“The poems grow” (“Стихи растут”), Marina Tsvetaeva

Portrait of Tsvetaeva, Boris Shalyapin, 1933

The poems grow like heaven’s stars and roses,
Like beauty too – unneeded in my clan.
And for the garlands and apotheosis
There’s one response – how can this be my plan?

We sleep – and through the slabs of stone then flutter
The fragrant and four-petalled heav’nly guest.
Oh waken, world! In sleep the bard can utter
The law of stars and flowers’ treasure chest.


Стихи растут, как звезды и как розы,
Как красота — ненужная в семье.
А на венцы и на апофеозы —
Один ответ: — Откуда мне сие́?

Мы спим — и вот, сквозь каменные плиты,
Небесный гость в четыре лепестка.
О мир, пойми! Певцом — во сне — открыты
Закон звезды и формула цветка.

Translation by Rupert Moreton


What I loved I never really knew.
A distant early childhood spent
in Greenwich-summered dim content.
Draughty Blackheath house. A mother who
would Listen with me as she should.
Father on whose shoulders through the park
giddy sun-drunk I careered. The dark
of Blackwall tunnel, home-bound, would
after Herne Bay trips declare that soon
delicious ice-cold sheets would wrap
my sunburnt back in pirate’s trap.
London wasn’t real. Its silver moon
was always spangled, picture-book.
Kites were always wind-blown on the heath.
Buses trundled red and clean beneath
the dream-blue English sky. It took
Dublin’s grit-exotic vowels to break
A childhood’s idyll. “English pig!” –
new playmates thought I was a prig.
Innocent delusion could but quake,
for potholed road to Belfast’s scar
even then was short. My SE3
playmates warned me that I soon would be
a tea-time Craven Newsround star –
post-Blue Peter victim of a war
Dulwich Prep boys, rapt, could not ignore.
I viewed my birthplace from afar,
led by parents who with every year
knew less and less about it all.
And Mrs Thatcher cast her pall
over everything I knew. I fear
by her I wasn’t unbeguiled –
youth’s precociousness was my excuse.
My association then was loose –
romantic vision undefiled
by experience’s frigid claim –
unless those Norfolk summers count,
when Grandpa’s sun-gilt wisdom’s fount
told of land the other couldn’t tame,
and beech-lined lane to yew-dank church
’midst rustled wheat and hedge-loomed cool
fathomed my evasion’s shallow pool,
encouraged adolescent search
leading to an earnest cleric’s role.
I wasn’t doctrinaire about
religion or my homeland’s clout –
preaching liberal values on the whole.
And as I aged of course I knew
all my fond delusion was but that.
Yet denial’s grasp prevented flat
acceptance of a truth still too
blunt and harmless to demand that I
embrace reality’s dull form.
But now deceit and bitter storm
bares delusion’s naked happy lie.

Rupert Moreton

The Moon (Луна), Fyodor Glinka

Fyodor Glinka (1786-1880) was banished to Petrozavodsk after the Decembrist revolt, but was eventually allowed to return to St Petersburg. This poem, written in 1826, reflects his peripheral involvement with the Decembrists.

The lovely crescent moon was beaming
Upon the silent azure field,
And ’neath the crosses domes were gleaming
Still brighter than mere gold can yield.
And prison-bound, poor captive yearning
On signs and wonders feebly raved:
He read them as if hand with burning
On earth and heavens had engraved.
And written in his secret history
He read them with emotion and
He sat, endured, clasped homeland’s mystery
And, with it, hope’s beguiling hand.


Луна прекрасная светила
В тиши лазоревых полей
И ярче золота златила
Главы подкрестные церквей.
А бедный узник за решеткой
Мечтал о божьих чудесах:
Он их читал, как почерк четкий,
И на земле и в небесах.
И в книге тайной прошлой жизни
Он с умиленьем их читал
И с мыслью о святой отчизне
Сидел, терпел – и уповал!

Translation by Rupert Moreton

Juhannus, Eino Leino

This is a poem from Leino’s 1898 collection Sata ja yksi laulua (“One hundred and one songs”). I was to say the least unsure of the first two lines, but I think I may have conveyed their meaning.

I will lie spread-eagled, devouring light
and joy in sunshine’s tarry,
I will bathe in waters of fresh delight
And feast on every berry.

I’m possessed by juhannus and its thrall,
the feast of our midsummer,
so if I’m found weeping tonight, tears’ fall
will glint in rainbow’s shimmer.


Minä avaan syömeni selälleen
ja annan päivän paistaa,
minä tahdon kylpeä joka veen
ja joka marjan maistaa.

Minun mielessäni on juhannus
ja juhla ja mittumaari,
ja jos minä illoin itkenkin,
niin siellä on sateenkaari.

Translation by Rupert Moreton


So here’s the light.
It won’t last
for now the palest Northern blue beguiles.
We gasp it in
and don’t quite succeed
in letting go of ice-black dark.
Some fight it, sisu-fooled.
Delusion fails.
For now
the nights

Rupert Moreton

Evening (Вечер), Ivan Bunin

Bunin in 1901

Bunin wrote this in 1909.

Our joy is always something we remember.
It’s everywhere. Maybe it is here –
The garden by the barn in late September
Where at the window pure air casts its spear.

And in the heavens, azure and eternal,
Arises gilt-edged cloud I’ve long observed…
We see a little, know perhaps a kernel:
For only those who know is joy reserved.

The window’s open. Bird with gentle chatter
Has settled on its ledge. And from my book
I for a moment cast a weary look.

The evening falls, and from the sky birds scatter.
And now the barn emits the thresher’s call…
I see, I hear, content. I know it all.


О счастье мы всегда лишь вспоминаем.
А счасть всюду. Может быть, оно –
Вот этот сад осенний за сараем
И чистый воздух, льющийся в окно.

В бездонном небе легким белым краем
Встает, сияет облако. Давно
Слежу за ним… Мы мало видим, знаем,
А счастье только знающим дано.

Окно открыто. Пискнула и села
На подоконник птичка. И от книг
Усталый взгляд я отвожу на миг.

День вечереет, небо опустело.
Гул молотилки слышен на гумне…
Я вижу, слышу, счастлив. Все во мне.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

Pushkin (Пушкин), Anna Akhmatova

Portrait of Pushkin by Vasily Tropinin

Akhmatova wrote this in 1943. The greatest Russian poet of the twentieth century addresses the greatest Russian poet, who famously delighted in the feet of the ladies on the St Petersburg embankment.

So, who can know what makes for glory!
What did he pay to tell the story,
For opportunity or grace
So sly and wise to cause furore,
Present mysterious, silent face
And to those dainty feet give chase?


Кто знает, что такое слава!
Какой ценой купил он право,
Возможность или благодать
Над всем так мудро и лукаво
Шутить, таинственно молчать
И ногу ножкой называть?..

Translation by Rupert Moreton