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Nabi Khazri – The Garden of Rocks (from A Japanese Notebook)

Ryōan-ji rock garden (Wikipedia)

Nabi Khazri (Nabi Alekper ogly Babaev) is the national poet of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The poem that I translated into English was rendered into Russian by Anatoly Peredreev. The Garden of Rocks is, obviously, the famous Ryōan-ji.

Sit down, take off your shoes,
Don’t say a word
While in the company
Of sand and white rocks,
And let this boundless silence be the ocean –
Immerse yourself in it.

Stay herewith the clouds most serene,
Don’t say a word
Next to the sand and rocks,
And ages set in stone.
May those rocks be isles in the ocean?
Or may they be the clouds most serene?

Can you not see the glow of days finite?
The moss, as green as everlasting life,
Is sparkling with the emerald of spring.
Meanwhile the wind discusses death and life
With the gently touched by sun sakura tree.

Once, like the wind, you’ll fly away in sorrow
And earthly life that you once here led
Will turn into a particle of this white sand
That now lies in silence between the stones.

You’re going… Wait… Eternity is speaking!
Here the sky, forever so blue,
And silence, and infinity are speaking…
Listen to them – for they all speak to you…

Translation © Julia Shuvalova 2011


Russian text

Наби Хазри – Сад камней (из “Японской тетради”)

Разуйся
И в молчанье посиди
Наедине с песком и белым камнем.
И в тишину
Как в океан войди
И растворись в безбрежном океане.
Побудь
В тишайшем мире облаков
Среди камней,
Среди песка
Без слов…
Побудь
С окаменевшими веками…
Не груда ль
Отвердевших облаков,
Не острова ли в океане –
Камни?..
Не свет ли в них
Погаснувших веков?..
Зеленый мох,
Как жизни знак бессмертный,
Весною изумрудною горит,
И ветер
С веткой сакуры рассветной
О жизни и о смерти говорит…
И ты, как ветер, улетишь,
Печальный,
И век земной,
Что был тобой прожит,
Войдет песчинкой
В тот песок хрустальный,
Что меж камней
В безмолвии лежит…
Уходишь ты…
Постой…
Послушай вечность!
Небесный свод
Нетленно-голубой,
И тишина,
И мира бесконечность
С тобою говорят…
С тобой… С тобой…

Авторизованный перевод с азербайджанского Анатолия Передреева.

Neighbourhood Cam: International Children’s Day Blossoms

June 1st is celebrated as the International Children’s Day. In Russia, we traditionally pay much attention to this festival, as children are believed to be the future.

June 1st is celebrated as the International Children’s Day. In Russia, we traditionally pay much attention to this festival, as children are believed to be the future.

Volunteers in my district today handed out small chocolates to kids and organised an event for all children who were outside at around 4pm. I was sitting in the park reading some Art History books and listening to happy cries and music. On my way back I took some photos of the lavishly blossoming trees.

As for me, in 2016 I organised a special drawing competition among the children in my district. We asked them to illustrate the poems by the famous Soviet poet, Agniya Barto. See the gallery below; it is always touching to see how children see the characters of their favourite poems. Back in 2016, this competition marked both Barto’s 110th anniversary and the International Children’s Day.

Today I look at these images (and I’ve got many more) from a different angle. We must ensure that children, wherever they live, have the right to their basic freedoms. At its heart, the world is not as multifaceted as today’s political agenda proclaims. All children still need two parents of different genders, they need a family, they need access to education and medicine. Above all, they need security and peace to grow and later discover their potential.

More on Russia.

Other posts in Neighbourhood Cam.

Julia Shuvalova – Miracle at Christmas. Part 3

A tale Miracle at Christmas by the Russian Julia Shuvalova inspired by the painting by the American Tom Sierak and set in the British Lake District.

Back in 2019, when we were making The Hammock for the Falling Stars, I wrote two fairy tales. The Welsh one, set in Llandudno and telling about the faeries visiting a tea room, was included in the book. Another one, set in the Lake District, in the town of Bowness-on-Windermere, was a bit too contemporary, so I published it in Russian as a separate book. It is called Miracle at Christmas and tells the story of the fog coming down on the Lakes and “miraculously” going away.

