Here We Live
Here we live in ancient chambers
By the water strings.
Here at spring the gladness rambles,
And the river sings.
As the gaiety's first message,
With the first spring gales,
There will pour the blazing azure
In the doors of cells.
And quite full of sacred shudder
Of the years of dreams,
Through the fields we'll gaily ride in
Bless of dazzling beams.
This, in my dream, I have been shown
my country’s terrible distress
and in the tatters of her gown
my soul conceals its nakedness.
I have taken the sorrowful lane
that leads to the churchyard gate
and there, stretched out on a tombstone,
have sung long songs all night—
not knowing to whom they were written,
or in what god I believed
with passionate conviction,
or who was the girl I loved.
Russia, your distances have rocked
a living soul to sleep, and see,
your cradling has not marked
its pristine purity.
I sleep, and in the mystery
behind my sleep she slumbers on.
Even sleeping she amazes me.
I cannot touch her gown.
All on the earth will die...
All on the earth will die — and youth and mother,
Wife will betray you, leave once faithful friend,
But you learn to enjoy the bliss another —
Look in a mirror of the polar land.
Get on your bark, sail to the distant Pole
In walls of ice — and bit by bit forget
How they loved there, perished, fought, gained goal…
Forget your passions’ ever painful set.
And let your soul, tiered all to bear,
Come used to shudder of the slow colds —
Such that it will not crave for something here,
When once from there the dazzling lighting bolts.
Don’t Fear Death
Don't fear death in earthly travels.
Don't fear enemies or friends.
Just listen to the words of prayers,
To pass the facets of the dreads.
Your death will come to you, and never
You shall be, else, a slave of life,
Just waiting for a dawn's favor,
From nights of poverty and strife.
She'll build with you a common law,
One will of the Eternal Reign.
And you are not condemned to slow
And everlasting deadly pain.
About valor, about exploits, about glory
About valor, about exploits, about glory
I forgot on a woeful land
When your face is plainly framed
Before me shone on the table.
But the hour has come and you left home.
I threw the cherished ring into the night.
You gave your destiny to another
And I forgot the beautiful face.
Days flew by, spinning in a cursed swarm ...
Wine and passion tormented my life ...
And I remembered you before the analogue,
And he called you like his youth ...
I called you, but you didn't look back
I shed tears, but you did not descend.
You sadly wrapped yourself in a blue cloak,
You left the house on a damp night.
I don't know where my pride is sheltered
You, dear, you are gentle, found ...
I'm fast asleep, I dream of your blue cloak,
In which you left on a damp night ...
Do not dream of tenderness, of glory,
All is over, youth is over!
Your face in its simple frame
I removed it from the table with my own hand.
The Twelve – XII
On they march with sovereign tread…
‘Who else goes there? Come out! I said
come out!’ It is the wind and the red
flag plunging gaily at their head.
The frozen snow-drift looms in front.
‘Who’s in the drift! Come out! Come here!’
There’s only the homeless mongrel runt
limping wretchedly in the rear…
‘You mangy beast, out of the way
before you taste my bayonet.
Old mongrel world, clear off I say!
I’ll have your hide to sole my boot!
The shivering cur, the mongrel cur
bares his teeth like a hungry wolf,
droops his tail, but does not stir…
‘Hey answer, you there, show yourself.’
‘Who’s that waving the red flag?’
‘Try and see! It’s as dark as the tomb!’
‘Who’s that moving at a jog
trot, keeping to the back-street gloom?’
‘Don’t you worry ~ I’ll catch you yet;
better surrender to me alive!’
‘Come out, comrade, or you’ll regret
it ~ we’ll fire when I’ve counted five!’
Crack ~ crack ~ crack! But only the echo
answers from among the eaves…
The blizzard splits his seams, the snow
laughs wildly up the wirlwind’s sleeve…
Crack ~ crack ~ crack!
Crack ~ crack ~ crack!
