Wednesday, August 15, 2012


7 poems, translated or retranslated by Lara Biyuts

The Butterfly
by Afanasy Fet (1820-1892)

You’re right. An outline of Air
I am so sweet.
My velvet with its living blinking --
only two wings.
Don’t ask me whence, what brought me,
where I speed.
I light the flower down, here,
and now I breathe.
How long, so aimless, so effortless,
I want to breathe?
That’s it now, flashing, raising wings

I fly away.                   

Godsby Henri de Regnier (1864-1936)

I dreamt gods talked with me:
one god--streams- and seaweeds-clad;
one more--with vines and ears of wheat;
one more--winged, inaccessible
and beautiful in his nude;
and one more--with covered face;
and one more--he who plucks omegas and pansies, singing,
and two snakes enwind his gold thyrsus;
and others…
And then I said: here are flutes and baskets--taste my fruits,
listen to humming of bees and the humble rustle of willows and reeds.
And also I said: Listen, listen--
there is someone who speaks by echo’s mouth,
who is lonely amidst the world’s life,
who holds the double bow and torch,
he who is so inconceivably we…
O sacred face! I coined you as medallions
of silver, soft as autumn dawn,
of gold, hot as the sun,
of copper, gloomy as night,
of all the metals that sound clear as joy,
that sound fatal as glory, love or doom;
but the best medallions I’ve made of clay.
Smiling you will count them one by one,
and say, They are skillfully made; and smiling you’ll pass by.
So, no one of you saw my hands tremble from tenderness,
and the world’s great dream lives in me to come to life in them.
No one of you realizes that I’ve coined my gods of good metals,
that they are a face of all sacred, what we feel
in the forests, grass, sea, winds and roses,
in all phenomena, and in our body,
and that they are divinely we.

Mystical Evening Twilight
by Paul Verlaine

Memory and Evening Twilight
redden and tremble at the glowing skyline
of expectations in flames that retire
and thus enlarge, of which partition
mysterious or repeated bloom
--dahlia, lily, tulip, banewort--
climb around the trellis, and circle
amidst the morbific exhalations
of warm and disturbing perfumes, which is poison
--dahlia, lily, tulip, banewort--
flooding my senses, my soul and my reason,
they mix, into immense languor,
Memory and Evening Twilight.

Artist by Ivan Bunin

Pebbles rustling underfoot. Through the slopping garden,
he walks, glances round the basins
and subsides on a bench… Behind the new white house
the Yayla mountain range so close and heavy.
Heat-wearied, looking crayon-drawn,
the crane is standing in the bush, tail down,
a cane-like leg… He says, “What, Bird?
It’s nice at Volga now! At Yaroslavl!” Smiling,
he begins thinking of his own funeral,
how they will carry his coffin outdoors, how gray
the vests will be in the hot sunrays,
how yellow light, how white the house against the blue.
“From the porch, a fat old priest goes downstairs.
The choir follows him… Frightened and clicking,
the crane takes wing off the old fence and dances,
and with its beak it knocks on the coffin.”
A tickling in his breast. Dust rushes from the highway,
hot and especially dry.
He takes off his pince-nez and thinks while coughing,

“Yes, vaudeville… and all the rest is guille.”

La Lune Blanche
by Paul Verlaine

The white moon
shines in the woods;
from each bough
comes a voice
under the branch…
Oh, beloved.

The pond reflects,
deep mirror,
the silhouette
of the black willow
where the wind cries…
Let’s dream, now is the hour.

A vast and tender
seems to descend
from the firmament
as an iridescent orb...
It’s the exquisite hour.

To Myself, by Leopardi

And so, you’ll quiet down for ever,
o my poor, tired heart.
The deception’s perished--final, ultimate,
which I reckoned immortal within me.
I feel that not only the hope
of the dear deceptions has died,
but the desire for them has gone out.
Calm down, for ever. You thrilled enough.
There is nothing worthy of your
pulsing, and the earth is not worthy of the sighs.
Our life is melancholy and bitterness, no more;
the world is dirtiness. Quiet down and stop.
Despair for the final time. Fate doesn’t give us
other gift than dying.
From now on, despise itself,
the nature,
the insulting strength
that covertly bosses the show
of the universal vice,
despise the futility
of it all.

from the Epigrams by Marcus Valerius Martialis

“King of the birds, tell me whom you are carrying?”            
“The Thunderer.”
“Why he has not thunderbolts in his right hand?”                             
“He’s in love.”
“Whose fire did smite him?”                                                             
“A child’s one.”
“Why are you looking at god, your beak is half-open?”
“I’m whispering of Ganymede.”

* * * 

some of the poems are published as a part of my collected notes and essays The Sunless Parlour. Notes, stories and translations by author of the novels Forever Jocelyn and La Arme Blanche. Oscar Wilde, Tolstoy, Kuzmin, Clodt, Henri de Regnier, Verlaine, Chekhov, Stéphane Mallarmé, poetry, humor. “…in a sunless parlour where an old clock ticked in the shadows and a cat slept by the empty grate.” (Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited)

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