Poetry Translations

Better Than Starbucks is delighted to announce publication of an epic Russian poem, MTSYRI by Mikhail Lermontov, translated into English by Don Mager. See below for more information.

with Guest Editor Michael R Burch

Four poems by Giovanni Quessep translated by Felipe Botero Quintana and Ranald Barnicot:

From Giovanni Quessep’s first book Being is not a fable (El ser no es una fábula 1968):

 

The Impure Clarity

 

It is also in our dream that time ignites

its fable-making denial. No one ever

forgets that dying is this impure

clarity. Like the sea between doves.

Who is to be deemed guilty? (Ah hope,

the matter of invented days.)

Our dreams get lost, someone utters words,

failures, founderings: ships, for our sakes,

fly on towards legend.

All is exile, all sea, all is its depth,

its rim, its never, its time it recounts to us.

La impura claridad

También en nuestro sueño el tiempo enciende

su negación fabuladora. Nadie

olvida que morir es esta impura

claridad. Como el mar entre palomas.

¿Quién se nombra culpable? (Ah esperanza,

materia de los días inventados.)

Se nos pierden los sueños, alguien dice

palabras o hundimientos: por nosotros

vuelan los naves hacia la leyenda.

Todo es exilio y mar, todo su hondura

y orilla y nunca y tiempo que nos cuenta.

From Giovanni Quessep’s third book, Song of a Foreigner (Canto del extranjero 1976):

 

Reading of Omar Khayyam

 

A night will come on which this moon

Will search me out and will find

Me with that sleepless gaze

Which mirrors back a mortal sky

 

Out of a time of marvels they

Summon me to retrace my steps

Perhaps who brings this gloom to be

Or she who sleeps among violets

 

The insomniac knows well the story

Of that misfortune’s other blue

Ah silenced in that moon’s light

All my oblivious solitude

 

Words the wind has carried away

Music right on autumn’s cusp

In the mist the leaves are falling

For another tuneful of dust

Lectura de Omar Khayyam

 

Vendrá la noche en que esta luna

Ha de buscarme y me hallará

Con la mirada del insomne

Que refleja un cielo mortal

 

De algún tiempo de maravillas

Me llamarán para que vuelva

Tal vez quien hace esta penumbra

O la que duerme entre violetas

 

El insomne sabe la historia

Del otro azul de la desdicha

Ah de la noche de esa luna

Mi soledad calla y olvida

 

Palabras que se lleva el viento

Músicas a punto de otoño

En la tiniebla caen las hojas

Para otro cantico de polvo

From Giovanni Quessep’s sixth book, Death of Merlin (Muerte de Merlín 1985):

 

Death of Merlin

 

In between woods the kingdom’s at an end.

It offers nothing but dust-corroded doors.

The spell was false, the sorcerers

lie under the white hawthorn.

 

Nonetheless – for those with eyes

to see through frost-encrusted lids –

there is an unknown corner yielded

by the constellation, by the rose.

 

Here the laurel does not dwell but

in the mandrake’s blue-tinged poison,

and time preserves its dragonflies

for the dead, to gild their eyes.

Muerte de Merlín

 

Entre bosques el reino ha concluido.

No tiene sino puertas con herrumbre.

El sortilegio era falso, los encantadores

yacen bajo el espino blanco.

 

Sin embargo – para quien pueda ver

a través de sus párpados de escarcha –

existe un rincón desconocido

que brindan la constelación y la rosa.

 

Aquí el laurel no habita

sino el veneno azulado de la mandrágora,

y el tiempo guarda sus libélulas

para dorar los ojos de los muertos.

From Giovanni Quessep’s seventh book, A Garden and a Desert (Un jardín y un desierto 1993):

 

Night watch

 

Steps in the garden. The watcher

smites the apple tree’s bark.

and there are birds that flee, others remain

in their cages of time and silver light.

Let fables not charm me; I want to watch over

my weapons tonight or embed myself

deep in the garden and hear under my steps

the clovers that keep in the dust

the marvels of the white tower.

Under the apple tree and at my side

a woman leafs through an old book:

Demons surround, and a fountain

mirrors a deer, a Bengal tiger.

Steps come and go and they do not know

who is the watcher, who the watched.

Felipe Botero Quintana is a Colombian writer. He has translated works by Conrad, Pessoa, etc., into Spanish.

 

Ranald Barnicot has published poems and translations in journals. By Me, Through Me will be published by Alba Press in 2019. A Greek Verse for Ophelia (Out-spoken Press), a selection of Quessep’s poems translated by Ranald and Felipe, was published in November, 2018.

Vigilia

 

Pasos en el jardín. El vigilante

golpea la corteza del manzano

y hay pájaros que huyen, quedan otros

enjaulados en tiempo y luz de plata.

Fábulas no me encanten; velar quiero

mis armas esta noche o adentrarme

por el jardín y oír bajo mis pasos

los tréboles que guardan en el polvo

las maravillas de la blanca torre.

