Arion: Pushkin Songs, disc 2
Nikolay Dorozhkin, Sergey Chechyotko
Alexander Feht © 2009
We numbered many in the skiff:
Some spread the sails,
The others pulled, together,
Their mighty oars into the deep. Serenely
Bent over the tiller, our clever helmsman
Steered his burdened boat through the still air;
And I, charged with a carefree trust,
I sang to rowers… Suddenly the lap of waves
Stirred up, swooped by a roaring gust…
All perished, all – helmsman and sailor!
I alone, the mysterious singer
Disgorged upon a shore by storm,
I sing the anthems of the past,
Drying my sodden robe
In the sun at the foot of a cliff.
2. IT'S TIME, MY FRIEND!
It's time, my friend, it's time! Need to set heart at rest –
Days fly after days, and every moment steals
A little bit of being, while we two, together,
Assume we shall live on… but lo! our end is nigh.
There is no happiness; there are, though, comfort, freedom.
Since long ago I dream of envious fate –
Since long ago, a weary slave, I plan a bold escape
To a distant shrine of labors and innocent joys.
3. SILENT KNIGHT
There was once a simple knight,
Taciturn and austere,
Grim and pale by sight,
Courageous and candid in spirit.
He had a vision,
An inconceivable one –
It entrenched itself
Deep within his heart.
Ever since, burnt to the roots of his being,
He never noticed women,
And even to the edge of doom
Did not bestow a single word upon a female.
Instead of a scarf, he suspended
A string of beads from his neck,
And never, in the face of anyone,
Raised his steel vizard.
Overwhelmed with the pure love,
Faithful to his sweetest dream,
"Ave, Mater Dei!" he inscribed
In blood on his shield.
In the deserts of Palestine,
While other paladins
Raced over the rocks into the battle,
Loudly proclaiming names of their ladies,
"Lumen coelum, sancta rosa!"
He cried, wild and zealous –
And, as if his threat were a thunder,
Upon return to his remote castle,
He lived in strict confinement;
Always silent, always inconsolate,
He died like a madman.
In a sere and barren wilderness,
On a soil aglow with midday heat,
Anchar, a dreadful sentinel,
Stands, lone in the whole Universe.
The nature of the thirsting steppes
Begat it on a day of wrath,
And steeped its deadly green of branches
And roots in venom.
That venom seeps through its bark,
Melting in the blaze of noon,
And stiffening toward the night
Into a thick transparent resin.
To it no bird would fly
Or tiger come; only the murky whirlwind
Runs up upon the tree of death –
And rushes forth, already pestilent.
And if an errant cloud bedews
The thicket of its leafage,
Then from its twigs, now virulent,
Drips rain into the blazing sand.
But man was sent by man
To Anchar with imperious glance,
And obediently sped on his way,
And came back with the venom by the morning.
He brought the deadly pitch
And a branch with withered leaves,
And sweat upon his pallid brow
Coursed down in chilly streams.
Brought it – and limpened, and lay down
Beneath the vaulted tent upon the rushes,
And died, miserable slave, at the feet
Of the invincible ruler.
As for the prince, he battened with this venom
His sequacious arrows,
And with them sent calamity abroad
On neighbors, into the foreign lands.
5. BACCHIC SONG
Why did the din of gaiety fall silent?
Resound, bacchanalian refrains!
A toast to tender maids
And youthful wives who loved us!
Pour fuller glass, pour to the brim!
Against the clinking bottom
Into the rich wine
Cast your sacramental rings!
Let's raise our glasses, let's move them together!
Long live the Muses, long live the Reason!
Shine brighter, sacred Sun!
As this icon-lamp pales
Before the clear rise of the dawn,
Thus hollow wisdom flickers and fades
Before the immortal sun of the mind.
Long live the Sun, let darkness disappear!
6. IF ONLY I COULD BELIEVE…
If only I could believe, like a child,
Supporting myself with a hope that some time, some day,
My soul would escape decomposition by transmitting eternal thoughts,
And memories, and love, into the abysses of infinity –
I swear! – long ago I would abandon this world,
I would crush that ugly idol, everyday existence,
And fly into the realm of freedom and pleasures,
Into that realm where there is neither decay nor prejudice,
Where thought, and thought alone, soars awash in a purity of skies…
But these delusional dreams are futile:
My mind is stubborn, it despises false hopes…
There is nothingness, waiting for me beyond the grave.
