“He lived and died and so did she” (“Тот жил и умер, та жила”), Arseny Tarkovsky

Arseny Tarkovsky (with Andrei in the background)

A poem from 1975.

This was fiendishly difficult. Tarkovsky’s economy combined with the economy of Russian posed particular challenges. My insertion of the Ark (of the Covenant) here is perhaps a step too far, but I hope I have come close to capturing the poem’s sense.

He lived and died and so did she,
And so they lived and died together;
And in one grave, as if in tether,
They lay, so they’d together be.

Than glass the soil is not as dark,
The killed and killer it uncovers:
For death’s decaying’s dusty smothers
Unearth the passions of the Ark.

Above, the shades of generations
Interred beneath in soil’s striations
Now rush, but they’d have no design
Away from us, the baying rabble,
If we ourselves were not in line
To hear our own accusers’ babble.


Тот жил и умер, та жила
И умерла, и эти жили
И умерли; к одной могиле
Другая плотно прилегла.

Земля прозрачнее стекла,
И видно в ней, кого убили
И кто убил: на мертвой пыли
Горит печать добра и зла.

Поверх земли метутся тени
Сошедших в землю поколений;
Им не уйти бы никуда
Из наших рук от самосуда,
Когда б такого же суда
Не ждали мы невесть откуда.

Translation by Rupert Moreton


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