from Poems for Blok, by Marina Tsvetaeva

Tsvetaeva Alexander-Blok-2

Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941) wrote this for her fellow poet Alexander Blok (1890-1921). It is a play on the sound of his surname. I have tried here to reproduce as closely as possible the stress pattern and rhyming – including the near-rhymes – of the original. The first problem is to nail down the stress, which, being fluid in Russian, is far from straightforward. It seems to me that the struggle must be to re-present both sense and form. There’s a very good translation here that takes what I think is an easier path. (The confusing rendering of “пять” (five) as “four” is explained by the translators’ accommodation of the post-revolution spelling reform, but as the poem was written in 1916 I don’t think that can be justified.) I’m not happy with my despairing “caps” (capital letters) for “букв” (letters). And at first I had “ach – no more!” for “ах, нельзя!” but was deflected by the need for a rhyme with “kiss”. I compensated for this with the insertion of “Oh” – and freely admit that it helpfully rhymed with “snow”.

Name of yours sounds – bird-in-hand clung,
Name of yours sounds – icily on tongue.
On single-smackingly implosive lips
Name of yours sounds – five caps.
Ball that’s catapulted and caught,
A silveringly bell-clapped retort.

Thrown, a stone into tranquil pond –
Sob it makes, that is how it sounds.
Lightly clopping benighted hoof-fall,
Sounds your name so, like thunder-call.
And to my temple name presses stick
Sounding loud with triggering click.

Name of yours sounds – less of this!
Name of yours sounds – on my eye a kiss,
Tenderly frosted eyelid and Oh!
Name of yours sounds – it’s a kiss on snow.
Springing blue glacial, ice water, gulping deep
Name that is a down-draughted sleep.


Имя твое — птица в руке,
Имя твое — льдинка на языке.
Одно-единственное движенье губ.
Имя твое — пять букв.
Мячик, пойманный на лету,
Серебряный бубенец во рту.

Камень, кинутый в тихий пруд,
Всхлипнет так, как тебя зовут.
В легком щелканье ночных копыт
Громкое имя твое гремит.
И назовет его нам в висок
Звонко щелкающий курок.

Имя твое — ах, нельзя! —
Имя твое — поцелуй в глаза,
В нежную стужу недвижных век.
Имя твое — поцелуй в снег.
Ключевой, ледяной, голубой глоток…
С именем твоим — сон глубок.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

2 thoughts on “from Poems for Blok, by Marina Tsvetaeva

  1. I’m less impressed than I was with the translation I linked to. How does “Громкое имя твое гремит.” become “Your name”? It sounds portentous – perhaps they thereby hoped to capture thunder-clap? But not translating the words that are there seems a cop-out…


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