“The night is dark” (“Темна ноченька”), Sergei Yesenin


Yesenin wrote this when he was 16, while still living in a village outside Ryazan. The seeds of what he himself embraced as his “hooliganism” are already apparent. The Russian switches the metre in the final stanza, employing trochees in the first and third lines. Reproducing this defeated me…

The night is dark, I cannot sleep,
I’ll stroll beside the river.
The lightning there begins to leap
in fizzing girdle’s sliver.

On mountain now birch-candles glow
In silver’s moonlit feathers.
So come, my heart, now let us go
To hear the songs of zithers.

I’ll feast my eyes, and I will stare
Upon a maiden’s beauty,
And I will dance to zither’s air,
Relieve your veil of duty.

To emerald wood and tower’s shadow
By silken flowers blooming,
I’ll take you to the hill-girt plateau
Till poppied dawn is looming.


Темна ноченька, не спится,
Выйду к речке на лужок.
Распоясала зарница
В пенных струях поясок.

На бугре береза-свечка
В лунных перьях серебра.
Выходи, мое сердечко,
Слушать песни гусляра.

Залюбуюсь, загляжусь ли
На девичью красоту,
А пойду плясать под гусли,
Так сорву твою фату.

В терем темный, в лес зеленый,
На шелковы купыри,
Уведу тебя под склоны
Вплоть до маковой зари.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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