Monday, October 03, 2011

Happy Birthday, Sergei

Today (21 Sep Old Style) is the birthday of Sergei Esenin (Сергей Александрович Есенин) (1895). One of Russia's most beloved lyric poets, Esenin was born to a peasant family and later became part of the intelligentsia. He had five wives (including Isadora Duncan), and several lovers (including, possibly, Nikolai Kluev, who was certainly a close friend). Many of his friends ended up shot or in camps and Esenin himself suffered a mental breakdown and hanged himself. He was 30.

A couple of his poems, with my translations:

Сестре Шуре

Ах, как много на свете кошек,
Нам с тобой их не счесть никогда.
Сердцу снится душистый горошек,
И звенит голубая звезда.

Наяву ли, в бреду иль спросонок,
Только помню с далекого дня -
На лежанке мурлыкал котенок,
Безразлично смотря на меня.

Я еще тогда был ребенок,
Но под бабкину песню вскок
Он бросался, как юный тигренок,
На оброненный ею клубок.

Все прошло. Потерял я бабку,
А еще через несколько лет
Из кота того сделали шапку,
А ее износил наш дед.

To Sister Shura

Oh, the world has so many cats in it
We could never count them all.
My heart dreams of sweet peas,
And a blue star rings.

Am I waking, in fever or half asleep,
That I remember from a distant day:
On the bench by the stove a kitten purred,
Looking at me with indifferent eyes.

I was then still just a child,
But as granny sang the kitten leapt,
Throwing himself like a young tiger
At the tangled yarn she let drop.

It's all gone now. I've lost granny,
And years after she died, so did the cat;
They made a hat from its fur for grandad,
So long ago he worе it out.


Береза

Белая береза
Под моим окном
Принакрылась снегом,
Точно серебром.

На пушистых ветках
Снежною каймой
Распустились кисти
Белой бахромой.

И стоит береза
В сонной тишине,
И горят снежинки
В золотом огне.

А заря, лениво
Обходя кругом,
обсыпает ветки
Новым серебром.


Birch

White birch
beneath my window
just touched by snow
as if by silver.

On fluffy branches
with edgings of snow
white blossoms pile
in feathered clusters

And the birch stands
in drowsy stillness
and the snowflakes burn
in a fire of gold

While the dawn, slowly
surrounding it all,
sparks the branches
with new silver.


(All of Esenin in Russian here and lots in English here.)

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