Prayer (Молитва), Marina Tsvetaeva

Tsvetaeva with Sergei Efron

Tsvetaeva wrote this on her seventeenth birthday. There is something sadly prophetic here: her reluctance to embrace adulthood suggests an awareness that it would not be easy. It wasn’t. Her daughter died of starvation during the hunger in Moscow that followed the Revolution. After 17 years in exile Tsvetaeva returned to Moscow in 1939. Two years later her husband and surviving daughter were arrested. She took her own life shortly before her husband, Sergei Efron, was executed.

My Lord and God! I crave a wonder
This minute, at the break of day!
Oh let my life be rent asunder
While it’s a book for me, I pray.

You’re wise, so you won’t strictly tell me:
“Be patient, it’s not over yet.”
But you too much have lavished on me!
My craving appetite you’ve met!

I want it all: to go out thieving
To raucous sound of gypsy song,
To organ’s sound do all the grieving
Like Amazon join battle’s throng;

To tell the stars in high black tower,
To lead the children through the shade…
That past might take on legend’s power
And every day be reckless made!

The helmet, silk and cross – my passion,
My soul is but a moment’s sheen…
A fabled childhood was my ration –
Now give me death at seventeen!


Христос и Бог! Я жажду чуда
Теперь, сейчас, в начале дня!
О, дай мне умереть, покуда
Вся жизнь как книга для меня.

Ты мудрый, Ты не скажешь строго:
– “Терпи, еще не кончен срок”.
Ты сам мне подал – слишком много!
Я жажду сразу – всех дорог!

Всего хочу: с душой цыгана
Идти под песни на разбой,
За всех страдать под звук органа
и амазонкой мчаться в бой;

Гадать по звездам в черной башне,
Вести детей вперед, сквозь тень…
Чтоб был легендой – день вчерашний,
Чтоб был безумьем – каждый день!

Люблю и крест, и шелк, и каски,
Моя душа мгновений след…
Ты дал мне детство – лучше сказки
И дай мне смерть – в семнадцать лет!

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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