… So they march with sovereign tread…
Behind them limps the hungry dog,
and wrapped in wild snow at their head
carrying a blood-red flag ~
soft-footed where the blizzard swirls,
invulnerable where bullets crossed ~
crowned with a crown of snowflake pearls,
a flowery diadem of frost,
ahead of them goes Jesus Christ.
Do You Remember?
In the harbor passive,
Just where green water calmly sleeps,
Set in the column, strong and massive,
Appeared navy's silent ships.
All four were gray. And many questions
Were shortly overwhelming us,
And sailors, very tanned and fashioned,
To shore in solemn silence passed.
The world became luring and broad,
But once, ships started to depart:
The four of them on their road
Dug in the ocean and night.
The sea obtained the former glow,
The lone beacon sadly twinkled
When on the mast, becoming low,
The last of signals lost the link.
Oh, how little we wait from living -
We are the children - I and you,
You see, the heart is happy, seeing
The smallest part of all that new.
A pocket knife brought you a treasure -
The speck of dust from a far land -
And world again becomes a stranger
That by the colored cloud veiled.
The Lady Nobody Knows
Caught by the net of her strange nearness
I lean to look beyond her veil,
and there I see a shining distance
and a shining sea I will never sail.
Now I keep a desperate secret:
a stranger’s star is suddenly mine,
and all the winding turns of my soul
are awash in bitter waves of wine!
She moves, and the sweep of her dark veils
brushes the trembling heart in me;
her blue eyes burn like beacon fires
there on the shore of that shining sea.
Now my soul is a sealed room
whose secret treasure is only mine,
and monstrous! I have finally found
the truth that waits in a glass of wine.
A meaningless dull light about.
You may live twenty-five years more;
All will still be there. No way out.
Will be repeated as before:
The cold rippling of a canal.
The night. The street. Street-lamp. Drugstore.
Een zinloos schijnsel in de mist.
Al leef je nog eens twintig jaren -
Geen uitweg - alles is beslist.
Alles herhaalt zich vroeg of laat:
Rimpels in het kanaal bevroren,
Nacht, apotheek, lantaren, straat
Do not entrust
Do not entrust all roads yours
To the unfaithful, immense crowd:
It'll smash your castle with rough force,
And quench light of your temple, proud.
He's single to bear his hard cross
Whose spirit is unmoved in rightness,
His fire on high hills he burns,
And breaks a curtain of the darkness.
In the evenings, the sultry air above the restaurants
is both wild and torpid,
and drunken vociferations are governed
by the evil spirit of spring.
In the dusty vista of lanes
where reigns the suburban tedium of clapboard villas
the gilt sign of a bakery—a giant pretzel—glimmers,
and children are heard crying.
And every evening, beyond the town barriers,
in a zone of ditches,
wags of long standing, their jaunty derbies askew,
go for walks with their lady friends.
From the lake comes the sound of creaking oar locks
and women are heard squealing,
while overhead, the round moon,
accustomed to everything, blankly mugs.
And every evening my sole companion
is reflected in my wineglass,
as tamed and as stunned as I am
by the same acrid and occult potion.
And nearby, at other tables,
waiters drowsily hover,
and tipplers with the pink eyes of rabbits
shout: In vino veritas!
And every evening, at the appointed hour
(or is it merely a dream of mine?),
the figure of a girl in clinging silks
moves across the misty window.
Slowly she makes her way among the drinkers,
always escortless, alone,
perfume and mists emanating from her,
and takes a seat near the window.
And her taut silks,
her hat with its tenebrous plumes,
her slender bejeweled hand
waft legendary magic.
And with a strange sense of intimacy enchaining me,
I peer beyond her dusky veil
and perceive an enchanted shoreline,
a charmed remoteness.
Dim mysteries are in my keeping,
the orb of somebody’s day has been entrusted to me,
and the tangy wine has penetrated
all the meanders of my soul.
And the drooping ostrich feathers
sway within my brain,
and the dark-blue fathomless eyes
become blossoms on the distant shore.
A treasure lies in my soul,
and I alone have the keeping of its key.
Those drunken brutes are right:
indeed,–there is truth in wine . . .
Translation Vladimir NABOKOV