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Lyrics translations

The Sun of the Spirit

The Sun of the Spirit


translated by: Richard McKane
source: N.Gumilev. 1999. The pillar of fire and selected poems

I am a parrot from the Antilles islands
but I live in the square cell of a magician.
All around — retorts, globes, paper,
the old man coughing, and the ticking of the clock.

In the hours of incantations, in the whirl of voices
and in the sparkleof eyes, flashing like a sword,
let terror and bravery make my wingsbristle,
and I fight with the ghosts of owls...

Let it be. But when the debaucher in the gilded cloak
enters under this gloomy vault
to tell fortunes from cards or about his love —

I dream of a ship in the quiet of the bay,
I remember the sun... and in vain
I yearn to forget that the secret is ugly.

I saw a Dream

translated by: Brighid Rhaynn

I'm dreaming that both of us dead.
We're lying — so peaceful for ever.
Two white heavy coffins of lead
Put down together.

And when did we say that «enough»?
What for then and what means the trying?
But strange that's not aching my heart,
My heart is not crying.

The powerless feelings so morbid,
The motionless thoughts so unearthly.
And lips of yours are not enthralling
Though ever so perfect.

It happened and both of us dead.
We're lying — so peaceful for ever.
Two white heavy coffins of lead
Put down together.

Reader of Books

translated by: Yevgeny Bonver
Poetry Lovers' Page

My dear friend, and I have tried to find
My paradise in serfdom of a soul,
I liked them all – the odd ways of a mind
Without hopes, or memories, or goals.

Promptly to glide along the brooks of lines,
To enter into straits of chapters, slow,
To watch a foam on the flows’ spines,
And listen to a tide’s increasing roar!

But at the night, oh, how fast they gloom –
The shades behind the images and drawers,
The pendulum, immobile, like the moon,
That o’er the glimm’ring quagmire hovers!


translated by: Yevgeny Bonver
Poetry Lovers' Page

Why did you come, my thoughts, in instant,
Like thieves to rob my quiet habitation,
Like vultures, gloomy and malignant,
With thirst for dread retaliation.

My hopes are gone, and ran away my visions,
My eyes were opened by fierce agitation,
And, in the sacred books of new religions,
I read my words, my deals and plans for future actions.

For that, that I with looks so calm and quiet,
Watched them who sailed to victory and glory,
That with my lips I touched the lips in fire,
Which did not have the former sinning story,

That those hands of mine, my own fingers,
Didn’t know a plough, were so thin and pliant,
And that my songs, the rambling meistersingers,
Could only sing, while making a sad sound,

For all this now came repudiation.
Blind men will smash the gentle, deceptive temple,
And thoughts will come into my habitation,
And strangle me, like thieves – a shabby tramper.

Spring Woods (Marquis de Karabas)

translated by: Richard McKane
source: N.Gumilev. 1999. The pillar of fire and selected poems

The forest in spring is full of song and light,
the fields are black and joyful.
Today for the first time I came across
a crane behind the old hayrick.

I look at the thawing mass,
at the sparkle of pink sunsets,
and my clever cat catches fish
and lures birds into the net.

He knows the tracks of ferret and hare,
the slits that lead through the reeds to the river
and the magpie eggs that are so tasty,
baked in the sand.

When the woods call down the darkness,
the mist drops drops of dew
and I am dozing, the cat purrs,
pushing its wet nose into my hand:

'It's my pleasure to serve you. For you
I will boldly challenge the world,
for you are the Marquis de Karabas,
the descendant of the most ancient races,
the most distinguished of all the Marquises.

The wild animals in the forest, the pines on the mountains,
rich in gold and copper,
the expanse of yellowing wheat fields,
the fish in the depth of lakes,
belong to you as your inheritance.

Why do you sleep in a hole,
always the capricious child,
why don't you live at court
and eat and drink off silver
among the parrots and the lap-dogs?'

My good cat, my clever cat
stifles a sad sigh,
and scratches at fleas angrily
with the claws of his white paw.

In the morning I'm out again under the willow
(I feel so secure by its roots)
and with an absent-minded, lazy hand
throw stones into the smoky pond.

How heavy they are and accurate,
and how they skim over the water!
... And in each blade of grass, in each twig
I meet my inheritance.

The Sun of the Spirit

translated by: B. Raffel & A. Burago
source: Selected Works of Nikolai S. Gumilev, 1972

How could we walk in peace, before,
expecting no joy, no disaster,
not dreaming of battles, of flaming retreats,
or the roaring trumpet of victory ?

How could we—but it's not too late,
the sun of the spirit bends down to us—
soothing, threatening, it pours
across our skies.

And our spirit flowers like a May rose,
tearing darkness apart like fire;
knowing nothing, blind, the body

Out on the wild, beautiful plains,
in the quiet holiness of the deep forest,
the soul knows no torment
nor the will any difficulty.

It will be autumn, soon: I feel it.
The sun's work will be done
and people will pick golden fruit
from the tree of the spirit.

© 2011 Little Tragedies