Via wood s lot, where Tsvetaeva is featured in yesterday’s post, I discovered this superb version of an untitled 1914 poem of hers, translated from the Russian by Ekaterina Rogalsky:
I do not think, or argue, or complain.
I long for neither sun, nor moon, nor sea.
I do not feel the heat amidst these walls,
Nor garden’s green,
Nor do I long for your desired gift,
Neither the morning gladdens nor the trolley’s
I live, forgetting date and age
And daylight sun.
I am – a dancer on a tightrope slashed
I am – a shadow’s shadow: lunatic
Of two dark moons.
You can see the original Russian, along with another Tsvetaeva poem (whose translation I don’t think is quite as successful), here, where you’ll also find a description of the poet beginning:
Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941) is considered to be one of the most original 20th Century Russian poets. Her extremely eccentric personality and difficult character found release in her poetry writing. Tsvetaeva’s perfect control of language is one of the key elements of her poetry, as are the striking images her short, full-throated poems practically overflow with. […] But it is the rhythm and cadence of Tsvetaeva’s language that makes her poetry truly unique – changing pace and musicality to match her images and her meaning, Tsvetaeva’s fluid, “ring-singing” lines reflect the depth, accuracy and emotional capacity of the Russian language, which presents quite a challenge for translation, as the meaning of her poetry is intertwined with its musicality to form a single organism, which is lost to the reader when one of these components is left out.
It took me much longer to appreciate Tsvetaeva than the other poets of her generation, and I’ve rarely seen a translation that begins to capture her in English — they usually betray either sound or sense — so I wanted to pass along this one and congratulate Rogalsky, who (according to the bio on that page) was born in Moscow and has lived in America since the age of six.