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  #1  
Unread 06-28-2022, 06:20 AM
Carl Copeland Carl Copeland is online now
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Default Akhmatova, “I had come to see a poet …”

In December 1913, Akhmatova paid a visit to Alexander Blok to have several books autographed. When they were later returned to her, she found a poem inscribed in one. She sent him these verses in reply, written, as were Blok’s, in four quatrains of blank trochaic tetrameter:


                    For Alexander Blok

I had come to see a poet.
Noon precisely. On a Sunday.
In a still and spacious chamber—
frosty cold beyond the panes.

And a crimson sun suspended
in a shaggy, bluish haze …
How my host, who says so little,
gazes lucidly at me!

He indeed has eyes so striking—
eyes that any would remember—
it seems better to show caution
and not look in them at all.

But our talk won’t be forgotten
or that hazy noon on Sunday
in a gray and lofty building
where the Neva meets the sea.

January 1914


                    Александру Блоку

Я пришла к поэту в гости.
Ровно в полдень. Воскресенье.
Тихо в комнате просторной,
А за окнами мороз.

И малиновое солнце
Над лохматым сизым дымом...
Как хозяин молчаливый
Ясно смотрит на меня!

У него глаза такие,
Что запомнить кажый должен;
Мне же лучше, осторожной,
В них и вовсе не глядеть.

Но запомнится беседа,
Дымный полдень, воскресенье
В доме сером и высоком
У морских ворот Невы.


Literal translation:

                    For Alexander Blok

I came to see a poet.
Exactly at noon. Sunday.
It was quiet in the spacious room,
and it was frosty outside the windows.

And a crimson/raspberry sun
over shaggy, blue-gray haze …
How [my] taciturn host
looks clearly/lucidly at me!

He has such eyes
that anyone should remember [them];
it’s better for me, careful,
not to gaze into them at all.

But the conversation will be remembered
and the hazy noon, Sunday
in a tall, gray building
by the sea gates of the Neva.

Last edited by Carl Copeland; 06-28-2022 at 07:03 AM.
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  #2  
Unread 06-28-2022, 06:29 AM
Carl Copeland Carl Copeland is online now
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“A. Akhmatova and A. Blok,” Lidia Davidenkova, 1991.
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File Type: jpg Akhmatova and Blok.jpg (20.6 KB, 139 views)
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  #3  
Unread 06-28-2022, 07:24 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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This sounds lovely, Carl, and the trochaic meter has a hypnotic effect, which suits the material. You may want to pull back from posting too many translations all at once. Though I don't think it is specified in the rules, one per week is usual on the Translation Board. That is to allow thorough workshopping of one poem before you start workshopping another, and to avoid overwhelming other commenters with a flurry of poems all at once. You are still allowed to post one poem per week on the poetry boards as well.

Susan
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Unread 06-28-2022, 07:50 AM
Carl Copeland Carl Copeland is online now
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Thanks, Susan. I guess I didn’t think the one-a-week rule applied to this out-of-the-way forum. But I won’t bother checking, because you’re right regardless—especially as I’m not even sure I’m done with the previous translation. I’ll limit myself to one a week from now on. It’s only sensible.

Carl
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Unread 07-03-2022, 10:47 AM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Nice one, Carl. I think it works really well. "Raspberry" would be a more interesting word choice for me than "crimson", but a "raspberry sun" might (for British readers, anyway) suggest some derision on the sun's part. And would it be better, if you can manage it, not to repeat "eyes"?

But it still works well. I like it.

Cheers

David
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Unread 07-03-2022, 01:50 PM
Carl Copeland Carl Copeland is online now
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Thanks, David. I’d gladly use “raspberry,” despite the comic effect for you Brits, if only it would fit the line. You’ve got me thinking, though: maybe it’s worth a lone dactyl. I’m a sucker for regularity, but the Sphere is making me bolder. As for “eyes,” I can’t think how to avoid the repetition, and I don’t mind it in any event. BTW, I’ve since translated the Blok poem that Akhmatova was answering and plan to post the two of them together in another week. They don’t have much in common other than their identical form, but they were first published together and deserve to be read that way.

Carl
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Unread 07-03-2022, 03:31 PM
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Rick Mullin Rick Mullin is offline
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Really beautiful.

Have you translated much Brodsky? I'm told that he was a pretty bad translator of his own work into English.


Rick
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Unread 07-03-2022, 04:59 PM
Carl Copeland Carl Copeland is online now
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Thank you, Rick. No, I’ve never translated any Brodsky, though I’m an admirer and would like to. I don’t think I’ve read his translations into English, but the poems he wrote in English are not up to his Russian. Has anyone ever written good poetry in a language they learned in adulthood?

Carl
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Unread 07-04-2022, 02:07 PM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carl Copeland View Post
BTW, I’ve since translated the Blok poem that Akhmatova was answering and plan to post the two of them together in another week. They don’t have much in common other than their identical form, but they were first published together and deserve to be read that way.
Good. I look forward to that.
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Unread 07-04-2022, 03:04 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Carl : Has anyone ever written good poetry in a language they learned in adulthood?

Not T.S. Eliot. Not Samuel Beckett. Not Joseph Conrad. Brodsky may be one of the best, at least in English. It's hard to think of rivals.
Chaucer wrote some in French IIRC, but that he'd have learned from very early. Milton's Latin poems?

Cheers,
John
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