Letter to Mother (Письмо матери), Sergei Yesenin

Yesenin reciting his poetry to his mother
Yesenin reciting his poetry to his mother


Yesenin writes in a direct and simple style, so half the battle is to replicate this in English. The metre is a simple trochaic pentameter, except in the seventh and eighth stanzas, which each have one line that is a trochaic hexameter. Yesenin does not capitalise “я” (“I”) in the fifth and sixth stanzas, doubtless because he wants to strike a childish note. I therefore avoided capitalising “I”, although it appears more often in the English because the verbs are uninflected.

At one level, this might be seen as a poem about Yesenin’s delinquency; but it perhaps also reflects Yesenin’s continuing loyalty to the new regime.

Mother dearest, is your heart still beating?
Mine is too, so greetings, Mum, to you!
And I hope that over home still fleeting
Evening light unspoken sheds its hue.

Letters tell me you’re a little worried,
Seems my absence causes you distress,
They have seen you weeping as you’ve hurried
Down the road in dated shabby dress.

Probably when evening’s blue and gloomy
Often you suppose the worst’s ensued:
Someone in a tavern’s plunged into me
Finnish blade from someone else’s feud.

It is nothing! Calm yourself now, Mother.
This is but delirium’s painful hold.
I’m no bitter drunk – I’m quite another,
Dying, I won’t leave you in the cold.

i am still as gentle as was ever
And i only dream soon comes the day,
When i from rebellion myself sever,
So return to humble home i may.

i’ll return to see the blossom cover
White our garden in the springtime, though.
Only, please don’t wait with anxious hover
As day’s dawning, like eight years ago.

Don’t be stirring memories of what’s ended,
If it hasn’t happened do not fret –
Both fatigue and loss they find me quite unmended –
Much too early test for me was set.

And attempt to teach me praying’s useless. Futile!
There is no return to former ways.
You’re my only help and solace and I’ll
Spurn not your unspoken shining rays.

So, forget it! Really, do not worry,
Absence shouldn’t lead to your distress,
Do not often let them see you hurry
Down the road in dated shabby dress.


Ты жива еще, моя старушка?
Жив и я. Привет тебе, привет!
Пусть струится над твоей избушкой
Тот вечерний несказанный свет.

Пишут мне, что ты, тая тревогу,
Загрустила шибко обо мне,
Что ты часто xодишь на дорогу
В старомодном ветxом шушуне.

И тебе в вечернем синем мраке
Часто видится одно и то ж:
Будто кто-то мне в кабацкой драке
Саданул под сердце финский нож.

Ничего, родная! Успокойся.
Это только тягостная бредь.
Не такой уж горький я пропойца,
Чтоб, тебя не видя, умереть.

я по-прежнему такой же нежный
И мечтаю только лишь о том,
Чтоб скорее от тоски мятежной
Воротиться в низенький наш дом.

я вернусь, когда раскинет ветви
По-весеннему наш белый сад.
Только ты меня уж на рассвете
Не буди, как восемь лет назад.

Не буди того, что отмечалось,
Не волнуй того, что не сбылось,-
Слишком раннюю утрату и усталость
Испытать мне в жизни привелось.

И молиться не учи меня. Не надо!
К старому возврата больше нет.
Ты одна мне помощь и отрада,
Ты одна мне несказанный свет.

Так забудь же про свою тревогу,
Не грусти так шибко обо мне.
Не xоди так часто на дорогу
В старомодном ветxом шушуне.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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