My Life (Моя жизнь), Sergei Yesenin


A friend described this to me as a “prickly pear” of a poem. I didn’t notice at first that Yesenin switches the masculine/feminine rhyme pattern in the second stanza, so I had to rework things. I think there may be some (self?-)mockery at work here in the poem’s repetition, not to say tautology. All the sadder, then, that Yesenin killed himself in the end…

Seems I’m doomed by my life to accept share of suffering;
Grief is wedded to weariness, blocking my path;
Torn it seems has my life been from playful rejoicing,
Aching heart’s been sore wounded by tiredness and sloth.
Suffering seems an inheritance tied to my life;
Life is stricken indeed by unenviable portion.
Oh, in life I’ve endured some incredible strife
And my languishing soul in its grief seems to worsen.
Joy and gladness are promised by distance and haze,
And arriving, I hear only sighing and crying,
Tempest suddenly starts with a thunderous daze
And destroys all my dreams so enchanting and cloying.
I’ve concluded and know now that life is a cheat,
I have ceased to complain of unenviable portion.
Sloth and tiredness though pressing my soul will not beat,
Neither suffering nor grief really warrants attention.
Будто жизнь на страданья моя обречена;
Горе вместе с тоской заградили мне путь;
Будто с радостью жизнь навсегда разлучена,
От тоски и от ран истомилася грудь.
Будто в жизни мне выпал страданья удел;
Незавидная мне в жизни выпала доля.
Уж и так в жизни много всего я терпел,
Изнывает душа от тоски и от горя.
Даль туманная радость и счастье сулит,
А дойду – только слышатся вздохи да слезы,
Вдруг наступит гроза, сильный гром загремит
И разрушит волшебные, сладкие грезы.
Догадался и понял я жизни обман,
Не ропщу на свою незавидную долю.
Не страдает душа от тоски и от ран,
Не поможет никто ни страданьям, ни горю.
Translation by Rupert Moreton

3 thoughts on “My Life (Моя жизнь), Sergei Yesenin

  1. I think the new first line, with its shorter words, is punchier than what you originally had. The stress pattern created by the inclusion of “it seems” certainly helps. This is kind of funny because usually in English “it seems” isn’t that stressed, but here it comes to add stress. Then again, perhaps only I read it that way because I know the original and am trying to make the translation fit its metre.


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