Category Archives: Ilya Glazunov

An Unknown Lady – Alexander Blok, Ilya Glazunov and Alec Vagapov

 

An Unknown Lady (Ilya Glazunov)

You could already have read my translation of Blok’s famous poem, Night, a Streetlight, a Street, a Chemist’s. Today I want to acquaint you with translation of another celebrated poem, An Unknown Lady by  Alexander Blok. A basic translation under the title “An Unknown Woman” is quite well-known on the web. What makes me particularly happy and proud to present to you a different translation is that it has been done by a Russian Professor of Linguistics who lives and teaches in the city of Pskov. The basic translation not merely pales in comparison, it makes one wonder how on Earth other translators didn’t attempt to render the work in a poetic form.

This translation of An Unknown Lady by Alexander Blok by Alec Vagapov (who specialises in translating Russian poetry into English) is accompanied by an eponymous painting by Ilya Glazunov. The fact that it was painted in 1980 makes it even more beautiful in my eyes. We are told that critics consider Glazunov’s illustrations to Blok’s Verses about the Beautiful Lady to be the overall finest illustrations of Blok’s work.

The heated air in the restaurants
Is  wild and dull as anything,
The drunken  hails are ruled by restless
And noxious spirit of the spring.  

Far off, beyond the dusty alley
Over the boring country side
There is a bakeshop, and the valley
Resounds with crying of a child.  

And every night, beyond the barriers,
Parading, cocking their hats,
Amidst the ditches the admirers
Perambulate with dear hearts.   

Above the lake the creak of ore-lock
And women"s screams impale the place,
And in the sky, the moon disk warlock,
Inanely smiling, makes a face.  

And every night, my friend appears
As  a reflection in my glass,
Like me, he"s stunned  and  set at ease
By magic liquid, drunk en mass.
 
The footmen, true to their habits,
Relax at tables next to us,
And drunkards, staring like rabbits,
Exclaim: In vino veritas!  

And every evening at this hour
(or is it just a dreamy case?)
A waist in satin, like a flower,
Moves past the window in the haze.  

Without drunken men to hinder,
Alone, she walks across the room
And settles down by the window
Exhaling fog and sweet perfume. 
 
There is a kind of old times flavour
About her silky clothes and things:
Her hat, in mourning plumes as ever,
Her hand and fingers, all in rings.  

I feel her close (a strange emotion),
And looking through the veil, I see
The  vast of an amazing ocean,
The coast of an amazing sea.
  
I am informed of inmost secrets,
Somebody"s sun is now all mine,
My  body, heart and soul, in sequence,
Have all been pierced by the wine.  

The  ostrich plumes, desired and welcome,
Are gently swaying in my mind,
And  dark  blue eyes, as deep as welkin,
Are blooming  on the distant side.  

Deep in my soul I have some riches
And I"m the one who has the key!
You"re right, you heady monstrous creature!
In vino veritas, I see.   

April 24th, 1906

Translated by Alec Vagapov