From the Silver Age: Boris Pasternak

My Sister Life

My sister, life, today is overflowing
And smashing herself in spring rain on our coats,
But people with monocles are not amused
And bite, quite politely, like snakes in the oats.

The older ones have their own reasons for this.
But yours is a comical reason, no doubt:
That under the storm, eyes and lawns appear lilac
And mignonette sweetens the wind from the south.

That when, on your journey in May, you’re consulting
The timetable on the Kamyshin line,
The Bible itself is not more exalting.
Your eyes, mesmerized, are to all else blind.

That, setting, the sun has only to highlight
Girls crowding the railway track, as the train slows,
For me to discover it is not my station,
The sun to extend its regrets as it goes.

And splashing a third time, the bell swims behind,
Its sorry ‘not here’ sounding near, farther, far.
The burning night filters in under the blind
And the steppe plunges on from the steps to the star;

Winking out, blinking, but sweetly somewhere
My love, like a mirage, and others all sleep
While, splashing along carriage footboards, the heart
Scatters bright windows across the dark steppe.

Boris Pasternak (1890-1960), tr. by Andrei Navrozov.

Kamyshin: a town in Southern Russia near the Volga River.

My first encounter with Pasternak’s poetry was courtesy ofDoctor Zhivago. The novel was good, but the cycle of poems really had me gobsmacked. (Professor Shimon Markish–thank you!) In reading further, I understood why he won the Nobel in 1958. And was saddened more deeply that he could not enjoy it.

Memory eternal!


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. JW
    Dec 18, 2010 @ 13:00:11

    Is this translation really by Navrozov? In the paperback edition of “Second Nature” from 2003 the translation is very different (“My sister – life – is again out flooding, / Smashed, like spring rain, against what is past, / But people with pendants are subtly pedantic, / Attentively stinging, like snakes in the grass.”). I guess the 1990 hardback edition is the same.

    May I ask where you got this translation from? (you can mail me).

    Thanks for posting it, first & foremost – it is beautiful!


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