This story was once again inspired by a painting by Tom Sierak. In 2007, I wrote a script for a short video: it was a story about a girl who always stands by the window on Christmas night, waiting for a miracle to happen. And then, 12 years later, this image returned, and this time I wrote a nice fairy tale.

christmas
Tom Sierak, There Really is Santa! (2007)

I can unashamedly state that I absolutely love it! It contains all the magic of a Christmas tale: talking dolls, a grandmother, a non-believing brother, the evil spirits of Lake Windermere who conspire to ruin Christmas, the tine elves who fill rooms with golden magic on Christmas night. And there is a lot of Love and Faith, for without either no miracle can happen.

I see something special in the fact that I wrote this tale ahead of the troublesome 2020. Christmas and New Year holidays are commercialised, and we think about presents more than about less tangible but infinitely more important things. Children boast not believing in Santa Claus or Ded Moroz, but what good does it do to our world if we lose faith? Children do not believe in God, then they lose faith in Santa Claus, and before long they do not trust neither people, nor governments. This is a very sad reality, especially because miracles do happen.

We tend to think that miracle come out of the blue, but as the tale shows, the protagonist, a 9-year-old Linda, still had to do something to make her miracle happen. So, yes: we make our miracles ourselves, by at least having a burning desire, faith, and love.

I translated Part 3 of the tale, in which Linda asks Santa Claus to help raise the fog.

Miracle at Christmas

By Julia Shuvalova. Translated from Russian by the author.

On the morning of the 24th, Sky News, ITV and the BBC all reported that “a very thick fog had descended over the entire North-West of England”. Various weathercasters explained the reasons for this fog, which was not that unusual, but completely unexpected nonetheless. People in Grasmere and Kendal mournfully told reporters they would not be able to go to their families in the Midlands, or even to Manchester and Liverpool, because trains were cancelled and roads were blocked.

Linda heard her grandmother talking to aunt April on the phone. From snatches of conversation she learnt that her parents ‘ arrival was at least delayed. Around four o’clock, unable to stand the uncertainty, she called her mother. Through the constant interference, she understood that her parents would leave the house and head toward the Lake District, but…

As she was leaving the living room and was about to close the door, Linda glanced back. Little elves were filling the space under the Christmas tree with magic.

As she was leaving the living room and was about to close the door, Linda glanced back. Little elves were filling the space under the Christmas tree with magic.

– Linda, my dear girl, I’m sorry, I can’t promise you anything, – her mother said in a sad voice, and Linda’s heart sank. What a fog! Why couldn’t it wait and go down on the 25th! Then parents would have stayed in Windermere and needn’t go to work. And now they will have no Christmas, no gifts, no holiday dinner…

Linda buried her face in the pillow, but quickly got up and ran to her brother, who was watching a TV series.

– Jamie! Let’s write to Santa Claus! He will have the fog to rise, and the parents will come!”

Jamie turned away from the TV and studied his sister.

– Linda, silly girl, even if Santa exists, on December 24, he is flying around the world delivering gifts. Do you think he has the time and strength to clear the fog? And who will deliver this letter to him? – He glanced at his watch. – It’s almost five, and the post office is closed.

The rest of the day dragged on even longer than it usually does on Christmas Eve. No-one wanted to play, tea and cakes tasted no good, and the phone stopped working. Jamie was very excited: he liked the idea that they were completely cut off from the world here in Windermere. “Like on a desert island!” – he exclaimed, peering out of the window into impenetrable fog. Grandma Joyce turned on “Coronation Street” and began knitting. Linda sat on the sofa with her feet up, looking at the Christmas tree that she and her brother had decorated on December 22, and fighting back tears with all her strength.

Despite the stress of the day, sleep did not come to her, so shortly before midnight she dressed and went down to the cold living room, turned on the garland, wrapped herself in a blanket, and climbed into the armchair by the window. Alice the doll sat primly on the windowsill, her sky-blue eyes turned to the night sky.

– Oh, Alice, if you only knew what a dreadful Christmas we are having this year! – Linda said in a low voice and buried her face in the knees. She should have stayed at home with parents.

Suddenly, she felt the room fill with warmth. She raised her head, and sure enough, little folks with transparent oblong wings were fluttering around the room.

– Who are you? – Linda asked in surprise.

