“When I enclose your slender form” (“Когда в объятия мои”), Alexander Pushkin

Pushkin's sketches of himself and his wife, Natalia Goncharova
Pushkin’s sketches of himself and his wife, Natalia Goncharova

Pushkin’s verse is serpentine. It slithers in the translator’s hands. One is left exhilarated, but conscious only of one’s failure…

When I enclose your slender form
In heat of passionate embraces,
And I unleash on you a storm
Of ardour’s words in gentle traces,
You, silent, from my binding hold
Yourself then disentangle lithely
And answer, sweet one, love now cold,
With unbelieving smile, so blithely:
And unforgetful of forlorn
Accounts of all my indiscretions,
You glumly hear my vain expressions
With little show of love reborn…
I curse then all the faithless actions
Of oh-so-casual youth misspent,
Pursuit of silly rake’s transactions
In gardens filled with evening’s scent.
And then I curse my whispered passion,
My enigmatic verses’ strain,
Caress believing maidens fashion,
Their tears, and then their moan’s refrain.


Когда в объятия мои
Твой стройный стан я заключаю,
И речи нежные любви
Тебе с восторгом расточаю,
Безмолвна, от стесненных рук
Освобождая стан свой гибкой,
Ты отвечаешь, милый друг,
Мне недоверчивой улыбкой;
Прилежно в памяти храня
Измен печальные преданья,
Ты без участья и вниманья
Уныло слушаешь меня…
Кляну коварные старанья
Преступной юности моей
И встреч условных ожиданья
В садах, в безмолвии ночей.
Кляну речей любовный шопот,
Стихов таинственный напев,
И ласки легковерных дев,
И слезы их, и поздний ропот.

Translation by Rupert Moreton




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