Friday, April 17, 2015

A. S. Pushkin - Lukomorye

Whilst on the subject of cats....

Prologue to Ruslan and Lyudmila

(Translated by Roger Clarke)

In Lukomorye a green oak stands;
to the oak a chain of gold is tied;
and at the chain’s end night and day
a learnèd cat walks round and round.
Rightwards he goes, and sings a song;
leftwards, a fairy tale he tells.
There’s magic! It’s a wood sprite’s haunt –
a rusalka sits among the boughs –
on footpaths no one has explored
are tracks of beasts no one has seen – 
a hut stands there on chicken’s legs,
no windows in its walls, nor doors –
unnumbered wraiths stalk wood and dale –
at dawn the ocean waves roll in
and surge across the empty sands,
while from the limpid waters strides
a troop of thirty champions,
fine men, and their sea-tutor too –
a king’s son passing by that way
takes prisoner an awesome tsar – 
up in the clouds for all to see
above the sweep of woods and waves
a wizard hauls a warrior brave –
a princess pines in prison there,
a brown-haired wolf her loyal page –
a mortar in a witch’s form
moves to and fro as if alive –
frail Tsar Kashchéy wilts by his gold.
The place breathes Russia… reeks of Rus!
I was there once: I sipped some mead; 
I saw the green oak by the sea;
I sat beneath it, while the cat,
that learnèd cat, told me his tales.
One of those tales I still recall,
and this I’ll share now with you all…

*The translator originally rendered this as "by an arc of sea" which is literal, but does not capture the sense of the thrill of the actual word, "Lukomorye."

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(for erin) when i ask, where have the redpolls gone, and why the silence at my seed station your eyes, unbidden twin candles startle ...

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