– We are the Christmas elves, – she heard a tiny voice say. A little girl with sparkling golden hair hovered in the air just above Linda’s shoulder. – We always fly to people’s homes on Christmas night to fill them with magic! You must have noticed that on the morning of the 25th everything seems different in the entire house, as if gold particles sparkle everywhere. This is our magic! – And she giggled contentedly.

– We won’t have Christmas this year, – Linda said, – because the fog has come down on the Lake District, and my parents won’t come on time.

– Oh, poor thing! – the elf sighed. – But wait, Santa Claus has just started to deliver gifts, if he visits your place, he will definitely help.

– But how will he find us? – Linda exclaimed in despair. – Look at the fog, you can’t see anything!

– Really? – The elf said, unconvinced. – I think Santa travels in all weathers. – And when she saw Linda’s puzzled look, she nodded with conviction: – Definitely so.

Linda turned to the window and stared out into the thick fog. It was a long time before she saw anything. Even the streetlight opposite the house was almost lost in the white haze. But then she noticed that Alice herself had got to her feet and leaned against the window. Following the doll’s gaze, she noticed two lights appear high up in the sky. They did not blink but moved closer, then there became more of them, and soon Linda, throwing away a blanket and jumping off the armchair, was standing at the window – and through the glass she saw a painted wooden sleigh hovering in the air at window level. It was every bit like the one they painted on old postcards, and it was led by the harnessed reindeer flapped their ears. In the sleigh, resting his hand on a large bag with gifts, sat Santa Claus. He was the same age as Grandma Joyce, Linda thought, and he had a long, broad beard, a bushy moustache, and kind eyes behind glasses.

– Hello, dear Alice! – he said, waving a red-gloved hand.

– Hello, dear Santa! Alice replied in a tiny, melodious voice.

– How are my Christmas elves doing preparing your home for the holiday?

– But, of course, – Alice reported. – And all the food has been purchased, Joyce has prepared meat and a pie, and there are still vegetables to cook for dinner. The only thing is…

– What’s the matter? – Santa Claus leaned forward.

– Let Linda tell you all about it, – Alice replied suddenly. – Besides she really wanted to see you.

Santa Claus turned to the girl and looked at her with attention.

– So, Linda, tell me what happened.

Linda blushed: Santa was looking at her so intently and affectionately that for a moment she thought it was wrong to keep him here. After all, the fog will clear sooner or later, except that…

– Dear Santa, we won’t have Christmas, – Linda took a deep breath. – The news says that the roads are blocked because of the fog, and the parents will not get to us. And my aunt and cousin Robert won’t come, either.

– Yes, yes, – Santa Claus nodded, – I know the story. The spirits of Lake Windermere decided to play a joke on the residents this year. My heralds warned me, but I hoped they would have the decency to wait until at least the 26th. I’m sorry, Linda…

– Santa, if I had known better, I would have sent you a letter! – Linda threw up her hands. – But Jamie said the post office was closed, and you were delivering gifts and couldn’t help.

– Jamie thinks I don’t exist, – Santa Claus smiled. – Your brother is growing up too quickly, alas. Of course, you should have written to me and just put the letter in the mailbox. Remember what I wrote to your grandmother? I see you all. I would have known you were asking me to raise the fog, and I would have done something.

– And now, Santa? – Linda was all confused. – Can’t we do anything now?

Santa Claus shrugged.

– Actually, your gifts will still arrive on time, I know that. Maybe it’s not a big deal if you spend Christmas with your grandmother, without your parents?

And here Linda exclaimed excitedly:

– No, Santa, it’s not about our gifts! Don’t you understand?! My father and mother will be left without gifts, I have spent some much time embroidering a cushion for my mother, and I made a beautiful pen case for my father! And I embroidered a pincushion for aunt April! And I bought cousin Robert a book about knights! And Jamie made presents, too! And now we can’t give them! – And her helplessness brought her to tears.

Alice pleaded:

– Please, dear Santa, do something! A long time ago you persuaded the store owner to give me to Joyce. Can’t you get a handle on the spirits of Lake Windermere?

Through the tears on her lashes, Linda could see Santa Claus stroking his beard thoughtfully and adjusting his glasses.

– You’re a good girl, Linda, very much like your grandmother. You know, these spirits are strange creatures, they like to complicate things, but they are not without empathy. I won’t promise anything – I still have to deliver gifts – but I’ll try to do something.