What, nothing? No thought? Not even the first of loves?
I am terrified! And ruefully, again, I look at my condition,
And hope to live quite long – so that the dearest visage
Would hide and burn within my cheerless soul…
In those past days when all impressions
Of the existence were still new to me -
The women's side-glances, the rustle of a grove,
And late at night the song of a nightingale -
When those sublime passions
Of freedom, glory, and love,
Together with the inspired arts,
Excited forcefully my blood,
Like a sudden shadow of angst
Amidst the hours of hopes and pleasures,
Some evil genius began
To visit me in secret.
Our meetings were quite joyless:
His smile, his weird gaze,
His stinging talk infused
Cold venom into my soul.
He tempted the providence
With an inexhaustible malediction,
He called the beauty just a dream,
He disdained the inspiration,
He won't believe in love or freedom,
Looked mockingly at life itself,
And won't bless a single thing
In the whole universe.
8. THE DAY-STAR IS GONE
The day-star is gone.
Evening mist covers the dark blue ocean...
Roar, roar you obedient sails,
Make waves beneath me, you hostile sea!
...I see the shore afar,
The enchanted land of noon,
I aspire to it with thrill and pain,
Soaked with memories.
And I feel tears born again in my eyes,
My soul boils then faints -
A familiar dream flies around me -
I remember now the wild love of my past
And all that hurt me, and all that consoled...
All the contradictory deceit of desires and hopes.
Roar, roar you obedient sails,
Make waves beneath me, you hostile sea!
Fly forward ship! Bear me to the farthest rim:
Ruled by caprices of the treacherous seas
Bear me anywhere -
- Not to the dolorous shores
Of my misty fatherland only.
9. A WEARY WANDERER LAMENTED …
A weary wanderer lamented Allah's will:
He thirsted, he longed for shade.
Three days, three nights he straggled in the desert,
Burdened by heat, eaten away by dust,
Looking around with hopeless angor –
But suddenly he noticed a well under a palm.
A wanderer ran toward this desert palm,
And greedily he gulped from the cool spurt,
Quenching his burning tongue, clearing his burning eyes…
And there he lay down, and slept near his faithful jennet.
And many years passed over the wanderer:
Thy will be done, oh Ruler of the Universe!
The hour of awakening came – the sleeper
Gets on his feet and hears the mysterious Voice:
"How long ago you fell asleep in desert?"
The wanderer replied: "I reckon, yesterday
The Sun was shining high there in the morning sky;
I slept profoundly from one noon to another."
Replies the Voice: "Oh wanderer, you slept much longer.
Look! You lay down a youngster, an elder you arose!
That palm decayed away, and this cool well
Dried out in a water-ridden desert,
Long since choked up by drifting sands,
And these white bones – these were your jennet."
Despaired, horrified, instantly old,
The wailing wanderer drooped his trembling head…
But something happened there in the desert: a miracle.
The past revived anew in all its beauty,
Again the palm is vacillating its shady frondage,
Again the well is flowing in misty coolness.
Decrepit bones of jennet – here they rise,
They build up body, bell and trumpet;
The wanderer feels strength and happiness,
The resurrected youth is sparkling in his blood;
His chest replete with solemn raptures,
With Allah's help he resumes his journey.
10. OH, NOT IN VAIN I SAW YOU IN MY DREAMS…
Oh, not in vain I saw you in my dreams,
In battle, with shaven heads,
With bloodied swords,
In moats, and on the tower, and on the wall!
Hark, hark the joyous call,
Ye children of the flaming deserts!
Enslave young concubines,
Plunder and share the spoils!
You won: yours is the glory,
The pusillanimous be ridiculed!
They wouldn't follow the call of battle,
They wouldn't believe in miraculous dreams.
Seduced by the combatants' loot,
Full of regrets belated,
They say: "Take us along!"
You tell them, brethren: "No, we won't."
Blessed are those who fell in battle!
For now they have entered Eden
And drown themselves in pleasures
Never to be engloomed!