Patient(ly), Marina Tsvetaeva

Boris Pasternak and Marina Tsvetaeva

This poem is addressed to Tsvetaeva’s lover, Boris Pasternak. It is all but impossible to translate. My first cheat was to render the adverb “терпеливо” (“patiently”) as “patient”, in a probably vain attempt to catch the poem’s metre. Repeating “patient” perhaps captures something of the original’s suspense, but it surely wears thin ice thinner. Some relief for the translator is provided by Tsvetaeva’s own inconsistent rhyming – playfully alluded to in “как рифмы ждут“, which I translated as “like rhyming’s wait”. But the last stanza defeats all attempts: “И домой: / В неземной – / Да мой” – which is (sort of) literally “And to home: to ethereal (home). But (it’s) mine.” But no translator will ever catch the pun of “И домой” and “Да мой“. If you disagree, I’d love to hear your suggestions…

Patient, patient, like gravel’s grind,
Patient, patient, like death in mind,
Patient, patient, like news unwinding,
Patient, patient, like vengeance finding –

Wait! Awaiting you (tight, fingers’ plait –
Like a serf by grand queen when bidden).
Patient, patient, like rhyming’s wait,
Patient, patient, like hands are bitten.

Wait! Awaiting you (earthy glance,
Teeth to lips. It’s locked jaw. Or flagstone.)
Patient, patient, like dallied trance,
Patient, patient, like beaded stringing.

Creak of sleigh, and door’s riposting creak:
Caterwauls the storm-wreaking taiga.
From on high has come the edict:
Tsardom’s gone – behold noble enters.

Time for home:
Heaven-home –
My home.


Терпеливо, как щебень бьют,
Терпеливо, как смерти ждут,
Терпеливо, как вести зреют,
Терпеливо, как месть лелеют –

Буду ждать тебя (пальцы в жгут –
Так Монархини ждет наложник)
Терпеливо, как рифмы ждут,
Терпеливо, как руки гложут.

Буду ждать тебя (в землю – взгляд,
Зубы в губы. Столбняк. Булыжник).
Терпеливо, как негу длят,
Терпеливо, как бисер нижут.

Скрип полозьев, ответный скрип
Двери: рокот ветров таёжных.
Высочайший пришел рескрипт:
– Смена царства и въезд вельможе.

И домой:
В неземной –
Да мой.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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