Thursday, April 16, 2015

L'vitsa (The Lioness Among the Ruins - Valery Bryusov)

At first glance, one's domestic feline might seem quite a simple cozy comfort, an inconsequential bundle of fur-and-flesh, curling up near our toes while we read. But what if between our cats and ourselves a scarlet thread were entwined, a connection not unlike that which binds us to our children, and the rest of our surroundings? For example, my youngest daughter's fierce requests to be born, before she was even conceived, were just as concrete, to me, as the red branches of the dogwood bush in my yard, which burn like brands each winter against the snow.

The (mostly) silent bond between myself and my tortoiseshell cat has deepened over the years, has steeped me in a nearly Purrfect Cat-ness. The other morning, I felt a pressure, as if it were her paw on my foot -- before setting off on a journey in my vehicle -- and then I realized that one of my tires was as flat as a pancake. Was it you, Tortie, warning me? I wondered.... 
A gilded, leonine mood crept up on me last night, settled itself like a cloak around my shoulders, luring me further into its spinning, silken expanse. Who or what was I becoming? The boundaries began to blur...between my cat and myself...could it be that I was being quietly transformed into a feline...? For who would be more likely to hear a whisper from "Lev," the kingly Lion-Being Himself, than L'vitsa, the Lioness? Perhaps I am unique in my fancies; or perhaps not.

Lioness: Susan Seddon Boulet

This train of thought leads me by the paw to a poem by Valery Bryusov (1873-1924), a Russian Symbolist poet, critic and novelist which I have the fancy of translating today. Bryusov was (as most poets are)  quite a character. He began his career by translating the works of poets such as Poe and Verlaine into Russian. He wrote under approximately thirty three pseudonyms while "finding himself" as a writer; part of the curious purpose of these pseudonyms was to create the illusion that an anthology, for example, had been written by more than one individual. He was also fascinated by stamps, and became an avid philatelist.

One of Bryusov's notable quotes could be translated like this, "Talent, even genius, will give only slow success, if even that. It's not enough! Not enough for me! It is necessary to choose something find a beckoning star in the fog. And I see her: it is decadence!" Unlikely thoughts for someone who became one of the first Soviet bureaucrats in the Ministry of Culture of the USSR. He didn't last long in that the time of his death from pneumonia and (and a possible drug overdose) his writing had become "incomprehensible" to the masses. But perhaps his work deserves a second, or third glance.

The Lioness Among the Ruins

(Subtitle: An Engraving)

A chilly moon hangs above Pasargadae.
The sands are flecked by a translucent sunset.
The king's daughter steps in her dream-anguish
Onto the pavement - to breathe in the cool night.

Before her, a familiar world: arcade upon arcade,
And towers, and pillars, transparent and light,
Bridges, dangling above the silver river,
Home, and the temple of Bel; solemn, significant.

The princess is all a-tremble. Her eyes are shining.
She clenches her fist painfully and angrily.
Her thoughts dwell on the centuries of the future.

And then it seems to her as if, in the night sky
A mute strand of shattered columns rises,
And in the midst of the ruins - like the shadow of the desert --
A Lioness.

Winged Man, Pasargadae, Iran

Львица среди развалин


Холодная луна стоит над Пасаргадой.
Прозрачным сумраком подернуты пески.
Выходит дочь царя в мечтах ночной тоски
На каменный помост — дышать ночной прохладой.

Пред ней знакомый мир: аркада за аркадой;
И башни и столпы, прозрачны и легки;
Мосты, повисшие над серебром реки;
Дома, и Бэла храм торжественной громадой...

Царевна вся дрожит... блестят ее глаза..
Рука сжимается мучительно и гневно...
О будущих веках задумалась царевна!

И вот ей видится: ночные небеса,
Разрушенных колонн немая вереница
И посреди руин — как тень пустыни — львица.

Here is a tidbit from one of Bryusov's "experimental" poems:

The shade of an un-created creature
Is quaking in its sleep
Like a palm-frond flickering
On an enamel wall.

Violet hands
On the enamel wall
The drowsy marks of sound
In a ringing silence.


Тень несозданных созданий
Колыхается во сне
Словно лопасти латаний
На эмалевой стене.

Фиолетовые руки
На эмалевой стене
Полусонно чертят звуки
В звонкозвучной тишине.


Harlequin said...

It's always an interesting challenge to dip into the projects of other writers minds, especially those that span the latitudes and longitudes of differing cultures. I may not always 'crack' the code but always take away some food for thought.

Iulia Flame said...

Bryusov is a bit of a different flavor for me, as well. Similar to my first encounter with Edgar Allen Poe, I think.

Sigerson said...

Grand stuff and topnotch translation, madame!

Iulia Flame said...

So glad you enjoyed, Doc!

the song of a shell sapphire melting inside jade a color unnamed Ofra Haza's version of this song defies categoriz...

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