Loss (Потеря), Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Vasyugan

This was written in 1993, during the Russian constitutional crisis. It is hardly fanciful to find echoes in Russia’s situation today. It would be interesting to know how Yevtushenko himself feels…

Yevtushenko collaborated with James Ragan on this translation. Perplexingly, all the Russian versions I’ve found make no mention of the “cut finger in snow” of Ragan’s third line, so I omitted it – with some regret. Ragan avoids direct mention of Manilov and Pugach, who appear in the original and in my translation. Manilov is a character in Gogol’s Dead Souls who spends all day in his dressing gown; Pugach, I am told by Anton Gopko, is Pugachev from Pushkin’s novel “The Captain’s Daughter“, who is given a hare-skin coat by Pyotr Andreyich Grinyov, whom he rescues in a blizzard.

I took the liberty of deciding that there was an oblique reference to Pushkin’s Bronze Horseman in “Медный бунт” – but Ragan’s insider translation suggests that there may not be.

Ian Mac Eochagáin, who worked out the Manilov reference, was reminded of Prince Vyazemskiy’s much earlier poem “The Russian God” when he read this. Here‘s his translation of that poem.

I’m not clever enough at formatting to reproduce Yevtushenko’s arrangement of the lines of his poem – but in any case the layout seems to vary from version to version.

Careless, loses my Russia
in Russia
her Russia.
She is searching for self
as a pin in a hayrick,
as a sightless old woman,
sclerotic, her members a-grasping,
on a keening endeavour
for a milking cow in meadow.
Gilded icons we set to flames.
Books belovèd no longer we trusted.
We were schooled for the fight because trouble us claims.
Have we really survived it because
yoke upon us was thrusted,
ravaged cast we ourselves,
fell as alien horde we became?
Have we really condemned ourselves to
don Manilov’s dull bathrobe in moth-eaten tatters;
don a mangled old hare-skin mac torn
from Pugach’s rachis?
Have we really decided that
this epilepsy’s what matters,
all the arrogant seizures,
the spattering spittle,
all fuelled by Bacchus?
Steed of bronze’s mutiny quotidian –
like an unthreatening slumber.
Endless brawl –
thus the Kremlin was battered today just
as surf’s wet trawl.
Have we really we Russians now come to this
horrible cumber –
choice ’twixt Ivan’s mad terror and
robbery’s all?
The imposture is endless.
And so are the chiefs I won’t number.
Such bewilderment
bear we Russians with catcalls and flags,
in silly Russian noggins sore beset with fog –
yet another –
wrong together, clods’ errors,
indictment of guilt-ridden brags.
In a foggy blunder
into quagmire of blood have we fallen.
We’ve been punished enough, O dear God,
pardon, mercy have on us
do we pray.
Have we really and finally
died out? Is birth from us stolen?
No. Reborn are we truly –
reborn to a brutish, harder day.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Потеряла Россия
в России
Россию.
Она ищет себя,
как иголку в стогу,
как слепая старуха,
бессмысленно руки раскинув,
с причитаньями ищет
буренку свою на лугу.
Мы сжигали иконы свои.
Мы не верили собственным книгам.
Мы умели сражаться лишь с пришлой бедой.
Неужели не выжили мы
лишь под собственным игом,
сами став для себя
хуже, чем чужеземной ордой?
Неужели нам жить суждено
то в маниловском, молью побитом халате,
то в тулупчике заячьем драном
с плеча Пугача?
Неужели припадочность —
это и есть наш характер,
то припадки гордыни,
то самооплева —
и все сгоряча?
Медный бунт, соляной и картофельный —
это как сон безопасный.
Бунт сплошной —
вот что Кремль сотрясает сегодня,
как будто прибой.
Неужели единственный русский наш
выбор злосчастный —
это или опричнина
или разбой?
Самозванство сплошное.
Сплошные вокруг атаманы.
Мы запутались,
чьи имена и знамена несем,
и такие туманы в башках на Руси,
растуманы,
что неправы все сразу,
и все виноваты во всем.
Мы в туманах таких
по колено в крови набродились.
Хватит, Боже, наказывать нас.
Ты нас лучше прости,
пожалей.
Неужели мы вымерли?
Или еще не родились?
Мы рождаемся снова,
а снова рождаться — еще тяжелей.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

4 thoughts on “Loss (Потеря), Yevgeny Yevtushenko

  1. […] This is an early poem, written in 1953 – the year of Stalin’s death. Perhaps the ambivalence here reflects something of the contingency of existence in an authoritarian society. Or perhaps it’s just an honest account of youthful indulgence. To get an idea of the evolution of Yevtushenko’s evolving style, compare with “When a Man Gets to Forty” or the much later “Loss“. […]

    Like

  2. […] This is an early poem, written in 1953 – the year of Stalin’s death. Perhaps the ambivalence here reflects something of the contingency of existence in an authoritarian society. Or perhaps it’s just an honest account of youthful indulgence. To get an idea of the evolution of Yevtushenko’s style, compare with “When a Man Gets to Forty” or the much later “Loss“. […]

    Like

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