Tuesday, July 19, 2011

С днем рождения, Владимир!

Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky (Владимир Владимирович Маяковский) was born today in 1893, in Baghdati - now in Georgia (well, it was Georgia then, too, just part of Russia). Of Ukrainian descent (his father was a cossack), he was a Russophone and a great poet, who had a tremendous effect on poetry in Russian, in style and in meter. He was also a supporter of the Revolution, turning out many posters and other propaganda pieces. But, like many who began as a fervent believer in the Revolution, he became disenchanted with it in its reality; though Stalin praised him (which kept him safe), he shot himself in 1930 - thus sparing himself the grimmest days of Soviet Union's betrayal of the ideals he had once gone to prison for.

One short verse:


Не смоют любовь
ни ссоры,
ни вёрсты.
Подъемля торжественно стих стокопёрстый,
клянусь —
неизменно и верно!


Love isn't washed away
by quarrels
or by miles.
It's thought through,
Solemnly raising my verse to swear by
I vow -
I will love
constant and true!

(The word стокопёрстый which modifies "verse" is throwing me. It's composed of "many + finger + adjectival ending". What he means, I think, is that instead of raising his hand to take the oath, he's raising his poem, its lines like fingers. But man that's hard to get into a single line, even if it's the longest one in the poem! I'll have to revisit this...)

(Many of his verses are translated by Andrey Kneller here.)

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