Santa Claus reined in, and the reindeer swayed their antlers and began to move. They rose majestically higher and higher up in the air, and as far as Linda and Alice could see, they were slowly receding into the night. The elf girl sat on Linda’s shoulder and touched the tip of her nose with her wand.

– Linda, it’s time to go to bed! Santa Claus can’t bring gifts if you don’t fall asleep.

– Do you think the fog will clear, Alice? – Linda asked.

Alice settled into her usual position and shrugged.

– Linda, dear, there are things that neither people nor dolls can influence. You did everything you could. Now we can only trust and wait.

As she was leaving the living room and was about to close the door, Linda glanced back. Little elves were filling the space under the Christmas tree with magic.

Jamie! Let’s write to Santa Claus! He will have the fog to rise, and the parents will come!”

Jamie turned away from the TV and studied his sister.

– Linda, silly girl, even if Santa exists, on December 24, he is flying around the world delivering gifts. Do you think he has the time and strength to clear the fog? And who will deliver this letter to him? – He glanced at his watch. – It’s almost five, and the post office is closed.

The rest of the day dragged on even longer than it usually does on Christmas Eve. No-one wanted to play, tea and cakes tasted no good, and the phone stopped working. Jamie was very excited: he liked the idea that they were completely cut off from the world here in Windermere. “Like on a desert island!” – he exclaimed, peering out of the window into impenetrable fog. Grandma Joyce turned on “Coronation Street” and began knitting. Linda sat on the sofa with her feet up, looking at the Christmas tree that she and her brother had decorated on December 22, and fighting back tears with all her strength.

Despite the stress of the day, sleep did not come to her, so shortly before midnight she dressed and went down to the cold living room, turned on the garland, wrapped herself in a blanket, and climbed into the armchair by the window. Alice the doll sat primly on the windowsill, her sky-blue eyes turned to the night sky.

– Oh, Alice, if you only knew what a dreadful Christmas we are having this year! – Linda said in a low voice and buried her face in the knees. She should have stayed at home with parents.

Suddenly, she felt the room fill with warmth. She raised her head, and sure enough, little folks with transparent oblong wings were fluttering around the room.

– Who are you? – Linda asked in surprise.

– We are the Christmas elves, – she heard a tiny voice say. A little girl with sparkling golden hair hovered in the air just above Linda’s shoulder. – We always fly to people’s homes on Christmas night to fill them with magic! You must have noticed that on the morning of the 25th everything seems different in the entire house, as if gold particles sparkle everywhere. This is our magic! – And she giggled contentedly.

– We won’t have Christmas this year, – Linda said, – because the fog has come down on the Lake District, and my parents won’t come on time.

– Oh, poor thing! – the elf sighed. – But wait, Santa Claus has just started to deliver gifts, if he visits your place, he will definitely help.

– But how will he find us? – Linda exclaimed in despair. – Look at the fog, you can’t see anything!

– Really? – The elf said, unconvinced. – I think Santa travels in all weathers. – And when she saw Linda’s puzzled look, she nodded with conviction: – Definitely so.

Linda turned to the window and stared out into the thick fog. It was a long time before she saw anything. Even the streetlight opposite the house was almost lost in the white haze. But then she noticed that Alice herself had got to her feet and leaned against the window. Following the doll’s gaze, she noticed two lights appear high up in the sky. They did not blink but moved closer, then there became more of them, and soon Linda, throwing away a blanket and jumping off the armchair, was standing at the window – and through the glass she saw a painted wooden sleigh hovering in the air at window level. It was every bit like the one they painted on old postcards, and it was led by the harnessed reindeer flapped their ears. In the sleigh, resting his hand on a large bag with gifts, sat Santa Claus. He was the same age as Grandma Joyce, Linda thought, and he had a long, broad beard, a bushy moustache, and kind eyes behind glasses.

– Hello, dear Alice! – he said, waving a red-gloved hand.

– Hello, dear Santa! Alice replied in a tiny, melodious voice.

– How are my Christmas elves doing preparing your home for the holiday?

– But, of course, – Alice reported. – And all the food has been purchased, Joyce has prepared meat and a pie, and there are still vegetables to cook for dinner. The only thing is…

– What’s the matter? – Santa Claus leaned forward.

