by Andrey Bely
My fingers slipped out of your hands.
You’re walking away with a frown.
Look how the birch trees have strewn
red leaves with the rain of their blood.
Pale autumn, cold autumn has spread
itself over us, reaching up high.
A barren plain stretching around us
breathes a cloud into clear sky.
Мои пальцы из рук твоих выпали.
Ты уходишь – нахмурила брови.
Посмотри, как березки рассыпали
Листья красные дождиком крови.
Осень бледная, осень холодная,
Распростертая в высях над нами.
С горизонтов равнина бесплодная
Дышит в ясную твердь облаками.
by Alexander Blok
The house next door has yellow windows.
In the evening, in the evening
Its pensive bolts screech in their hinges,
And people to its gates come streaming.
The gates are shut to hold them back,
And on the wall, and on the wall,
Someone unmoving, someone black
Counts people in the silent pall.
From high above, I hear each sound—
He calls out in a brassy tone
For all those gathered in the crowd
To bend their crippled backs again.
They will come in, fan out, and then
Heave fardels on their backs once more,
And in the yellow windows, men
Will laugh: what fools these beggars are.
В соседнем доме окна желты.
По вечерам — по вечерам
Скрипят задумчивые болты,
Подходят люди к воротам.
И глухо заперты ворота,
А на стене — а на стене
Недвижный кто-то, черный кто-то
Людей считает в тишине.
Я слышу всё с моей вершины:
Он медным голосом зовет
Согнуть измученные спины
Внизу собравшийся народ.
Они войдут и разбредутся,
Навалят на спины кули.
И в желтых окнах засмеются,
Что этих нищих провели.
Andrey Bely (1880-1934) was a foremost Russian symbolist poet known equally well for his novel Petersburg and his criticism as for his poetry. Born into the Muscovite intelligentsia, he grew interested in Buddhism and mysticism as a youth, and, studying mathematics and physics at Moscow State University, he tried to find a way to blend them with poetry. He started publishing poetry in 1902, followed by Petersburg, a symbolist depiction of the 1905 revolution, in 1913, almost foretelling the revolution to follow, then turned to criticism of Pushkin and Gogol, publishing a trilogy of memoirs before his death from sun stroke suffered on a trip to the Crimea.
Alexander Blok (1880-1921) is almost universally regarded in Russia as the country’s foremost symbolist poet. He is best known for his cycles of poems dedicated to the “Beauteous Maiden” and for his poem “The Twelve,” which describes the chaos, cold, and tumult of the Russian Revolution. Blok stopped writing poetry in 1918, shortly after the publication of “The Twelve,” explaining to anyone who asked, “All sounds have stopped. Can’t you hear that all sounds have stopped?” He remained an important figure in poetic circles in Saint Petersburg and gave frequent readings, though not of “The Twelve,” and died of endocarditis following years of overwork. Shortly before his death, Blok asked that all copies of “The Twelve” be destroyed, resulting in rumors that he had gone mad, after which he refused food, drink, and medications.
Max Thompson is a 2015 graduate of the University of Arkansas’ MFA program in creative writing and translation and a current Sturgis Fellow at the Maxim Gorky Literary Institute in Moscow, Russia, where he is studying translation and twentieth-century literature. His translations have appeared previously in the Alchemy Journal of Translation, World Literature Today, the Oklahoma Review, and Unsplendid. Thompson’s primary translation interests are in the early twentieth-century poet Sergey Yesenin and the late Soviet Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov, on whose novella Farewell, Gulsary! he is currently at work.