallows.

Also a ‘revised translation’ which is rare. I wonder what the previous translation was like and how it came to require 3 professionals in the revision?

‘You’re Ringed By Fire…’ by Afanasy Fet

You're ringed by fire. Its flashes
delight me too. I am not frightened,
beneath your tender eye-lashes,
of summer lightning.

But I am frightened of high places
where I cannot keep my footing.
How can I hold close what your soul
imparts to me of its beauty?

I fear a look without kindness
may fall on my dulled image -
and I shall be left standing
extinguished and singed.


by Афанасий Афанасьевич Фет (Afanasy Afanasyevich Fet)
a.k.a. Шеншин (Shenshin)
(1886)
translated by Robert Chandler

Петербург (Petersburg) [Excerpt] by Innokenty Annensky

The wizard’s gifts were only stone,

the River Neva’s yellow brown,

and empty squares like desert wastes

for executions staged at dawn.

 

by Иннокентий Фёдорович Анненский (Innokenty Fyodorovich Annensky)

(date unknown)

translated by Robert Chandler

‘Gotta keep living, though I’ve died twice’ Osip Mandelstam

Gotta keep living, though I’ve died twice,

and water’s driving the city crazy:

how beautiful, what high cheekbones, how happy,

how sweet the fat earth to the plough,

how the steppe extends in an April upheaval,

and the sky, the sky – pure Michelangelo…

 

by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam. His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)

(1935)

translated by Andrew Davis

‘No, not the moon – the bright face of a clock’ by Osip Mandelstam

No, not the moon – the bright face of a clock

glimmers to me. How is it my fault

that I perceive the feeble stars as milky?

And I hate Batyushkov’s unbounding arrogance:

What time is it? Someone simply asked –

and he replied to them: eternity!

 

by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam. His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)

(1912)

translated by Boris Dralyuk


Fun fact: Such an exchange did occur between Konstanin Batyushkov and his doctor and in his poem ‘For The Tombstone of a Little Girl’ he imagined a dead baby saying to her parents ‘Dear ones, don’t cry! / Envy my ephemerality; / I did not know this life, / And know eternity’ (translation by Peter France).

 

‘Loving, I am still dumbfounded’ by Afanasy Fet

Loving, I am still dumbfounded

by the world and its beauty,

and nothing will make me renounce

the sweetness you grant me.

However hard my breath come,

while I stand here on earth

the sound of new life will be welcome

wherever it stirs.

Submissive to the sun’s rays,

roots go down into the grave

to seek from death the strength

to meet spring days.

 

by Афанасий Афанасьевич Фет (Afanasy Afanasyevich Fet)

a.k.a. Шеншин (Shenshin)

(1890)

translated by Robert Chandler

‘The air is split into black branches’ by Velimir Khlebnikov

The air is split into black branches,

like old glass.

Pray to Our Lady of Autumn!

The windows of autumn’s chapel,

smashed by a hurtling bullet,

are wrinkling.

A tree was burning,

a bright spill in the golden air.

It bends; it bows down.

Autumn’s flint and steel angrily

struck the sparks of golden days.

A forest at prayer. All at once

golden smells fell to the ground.

Trees stretch out – rakes

gathering armfuls of the sun’s hay.

Autumn’s tree resonantly evokes

a sketch of Russia’s railroads.

The golden autumn wind

has scattered me everywhere.

 

by Велимир Хлебников (Velimir Khlebnikov)

a.k.a. Виктор Владимирович Хлебников

(Viktor Vladimirovich Khlebnikov)

(1921)

translated by Robert Chandler

Bronze Poet by Innokenty Annensky

Clouds that whiten in a dome of blue

and twisted trees sharply delineated,

the dust aglow, each shadow elongated

and phantoms that pass through the heart anew.

Why was the tale so brief? I cannot say.

Was there a second half I didn’t know?

In pale skies the clouds dissolve away

and night roams through the blackened tree below.

That man, the bench he sits on in the dusk

are growing heavier and more grotesque…

Don’t move! For as carnations start to shine

and leafy bushes melt and intertwine,

the poet shakes away his uniform

of tired bronze and prings on the lawn.

 

by Иннокентий Фёдорович Анненский (Innokenty Fyodorovich Annensky)

(date unknown)

translated by Peter Oram


Fun fact: Annensky is thinking of a statue of Pushkin in the Lycee Garden in Tsarkoye Selo.

‘Drawing the youthful Goethe to their breast’ by Osip Mandelstam

Drawing the youthful Goethe to their breast,

those Roman nights took on the weight of gold…

I’ve much to answer for, yet still am graced;

an outlawed life has depths yet to be told.

 

by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam. His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)

(1935)

translated by Robert Chandler