Spring in the Forest (Весна в лесу), Boris Pasternak

The 20th Party Congress was held in February 1956, and this was written a little later the same year. In addressing the crimes of Stalin, the Congress had opened the way for poets to give public expression to themes that in the past would have sent them to the Gulag. (Here‘s a poem by the young Yevgeny Yevtushenko from the same year.) This poem is clearly not just about the spring. “Мусор” (garbage, trash) is also derogatory slang for a policeman – proof, if it were needed, that Pasternak has other fish to fry here.

Its final stand now takes the cold,
Its grip the coming thaw delays.
The spring is later than of old,
But unexpected are its days.

Since morning cockerel’s courted her,
The hassled hen can’t get away.
And southwards faces frowning fir
To lap the sun’s now warming ray.

Although it’s soared and baked for weeks,
The stubborn ice its grip retains,
As underfoot the pathway squeaks,
Its surface blackened crust still stains.

And in the forest spruce’s trash
Is whitewashed by the covering snow.
But now in places water’s splash
Reflects the sun in thawing glow.

And in the fluffy clouds the sky
Above the dirty vernal sludge
Is held by branches’ wrapping tie –
In growing heat it doesn’t budge.


Отчаянные холода
Задерживают таянье.
Весна позднее, чем всегда,
Но и зато нечаянней.

С утра амурится петух,
И нет прохода курице.
Лицом поворотясь на юг,
Сосна на солнце жмурится.

Хотя и парит и печет,
Еще недели целые
Дороги сковывает лед
Корою почернелою.

В лесу еловый мусор, хлам,
И снегом всё завалено.
Водою с солнцем пополам
Затоплены проталины.

И небо в тучах как в пуху
Над грязной вешней жижицей
Застряло в сучьях наверху
И от жары не движется.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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