The other day I posted about Tsvetaeva’s poem «Отмыкала ларец железный…» [I unlocked the iron casket]; I’ve just come to one she wrote a couple of months later, «На крыльцо выхожу — слушаю…», that uses so much of the same imagery I can’t resist posting a rough translation so anyone interested can compare and contrast:
I go out onto the porch — I listen,
I tell fortunes on lead — I weep.
The nights: stifling,
Lights in the distance, a Cossack village.
And it’s bad at noon too — the suburb:
The droshky rattles along the road,
A pauper begs a penny,
And children chase a cat,
And grasshoppers in the grass — hop.
In a black shawl, with a large rose
On my breast, — as the evening falls,
With a red-curled, rosy,
Very merry trickster
I’ll have very — sweet — speech.
Don’t load me with gifts of silver,
With large maternal pearls,
A little ring from a little finger.
I want a costlier present:
Over the village — a glow!
The porch, the cat, the big pearl, the little ring… there’s something going on here, but damned if I know what it is. (As for “And grasshoppers in the grass — hop,” the Russian word for ‘grasshopper’ has nothing to do with grass or hopping, but that’s what the original says — ‘the grasshoppers in the grass — leap/spring/bound’ — so how could I resist? I think Tsvetaeva would have liked it.) And of course if I’ve misunderstood any of the Russian, please let me know.