“Beguiling nonchalance of golden tresses” (“Златых кудрей приятная небрежность”), Anton Delvig

Portrait of Anton Delvig, 1830, by Valerian Platonovich Langer
Portrait of Anton Delvig, 1830, by Valerian Platonovich Langer

Anton Antonovich Delvig (1798-1831) was a contemporary and close friend of Pushkin – he was a student of the Lyceum at Tsarskoye Selo with him. But inevitably he lived in the great poet’s shadow. This sonnet was written in 1822 – and its vaunted style, so different from Pushkin’s clarity, presented considerable challenges. I’m not sure this is what he means, to be honest.

Beguiling nonchalance of golden tresses,
The dreamy greeting of celestial eyes,
And even what is said cannot give rise
To love and all that wantonly distresses.

Then did the gods inflict me with this weakness
So at this age’s dawn I’d start to faint?
But cup of woes I’ll drink without complaint:
I’ll not await the vast expanse in meekness!

So don’t return my peace to me again,
Forgotten is sweet freedom once I trusted.
My soul still burns, but grieving heart’s encrusted,

My blood runs hot and cold in endless chain:
Is joy or sorrow loving heart’s refrain?
Have I my youth to life or death entrusted?

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

Златых кудрей приятная небрежность,
Небесных глаз мечтательный привет,
Звук сладкий уст при слове даже нет
Во мне родят любовь и безнадежность.

На то ли мне послали боги нежность,
Чтоб изнемог я в раннем цвете лет?
Но я готов, я выпью чашу бед:
Мне не страшна грядущего безбрежность!

Не возвратить уже покоя вновь,
Я позабыл свободной жизни сладость.
Душа горит, но смолкла в сердце радость,

Во мне кипит и холодеет кровь:
Печаль ли ты, веселье ль ты, любовь?
На смерть иль жизнь тебе я вверил младость?

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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