Grayswandir (_grayswandir_) wrote,

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Drink at the source and speak no word.

In my Russian Lit book, we've reached the section on Tyutchev, which is quite short -- just a handful of poems. After reading the first poem I thought, my god, this is stunning. And after every other poem I thought the same thing. They were far too wonderful to be translations.

At first I said to myself, hell, these must be translated by Nabokov. But I quickly decided, no, that's awful -- as if Nabokov were the only person capable of translating Russian literature! Surely there are other translators with this kind of talent. There's no reason to imagine Nabokov is the only one.

But I flipped back to the front of the book where the translators are credited, and sure enough -- Nabokov.

God damn you, Nabokov.

Anyway, I notice that almost none of these translations seem to exist online, so I'm posting a few of them (a bit early for April Poetry Month, but whatever). Some of you, no doubt, have read these in Russian, and I have no idea how the translations actually compare to Tyutchev's originals, or whether Nabokov took preposterous liberties in order to make them work so well in English, but I'm impressed either way.


The storm withdrew, but Thor had found his oak,
and there it lay magnificently slain,
and from its limbs a remnant of blue smoke
spread to bright trees repainted by the rain --

-- while thrush and oriole made haste to mend
their broken melodies throughout the grove,
upon the crests of which was propped the end
of a virescent rainbow edged with mauve.

The Abyss

When sacred Night sweeps heavenward, she takes
the glad, the winsome day, and folding it,
rolls up its golden carpet that had been
spread over an abysmal pit.
Gone visionlike is the external world,
and man, a homeless orphan, has to face
in utter helplessness, naked, alone
the blackness of immeasurable space.

Upon himself he has to lean; with mind
abolished, thought unfathered, in the dim
depths of his soul he sinks, for nothing comes
from outside to support or limit him.
All life and brightness seem an ancient dream --
while in the very substance of the night
unraveled, alien, he now perceives
a fateful something that is his by right.


Speak not, lie hidden, and conceal
the way you dream, the things you feel.
Deep in your spirit let them rise
akin to stars in crystal skies
that set before the night is blurred:
delight in them and speak no word.

How can a heart expression find?
How should another know your mind?
Will he discern what quickens you?
A thought once uttered is untrue.
Dimmed is the fountainhead when stirred:
drink at the source and speak no word.

Live in your inner self alone
within your soul a world has grown,
the magic of veiled thoughts that might
be blinded by the outer light,
drowned in the noise of day, unheard...
take in their song and speak no word.

Last Love

Love at the closing of our days
is apprehensive and very tender.
Glow brighter, brighter, farewell rays
of one last love in its evening splendor.

Blue shade takes half the world away:
through western clouds alone some light is slanted.
O tarry, O tarry, declining day,
enchantment, let me stay enchanted.

The blood runs thinner, yet the heart
remains as ever deep and tender.
O last belated love, thou art
a blend of joy and of hopeless surrender.

I need to find some Nabokov translations of Pushkin so that I'll stop thinking Tyutchev was a better poet. :/ The Pushkin poems in the book are nowhere near this good.

Unrelatedly, tomorrow there's an open lecture on Oscar Wilde in the Lang & Lit building. I may try to go, since I don't have classes. It's at 3:15, in room 316, on 3/17, which should be easy enough to remember...
Tags: fyodor tyutchev, poetry, russian, vladimir nabokov
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