Translating Pushkin

Two Post-horses at the Stable, Theodore Gericault
(Pushkin called translators “post-horses of enlightenment”.)

In waning light translator crafts
From Pushkin’s golden, joyous words
Some new bejewelled artful drafts
Of ink-drink soul-balm – flocking birds
That rise and swoop in tired mind’s eye,
And wake in hearted sadness thought
Of sweet hope’s still grasped destiny:
The time-bound crave unleashed – and caught.

Rupert Moreton

“Forgive me” (“Ah, anteeks anna”), Uuno Kailas


Forgive me that I am in love with you.
I do not dare to ask another thing.
And all that now is left for me to bring
are joy and pain that I’m in love with you.

Forgive me that I am in love with you.
If you desire to hate, then hate you must.
It’s painful leaving you, but you can trust
I don’t regret that I’m in love with you.


Ah, anteeks anna, että rakastan.
En tohdi pyytää mitään enempää.
Mun ainoaksi osakseni jää
se riemu, tuska, että rakastan.

Ah, anteeks anna, että rakastan.
Jos mielit vihata, niin vihaa vaan.
Sun luotas lähden, kärsin — kuitenkaan
ma unhoita en, että rakastan.

Translation by Rupert Moreton 

“I do not ask of love” (“Не о любви прошу”), Georgy Ivanov

Ivanov wrote this in 1922, the year he left Russia.

I do not ask of love; I do not sing of spring,
But listen to my song – for you alone I sing.

Oh, judge it for yourself – for how on earth could I
Not lose all self-control when I this snow espy?

An ordinary garden, just another day,
But why are all the bells alive in mad affray,

While nightingales declaim, with flowers in the snow?
Explain it all to me – or maybe you don’t know?

Oh, judge it for yourself – for how on earth could I
Not lose all self-control when looking in your eye?

I do not say “Believe”, I do not say “Now, hear”,
But this is what I know: it’s at this snow you peer,

And now beyond you I am looking with love’s glance
Upon this snowy heaven of our lingering dance.


Не о любви прошу, не о весне пою,
Но только ты одна послушай песнь мою.

И разве мог бы я, о, посуди сама,
Взглянуть на этот снег и не сойти с ума.

Обыкновенный день, обыкновенный сад,
Но почему кругом колокола звонят,

И соловьи поют, и на снегу цветы.
О, почему, ответь, или не знаешь ты?

И разве мог бы я, о посуди сама,
В твои глаза взглянуть и не сойти с ума?

Не говорю “поверь”, не говорю “услышь”,
Но знаю: ты сейчас на тот же снег глядишь,

И за плечом твоим глядит любовь моя
На этот снежный рай, в котором ты и я.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

“My eyes now wear a coat of sand” (“Глаза засыпаны песком”), Ryurik Ivnev

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Ivnev lived into old age, dying just before his ninetieth birthday. This is one of his last poems, written in 1979.

My eyes now wear a coat of sand –
But should the wind now have my condemnation?
There’s much that’s strange, that’s difficult to understand –
Do not condemn the bard with defamation.

And do not let the horse of hatred crush
My spirit’s last rejuvenation.
And from my frigid lips, I beg, don’t rush
To take away your warm hands’ consolation.

And let our land be covered now with snow,
Our rivers halted by new freezing.
And don’t allow this salty heat to flow
For ever in the blood with force displeasing.

Forgive me for the strangeness of these days –
These days of love and restless agitation –
I know it’s true, they differ much, each other’s ways,
They hang by slender threaded oscillation.


Глаза засыпаны песком —
Могу ли ветер осудить за это?
Бывают странности. Понять их нелегко —
Не осуди, не обесславь поэта.

Да не растопчет ненависти конь
Души моей помолодевшей.
Широкую горячую ладонь
Не отнимай от губ похолодевших.

Пусть снегом нашу землю занесло
И льды сковали наши реки,
Горячее соленое тепло
Проникло в кровь и будет жить вовеки.

Прости меня за странные часы —
Часы любви, волненья и тревоги,
Я знаю: брошены на строгие весы
Две наши очень разные дороги.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

The Freezing Lake (Jäätyvä järvi), Saima Harmaja

This poem is from Saima Harmaja’s first collection, “Huhtikuu” (“April”). I’ve tried to reproduce her meter – I’m not at all sure it works. And I was a little mystified by “Tajuamaton” – I wonder if “Senseless One” is right.

Here, tonight, the lake is freezing.
Hardening water barely stirs.
And under the glint-white crescent
death-silent, the earth defers.
The trees in the dark are standing
in silence, alone, commanding,
the trees with their shadows’ cast.
A dog far away is barking.
Dreadful dog of the night it is barking
as the inky blackness holds fast.
“Here, tonight, the lake is freezing.
The moon has stopped, is still.
Take my hand in yours and hold it,
Senseless One, amidst the chill.”


Tänä yönä jäätyy järvi.
Vesi tuskin liikahtaa.
Kuun valkean paisteen alla
on kuolemanhiljaa maa.
Vain mykässä vartiossa
puut seisovat pimennossa,
puut pitkine varjoineen.
Ja kaukana koira haukkuu.
Se on hirveä koira, se haukkuu
sysimustaan pimeyteen.
– Tänä yönä jäätyy järvi.
Kuu pysähtynyt on.
Pidä kädestäni kiinni,
sinä Tajuamaton.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

“And briefly a joy was ignited” (“Короткая радость сгорела”), Fyodor Sologub

A poem from 1896.

And briefly a joy was ignited,
I now was dejected and broke,
And now I was wandering benighted
Abodes in the dark and the smoke.

And ardent for night’s inspiration
Laid low with my malady’s blight,
I met with another narration
Of lovely and radiant delight.

Extinguished, the joy now has ended
My destiny city now meets,
Again now my journey has wended
Along its depressing hard streets.


Короткая радость сгорела,
И снова я грустен и нищ,
И снова блуждаю без дела
У чуждых и темных жилищ.

Я пыл вдохновенья ночного
Больною душой ощущал,
Виденья из мира иного
Я светлым восторгом встречал.

Но краткая радость сгорела,
И город опять предо мной,
Опять я скитаюсь без дела
По жесткой его мостовой.

Translation by Rupert Moreton