Also in Poetry:

Marina Tsvetaeva
Marina Tsvetaeva

                   Translations by Nina Kossman

* * *

Нежно-нежно, тонко-тонко
Что-то свистнуло в сосне.
Черноглазого ребенка
Я увидела во сне.

Так у сосенки у красной
Каплет жаркая смола.
Так в ночи моей прекрасной
Ходит по сердцу пила.

8 августа 1916


Sweetly-sweetly, thinly-thinly
Something whistled in the pine.
In my dream I saw a baby
With midnight-colored eyes.

Still, hot resin keeps dripping
From the little pretty pine.
Sawed apart, my heart is ripping
In this splendid night all mine.

8 августа 1916



Стакан воды во время жажды жгучей:
— Дай — или я умру! —
Настойчиво — расслабленно — певуче —
Как жалоба в жару —

Все повторяю я — и все жесточе
Снова — опять —
Как в темноте, когда так страшно хочешь
Спать — и не можешь спать.

Как будто мало по лугам снотворной
Травы от всяческих тревог!
Настойчиво — бессмысленно — повторно —
Как детства первый слог…

Так с каждым мигом все неповторимей
К горлу — ремнем…
И если здесь — всего — земное имя, —
Дело не в нем.

(Между 16 и 25 июня 1920)



When parched with thirst, give me water,
One glass, or else I’ll die.
I pledge my feverish cry

Repeated at length—yet still more fiercely,
Once more—again–
Tossing all night long for sleep,
Aware all sleep is spent.

As if the fields were not abounding
In herbs that grant relief.
An infant’s babbled repeats…

Thus, each utterance more final:
Noose—at the neck joint…
And if it’s only an earthly name –
That’s not the point.

June 16-25, 1920



Сколько их, сколько их ест из рук,
Белых и сизых!
Целые царства воркуют вкруг
Уст твоих, Низость!

Не переводится смертный пот
В золоте кубка.
И полководец гривастый льнет
Белой голубкой.

Каждое облако в час дурной —
Грудью круглится.
В каждом цветке неповинном — твой
Лик, Дьяволица!

Бренная пена, морская соль…
В пене и в муке —
Повиноваться тебе доколь,
Камень безрукий?

23 октября 1921



How many of them feed off your hands,
White doves and gray doves!
Entire kingdoms coo and dance
Round your lips, Baseness!

Still, the deadly sweat overflows
Your golden bowl.
Even the crested warrior clings
Like a white she-dove.

On an evil day each cloud
Grows as round as breasts.
Every innocent flower
Bears your face, Temptress!

Mortal whitewater, salt of the sea…
In whitewater and torture,
How long are we to heed your call
O armless sculpture?

October 23, 1921


* * *

От гнева в печени, мечты во лбу,
Богиня верности, храни рабу.

Чугунным ободом скрепи ей грудь,
Богиня Верности, покровом будь.

Всё сладколичие сними с куста,
Косноязычием скрепи уста…

Запечатлённее кости в гробу,
Богиня Верности, храни рабу!

Дабы без устали шумел станок,
Да будет уст её закон — замок.

Дабы могильного поверх горба:
«Единой Верности была раба!»

На раздорожии, ребром к столбу,
Богиня Верности — распни рабу!

11 октября 1921


From the mind’s dreams, from the bile’s rage,
Goddess of Faithfulness, keep your slave.

With cast-iron hoops bind tight her breast,
Goddess of Faithfulness, be her nest.

Remove from the shrub all flowers and pips,
Make her mouth numb, then seal her lips.

As safe as bone encased in a grave,
Goddess of Faithfulness, keep your slave.

To keep your loom humming without a stop,
Her lips must learn the law of the lock.

Her ribs to the post, with your sharpest stave,
Goddess of Faithfulness, now stab your slave!

October 11, 1921


* * *

Это пеплы сокровищ:
Утрат, обид.
Это пеплы, пред коими
В прах — гранит.

Голубь голый и светлый,
Не живущий четой.
Соломоновы пеплы
Над великой тщетой.

Беззакатного времени
Грозный мел.
Значит Бог в мои двери —
Раз дом сгорел!

Не удушенный в хламе,
Снам и дням господин,
Как отвесное пламя
Дух — из ранних седин!

И не вы меня предали,
Годы, в тыл!
Эта седость — победа
Бессмертных сил.

27 сентября 1922


These are ashes of treasures,
Of pain and loss.
Faced with such ashes,
Granite turns to dust.

A dove, naked and taintless,
Alive, yet matchless.
These are Solomon’s ashes
Above the great vanity.

The menacing chalk mark
Of the dawnless age.
God’s at my doorstep
If my house is burned.

Unsmothered by rubbish,
Lord of dreams and of days,
My spirit—like fire–
Out of my gray hair flies!

My years, you did not betray
Me into backing down.
This gray hair is the victory
Of immortal powers.

September 27, 1922


These translations were first published in In the Inmost Hour of the Soul: Selected Poems of Marina Tsvetayeva, translated by Nina Kossman (Humana Press, 1989). A few of them were later reprinted in Poem of the End (Ardis, 1998/ Overlook, 2004) and “Other Shepherds” (Poets & Traitors Press, 2020).


To see English versions by Mary Jane White on the other side, click on the red arrow on the top.


About the Author:

Marina Tsvetaeva
Marina Tsvetaeva
Moscow, Berlin, Paris, Všenory, Yelabuga

Marina Tsvetaeva (Tsvetayeva) was one of the greatest Russian poets of the 20th century.

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