“Just when your face arose above” (“Когда взошло твое лицо”), Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Yevtushenko in 1960

Yevtushenko wrote this in 1960, at the height of Khrushchev’s thaw. His marriage to the poet Bella Akhmadulina had recently ended, but one senses he is concerned here with more than just love’s fragility.

Just when your face arose above
the crumpled mess of my existence,
at first, confronted by such love,
I knew my past was mere subsistence.

But groves and rivers, and the sea
were by its lustre then striated,
and worldly colours consecrated
the uninitiated me.

I’m so afraid, I’m so afraid
of unexpected daybreak’s ending,
discovery, joy and tears’ expending,
but fight with fear I haven’t made.

And now I must recall –
this fear is love. And, though it perish,
it’s something yet I dogged cherish,
the careless guardian of it all.

This fear entraps me in its wheel.
I know these moments are not lasting,
that brief’s kaleidoscopic blasting.
Your face will set – for that’s the deal.


Когда взошло твое лицо
над жизнью скомканной моею,
вначале понял я лишь то,
как скудно все, что я имею.

Но рощи, реки и моря
оно особо осветило
и в краски мира посвятило
непосвященного меня.

Я так боюсь, я так боюсь
конца нежданного восхода,
конца открытий, слез, восторга,
но с этим страхом не борюсь.

Я помню – этот страх
и есть любовь. Его лелею,
хотя лелеять не умею,
своей любви небрежный страж.

Я страхом этим взят в кольцо.
Мгновенья эти – знаю – кратки,
и для меня исчезнут краски,
когда зайдет твое лицо…

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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