– Let Linda tell you all about it, – Alice replied suddenly. – Besides she really wanted to see you.

Santa Claus turned to the girl and looked at her with attention.

– So, Linda, tell me what happened.

Linda blushed: Santa was looking at her so intently and affectionately that for a moment she thought it was wrong to keep him here. After all, the fog will clear sooner or later, except that…

– Dear Santa, we won’t have Christmas, – Linda took a deep breath. – The news says that the roads are blocked because of the fog, and the parents will not get to us. And my aunt and cousin Robert won’t come, either.

– Yes, yes, – Santa Claus nodded, – I know the story. The spirits of Lake Windermere decided to play a joke on the residents this year. My heralds warned me, but I hoped they would have the decency to wait until at least the 26th. I’m sorry, Linda…

– Santa, if I had known better, I would have sent you a letter! – Linda threw up her hands. – But Jamie said the post office was closed, and you were delivering gifts and couldn’t help.

– Jamie thinks I don’t exist, – Santa Claus smiled. – Your brother is growing up too quickly, alas. Of course, you should have written to me and just put the letter in the mailbox. Remember what I wrote to your grandmother? I see you all. I would have known you were asking me to raise the fog, and I would have done something.

– And now, Santa? – Linda was all confused. – Can’t we do anything now?

Santa Claus shrugged.

– Actually, your gifts will still arrive on time, I know that. Maybe it’s not a big deal if you spend Christmas with your grandmother, without your parents?

And here Linda exclaimed excitedly:

– No, Santa, it’s not about our gifts! Don’t you understand?! My father and mother will be left without gifts, I have spent some much time embroidering a cushion for my mother, and I made a beautiful pen case for my father! And I embroidered a pincushion for aunt April! And I bought cousin Robert a book about knights! And Jamie made presents, too! And now we can’t give them! – And her helplessness brought her to tears.

Alice pleaded:

– Please, dear Santa, do something! A long time ago you persuaded the store owner to give me to Joyce. Can’t you get a handle on the spirits of Lake Windermere?

Through the tears on her lashes, Linda could see Santa Claus stroking his beard thoughtfully and adjusting his glasses.

– You’re a good girl, Linda, very much like your grandmother. You know, these spirits are strange creatures, they like to complicate things, but they are not without empathy. I won’t promise anything – I still have to deliver gifts – but I’ll try to do something.

Santa Claus reined in, and the reindeer swayed their antlers and began to move. They rose majestically higher and higher up in the air, and as far as Linda and Alice could see, they were slowly receding into the night. The elf girl sat on Linda’s shoulder and touched the tip of her nose with her wand.

– Linda, it’s time to go to bed! Santa Claus can’t bring gifts if you don’t fall asleep.

– Do you think the fog will clear, Alice? – Linda asked.

Alice settled into her usual position and shrugged.

– Linda, dear, there are things that neither people nor dolls can influence. You did everything you could. Now we can only trust and wait.

As she was leaving the living room and was about to close the door, Linda glanced back. Little elves were filling the space under the Christmas tree with magic.

The Russian book is available here and here.

John R.R. Tolkien – Letters from Father Christmas: 1925

A Letter from the year 1925 from a collection Letters from Father Christmas by John R.R. Tolkien. Narrated by Julia Shuvalova

John R.R. Tolkien composed Letters from Father Christmas from 1920 till 1943, which makes 2020 the 100th anniversary of this great book. I’ve already produced several recordings of its Russian translation, and for LCJ I’ve chosen the letter from 1925. However, it was quite difficult to upload the video to the post. In the end, this was the only way to share with you the pressie Mr Nicholas Christmas, Mr J.R.R. Tolkien and I prepared for my readers who celebrate Christmas today. I haven’t got a pet Polar Bear, and there have been no goblins in sight, but I still couldn’t upload the video directly to the site. Thank you, Instagram, for helping out.

Father Christmas hurries to Tolkien’s children in 1920

The letter from the year 1925 from Letters from Father Christmas tells the story of the Polar Bear attempting to rescue the Father Christmas’s hood from the North Pole, only to break the pole which in turn fell on the roof of the house, broke it, the snow fell through the hole and spoilt a lot of children’s presents.

So, please take care, and may God and His blessings be with you.

Yours,

Father Nicholas Christmas and Julia

More posts from 2020 Xmas.

