A Memory (Воспоминание), Andrei Bely

Portrait of Bely by Leon Bakst
Portrait of Bely by Leon Bakst

Andrei Bely (1880-1934) was born Boris Nikolaevich Bugaev. He is regarded as one of the major Russian Symbolists, and is especially known for his novel Petersburg.

He fell in love with the actress Lyubov Dmitrievna Mendeleeva, who was the wife of his fellow-Symbolist Alexander Blok. This poem was written in 1908. It is perhaps not entirely fanciful to imagine that it is about this failed affair.

December… Snowdrifts in the yard…
Your words and you I still remember;
How in the snow-night, silver-starred,
So shyly shook your every member.

In pearly lace of old Marseilles
You day-dreamed by the velvet curtain:
Around you suitors eyed their prey
On low-slung sofas, far from certain.

A servant brought in spicy tea…
And there around us tunes were playing…
However, now it seems to me
A sorrow of some sort was weighing.

And now in gentle steps there grew –
Imagination, inspiration –
In reverie as I looked at you
A secret, heartfelt aspiration;

And at that moment we were tied,
As Haydn’s strains around us rumbled…
From hall your husband on us spied,
With sideways glance at whiskers fumbled.

Now in the snow I stand alone…
Above my wretched soul are floating
The useless dreams that then were sown –
A memory now, with sugared coating.


Декабрь… Сугробы на дворе…
Я помню вас и ваши речи;
Я помню в снежном серебре
Стыдливо дрогнувшие плечи.

В марсельских белых кружевах
Вы замечтались у портьеры:
Кругом на низеньких софах
Почтительные кавалеры.

Лакей разносит пряный чай…
Играет кто-то на рояли…
Но бросили вы невзначай
Мне взгляд, исполненный печали.

И мягко вытянулись,- вся
Воображенье, вдохновенье,-
В моих мечтаньях воскреся
Невыразимые томленья;

И чистая меж нами связь
Под звуки гайдновских мелодий
Рождалась… Но ваш муж, косясь,
Свой бакен теребил в проходе…

Один – в потоке снеговом…
Но реет над душою бедной
Воспоминание о том,
Что пролетело так бесследно.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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