Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Blok's "You walk by, unsmiling"

The fun part about translating Chukovskaya is that she keeps referring to different poets and sometimes quotes entire poems in her text. I suppose, as a translator, I could site one of the previous translations for these poems -- most of them have been translated to English multiple times, but since I don't have any pressing deadlines on this project, why not have the fun and try my hand at it? Here's one. In Russian, this poem written by Aleksandr Blok in 1905 is referred to by the first line, "Ты проходишь без улыбки":

You walk by, unsmiling,
with lowered eyelashes,
and in the total darkness above the cathedral,
the cupolas are golden.

How your face resembles
vespertine Virgin Marys,
lowering their eyelashes,
vanishing in the darkness…

But next to you walks a curly-haired
gentle boy in a white hat,
you lead him by the hand,
you won’t let him stumble.

I stand back in the shadow of a portal,
where the piercing wind is blowing
into my strained eyes,
misty with tears.

I wish to burst out into the open
and shout: “Oh Holy Mother of God!
Why did you bring the Babe
to my dark city?”

But my tongue is incapable of scream.
you walk by. Behind you,
above your holy footprints,
the blue darkness presides.

And I look on, remembering
the lowered eyelashes,
the way your boy in his white hat
smiled at you.

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