A full text of John R.R. Tolkien’s book.

The Hammock for the Falling Stars

The Hammock for the Falling Stars is book for which 17 female authors wrote over 30 tales that take the reader to four corners of the world

I am very glad to announce a publication of a collection of original fairy tales, inspired by the world folklore, The Hammock for the Falling Stars. The project is at the finishing stage where the authors and all those who are interested are collecting the money to publish the book before Christmas. 17 female authors wrote over 30 tales that take the reader to all the four corners of the world. This hardback edition contains over 100 pages, it is lavishly illustrated and will surely make a superb gift for a Russian-reading child. I have already translated my tale, inspired by Welsh folklore, into English and will look to publish it separately. In the meantime, you can look at the beautiful illustrations to this wonderful, superb edition. If you know of someone who may be interested in this book, please feel free to share the post with them.

the-hammock-for-the-falling-stars
The cover of the book, The Hammock for the Falling Stars (Moscow, 2020)

The Hammock for the Falling Stars can be purchased via this link: https://www.tinkoff.ru/sl/AxyL1HgRWHH. Please write your name and a social network name or email to be contacted for the book to be posted.

A previous announcement.

More posts on Wales.

Reiner Maria Rilke – Verkundigung

Sandro Botticelli – Annunciation

Die Worte des Engels

Du bist nicht näher an Gott als wir;

wir sind ihm alle weit.

Aber wunderbar sind dir

die Hände benedeit.

So reifen sie bei keiner Frau,

so schimmernd aus dem Saum:

ich bin der Tag, ich bin der Tau,

du aber bist der Baum.

Ich bin jetzt matt, mein Weg war weit,

vergieb mir, ich vergaß,

was Er, der groß in Goldgeschmeid

wie in der Sonne saß,

dir künden ließ, du Sinnende,

(verwirrt hat mich der Raum).

Sieh: ich bin das Beginnende,

du aber bist der Baum.

Ich spannte meine Schwingen aus

und wurde seltsam weit;

jetzt überfließt dein kleines Haus

von meinem großen Kleid.

Und dennoch bist du so allein

wie nie und schaust mich kaum;

das macht: ich bin ein Hauch im Hain,

du aber bist der Baum.

Die Engel alle bangen so,

lassen einander los:

noch nie war das Verlangen so,

so ungewiß und groß.

Vielleicht, daß Etwas bald geschieht,

das du im Traum begreifst.

Gegrüßt sei, meine Seele sieht:

du bist bereit und reifst.

Du bist ein großes, hohes Tor,

und aufgehn wirst du bald.

Du, meines Liedes liebstes Ohr,

jetzt fühle ich: mein Wort verlor

sich in dir wie im Wald.

So kam ich und vollendete

dir tausendeinen Traum.

Gott sah mich an; er blendete…

Du aber bist der Baum.

And Once Again about Tichborne’s Elegy

Tichborne’s Elegy a well-known poem by a 28-year-old Tudor guy on the eve of his execution for taking part in conspiracy against Elizabeth I

I have never asked English-speaking readers what or how they felt about Chidiock Tichborne’s Elegy. It is a well-known poem, written by a 28-year-old Tudor guy on the eve of his execution for taking part in the Babington conspiracy against Elizabeth I. It is a tearful meditation on the brevity and fatality of life.

The Translator’s Labour’s Lost

I suspect that it is the poem’s melancholy and romantic feel that has made it so popular among contemporary Russian translators. On the web one can find some 5 or 6 variations, all different. Nothing wrong with this, except one thing: the majority of attempts are based around external (=obvious) characteristics of the poem. Translators have found that “Elegy” consists of monosyllabic, Anglo-Saxon words. This obviously makes the poem very unique, and, because we’re reading a Renaissance poem – and Renaissance is well-known for its fascination with symbols and riddles – the monosyllabic words are (mis)taken for an authorial intent. Tichborne was contemplating the brevity of life, and so he used monosyllabic words to emphasise the point.

There are two problems with such interpretation. First, even when we translate prose, we still miss out on certain symbolic features in the destination text. However good we are as translators, losses are sometimes inevitable. In the end, a written text is a rhetorical exercise, and therefore we still want to entertain the reader with our translation. If it closely follows the original text but is cumbersome and distasteful, then the reader will be tired, annoyed, and not at all pleased. This means that we cannot aim for a complete lexical equivalence in translation, but rather we should aim to translate (i.e. negotiate) something else.

