Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Alexander Pushkin on Line

For us Russians Alexander Pushkin is one of the greatest authors who made Russian literature (and poetry in particular) the greatest.

I am not sure that's correct, but to the best of my knowledge, he's like Shakespeare for English. And maybe, well, definitely more.

Here is one of his poems, written way back in 1831. Close to two centuries ago.

Why rave ye, babblers, so — ye lords of popular wonder?
Why such anathemas 'gainst Russia do you thunder?
What moves your idle rage? Is't Poland's fallen pride?
'T is but Slavonic kin among themselves contending,
An ancient household strife, oft judged but still unending,
A question which, be sure, you never can decide.

For ages past still have contended,
These races, though so near allied:
And oft 'neath Victory's storm has bended
Now their, and now our side.
Which shall stand fast in such commotion
The haughty Liakh, or faithful Russ?
And shall Slavonic streams meet in a Russian ocean? —
Or il't dry up? This is point for us.

Leave us!: Your eyes are all unable
To read our history's bloody table;
Strange in your sight and dark must be
Our springs of household enmity!
To you the Kreml and Prága's tower
Are voiceless all, — you mark the fate
And daring of the battle-hour —
And understand us not, but hate.

What stirs ye?
Is it that this nation,
On Moscow's flaming walls, blood-slaked and ruin-quench'd,
Spurn'd back the insolent dictation
Of Him before whose nod ye blenched?
Is it that into dust we shatter'd,
The Dagon that weigh'd down all earth so wearily,
And our best blood so freely scatter'd,
To buy for Europe peace and liberty?

Ye're bold of tongue — but hark, would ye in deed but try it
Or is the hero, now reclined in laurelled quiet,
Too weak to fix once more, Izmail's red bayonet?
Or hath the Russian Tsar ever, in vain commanded?
Or must we meet all Europe banded?
Have we forgot to conquer yet ?
Or rather,shall they not, from Perm to Tauris' fountains,'
From the hot Colchian steppes, to Finland's icy mountains,
From the grey, half-shatter'd wall,
To fair Kathay, in dotage buried
A steely rampart, close and serried,
Rise, Russia's warriors, one and all?
Then send your numbers without number,
Your madden'd sons, your goaded slaves,
In Russia's plains there's room to slumber,
And well they'll know their brethren's graves!

You see, quite a while passed, yet not that many things have changed.

Unfortunately, I do not know the name of the person who made this wonderful translation. Really wonderful, that keeps both sense and rhythm of the original Pushkin's verse.

Hope this helps to understand us better, just like Dmitry Orlov's article a link to which I've published recently.

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