Russian is my native language, which I know in depth, and yet even I would struggle to provide monosyllabic equivalents to all the English monosyllabic words in Tichborne’s Elegy. And even if I did manage to find them all, the result would hardly possess much literary merit because I wouldn’t see the forest for the trees, so to speak.

The second problem with putting too much emphasis on monosyllabic words in Tichborne’s poem is that we’re clearly trying to add to what is already contained in the poem. For some reason we are not satisfied with the fact that “Elegy” is about the fatality and shortness of one’s life, so we think we must find that which would further stress this. Let’s not think about the poem; let’s look at what I’ve just said. “We think we must find that which would further stress this“; “let’s not think about the poem“; “let’s look at what I’ve just said“. Correct me if I’m wrong but the majority of words in those phrases are monosyllabic. Because I am the living and breathing author of those phrases, I certainly declare that I didn’t plan to use monosyllabic words to stress my point. The point is very simple: there are many monosyllabic words in the English language, and a lot of them happened to be used in Tichborne’s “Elegy. Rather than assuming that Tichborne conspired (excuse the pun) to use monosyllabic words in his final poem, one should better look at this as a kind of linguistic peculiarity. It certainly adds to the poem’s feel; but, as far as I am concerned, it cannot be viewed as the poem’s most distinct feature, let alone it cannot dictate how we translate the poem.

As far as the Anglo-Saxon origin of the words goes, again I personally believe we’re walking a useless extra mile in trying to establish the uniqueness of the poem. I think so purely because I am careful of not infusing the poem with my knowledge. This is the biggest disservice I can do to myself as translator and to my readers. The question on these occasions must not be “do I know these words are Anglo-Saxon?” but “did Tichborne know these words were Anglo-Saxon?” I bet the historic origin or the etymology of the words didn’t matter to him in the hours before the execution. Someone may think differently but the question to ask is: would the origin of the words matter to you in Tichborne’s circumstances?

Tichborne’s Elegy Intent

I argued in a short essay in Russian about the complications of translating “Elegy” that it is actually a very easy poem to translate, thanks to the Russian lyrical tradition. Mysticism, melancholy, romantic troubles, forlorn love is what often distinguishes Russian poetry. Tichborne’s “Elegy” could easily be written by a Romanticist poet like Lermontov, should he have found himself in prison awaiting execution. Given Lermontov’s caliber as a poet, his poem would well exceed Tichborne’s in literary merit, but in tone and mood it could be very similar.

Last but not least, the misfortunes of translators who tried to translate “Elegy” have entirely to do with the problem of identifying the context and the intent of the poem. I have already pointed out to the problem of context: we’re placing the poem in the context of the language, whereas we must place it in the context of its own time. The themes of Tichborne’s poem are the brevity of life, fatality, death, and the inevitability of punishment, however unjust and cruel. These very themes were widely discussed not only in contemporary literature, but were explored by painters. In my Russian text I compared the colours of “Elegy” to the palette of Tintoretto’s “Marriage at Cana”: the colours are rich but dim, as if covered by the ‘frost of cares‘. There is a similar kind of melancholy and sadness in Michelangelo’s sonnets, and the whole topic of brevity of life was labeled vanitas in both painting and literature. Seen in this context, Elegy” is a bridge between Renaissance exuberance and lust for life and Baroque melancholy, presented in a rather beautiful and peculiar lyrical form.

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The text of Tichborne’s Elegy

Tichborne’s intent is quite easy to comprehend. It is known that he was practising poetry, so, in addition to writing a letter to his darling wife, what could be a better way to bid farewell to this earthy life? And the poem’s intent has to do with the context in which we should read it. Again, this is not the context of the language, but of the time. Tichborne wasn’t teaching us a lesson in the English language; he wasn’t trying to tell us how many monosyllabic words there were in the English language, let alone how many of them were Anglo-Saxon. Instead, he suddenly found himself in a prison cell, and, given that he travelled to the Continent and obviously had the chance to view the works of Italian painters, all the images of vanitas, hour-clocks, and hovering deathly shadows rushed into his mind. If, like Dostoevsky in the 19th c, Tichborne had been suddenly pardoned in 1586, “Elegy” could become a stepping stone for a poetic talent. Instead, it became the last and only manifestation of any literary promise. If Tichborne was indeed practising poetry during his life, then this poem also contains his understanding that he could no longer develop his gift, and this should have been distressing also. Therefore, when we translate “Elegy“, we must strive to convey this emotional component of the original text. And, in case you wonder, this is exactly what I did in my translation.

William Butler Yeats – Mediations in Time of Civil War. My House

An ancient bridge, and a more ancient tower,
A farmhouse that is sheltered by its wall,
An acre of stony ground,
Where the symbolic rose can break in flower,
Old ragged elms, old thorns innumerable,
The sound of the rain or sound
Of every wind that blows;
The stilted water-hen
Crossing Stream again
Scared by the splashing of a dozen cows;
A winding stair, a chamber arched with stone,
A grey stone fireplace with an open hearth,
A candle and written page.
Il Penseroso’s Platonist toiled on
In some like chamber, shadowing forth
How the daemonic rage
Imagined everything.
Benighted travellers
From markets and from fairs
Have seen his midnight candle glimmering.
Two men have founded here. A man-at-arms
Gathered a score of horse and spent his days
In this tumultuous spot,
Where through long wars and sudden night alarms
His dwinding score and he seemed castaways
Forgetting and forgot;
And I, that after me
My bodily heirs may find,
To exalt a lonely mind,
Befitting emblems of adversity.

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Image courtesy of EveryIrishGifts.com

Playcasts to My Poetry

The beauty of the social media and web publishing is in the opportunity to see how your content is being used and possibly interpreted. Although I own copyright on my works, I do not strive to publish them on every available web resource, thus restricting myself to Stihi.ru, which is registered as the actual printed edition. I republished certain poems previously on my blogs, but at no point did I expect some of the poems to become a source of inspirations to the creators of playcasts.

A playcast, as the website www.playcast.ru tells me, is the latest form of a postcard. The technique is fairly simple: you choose an image, a poem, and a piece of music, arrange them together nicely, and voila, the playcast is ready. Perhaps, the only issue I can have with the whole thing is that I only find out about it if I do a bit of ego-surfing. At the same time, since none of the authors of these playcasts did any wrong to my work, I am happy to accept theirs.

One of the poems, “Kiss”, happened to be particularly popular, and was used twice in playcasts. I’ll write about it in another post, however, because both playcasts focus on the story of the poem. There is an image behind it, as well, which deserves some attention. Another poem, called L’Amour des Saisons, is also a love poem, composed in the form of a song, possibly in the genre of Russian romance (somewhat similar to the French chanson). But as you’ll see if you follow through to the playcast, the author used a song by Mylene Farmer. As you might guess, knowing about my francophilia, I don’t mind such song in the slightest.


From what I’ve already said it is quite clear that me and the authors of playcasts see both poems differently. This is where we can get back to the advantages of the social media and the web. It is great for me as an author to be able to follow the interpretations of my work almost in real time. Online publishing on this occasion enables me to see almost immediately what the readers find interesting or important for themselves in my work. I cannot agree that the authorial voice has totally disappeared in the postmodern age. I think this is often simply a matter of the public voice featuring more prominently than before, mainly due to the various channels of communication. On the other hand, the variety of interpretations or a constant possibility of misinterpretation doesn’t mean that the author should not have their own clear vision, which they express in their work. What makes the social media and the Internet important for the author is the opportunity to see how the idea you’ve conceived of is being accepted, disputed, criticised, marvelled at, applauded, re-interpreted in different media, without having to organise reading tours, etc. Needless to say, those very (mis)/(re) interpretations can be a source of inspiration in themselves, or at least can provide much food for thought.

Images, from left to right: playcasts by Nelya, Alexander, and Eva.

Links:
Poems in Russian: Kiss, and L’Amour des Saisons
Playcast by Nelya
Playcast by Alexander
Playcast by Eva

Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland Goes Online – British Library

alice-in-wonderland-manuscript-goes-online

The manuscript of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll has gone online. It is now the part of Turning the Pages project by the British Library and thus has joined the following masterpieces: Leonardo’s Notebooks, The Lindisfarne Gospels, The Curious Herbal, and many more. To check the contents of this digital library, go to its Menu.

 

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