Debajo del manzano y a mi lado

una mujer hojea un viejo libro:

Demonios hay en torno y una fuente

refleja un ciervo, un tigre de Bengala.

Los pasos van y vienen y no saben

quien es el vigilante, el vigilado.

Giovanni Quessep, born 1939, is one of Colombia’s greatest poets. He has published thirteen books to date and has received numerous awards including Premio Mundial de Poesía René Char.

Four poems by Rainer Maria Rilke translated by Susan McLean:

 

 

Piano Practice

 

The summer drones.  The afternoon grows tired.

Breathing her clean gown’s smell distractedly,
into the credible étude she poured

her restlessness for a reality

 

that could arrive: tomorrow or this evening—

that maybe was there, but was just well screened.

Beyond the windows, tall and all-receiving,

she suddenly could sense the pampered grounds.

 

She broke off, gazed outside, folded together

her hands, and wished she had a lengthy book—

repelling all at once the jasmine’s odor

angrily.  She found it made her sick.

 

Lady Before the Mirror

 

Like spices in a sleeping draft, she’s slowly

dissolving her demeanor’s weariness

into the liquid clearness of the glass,

and only then she drops her smile in wholly.

 

She’s waiting for the power of the liquor

to rise from it; she pours her hair down then

into the mirror, lifting her wondrous shoulder

out of her evening gown and drinking in

 

silently her reflection.  What a lover

would guzzle drunkenly, she tastes and tests,

full of mistrust, and only waving over

 

her maid when, at the bottom of her mirror,

she notices the waning candles, chests

of drawers, and muddy dregs of a late hour.

 

 

 

A Woman’s Fate

 

Just as the king out on a hunt takes up

a glass to drink from, any glass whatever—

and afterward the owner of the cup

puts it away and keeps it like no other,

 

so maybe Fate, who’s also thirsty, raised

a woman to its mouth at times and drank,

and then a petty life, afraid she’d break,

set her apart from ever being used

 

inside the fussy glass display case where

its most expensive treasures are consigned

(or those, at least, considered precious then).

 

Like something loaned, she stood there, alien,

becoming merely old, becoming blind,

and was not precious and was never rare.

Faded

 

Lightly, like one who is dead,

she wears her shawl, her gloves.

A scent from her dresser instead

has replaced the fragrance she loves,

 

which she knew herself by early on.

She no longer inquires now about

who she is (some distant relation).

She wanders abstracted in thought,

 

and tends a fastidious chamber

that she keeps and orders with care,

for perhaps that same girl she remembers

may still be residing in there.

Susan McLean is professor emerita of English at Southwest Minnesota State University. Her poetry books include The Best Disguise, The Whetstone Misses the Knife, Selected Epigrams (of Martial), and one chapbook, Holding Patterns.

Übung am Klavier

     Rainer Maria Rilke

 

Der Sommer summt. Der Nachmittag macht müde;

sie atmete verwirrt ihr frisches Kleid

und legte in die triftige Etüde

die Ungeduld nach einer Wirklichkeit,

 

die kommen konnte: morgen, heute abend —,

die vielleicht da war, die man nur verbarg;

und vor den Fenstern, hoch und alles habend,

empfand sie plötzlich den verwöhnten Park.

 

Da brach sie ab; schaute hinaus, verschränkte

die Hände; wünschte sich ein langes Buch—

und schob auf einmal den Jasmingeruch

erzürnt zurück. Sie fand, daß er sie kränkte.

 

 

 

Dame vor dem Spiegel

     Rainer Maria Rilke

 

Wie in einem Schlaftrunk Spezerein

löst sie leise in dem flüssigklaren

Spiegel ihr ermüdetes Gebaren;

und sie tut ihr Lächeln ganz hinein.

 

Und sie wartet, daß die Flüssigkeit

davon steigt; dann gießt sie ihre Haare

in den Spiegel und, die wunderbare

Schulter hebend aus dem Abendkleid,

 

trinkt sie still aus ihrem Bild. Sie trinkt,

was ein Liebender im Taumel tränke,

prüfend, voller Mißtraun; und sie winkt

 

erst der Zofe, wenn sie auf dem Grunde

ihres Spiegels Lichter findet, Schränke

und das Trübe einer späten Stunde.

 

 

Ein Frauen-Schicksal

     Rainer Maria Rilke

 

So wie der König auf der Jagd ein Glas

ergreift, daraus zu trinken, irgendeines,—

und wie hernach der welcher es besaß

es fortstellt und verwahrt als wär es keines:

 

so hob vielleicht das Schicksal, durstig auch,

bisweilen Eine an den Mund und trank,

die dann ein kleines Leben, viel zu bang

sie zu zerbrechen, abseits vom Gebrauch

 

hinstellte in die ängstliche Vitrine,

in welcher seine Kostbarkeiten sind

(oder die Dinge, die für kostbar gelten).

 

Da stand sie fremd wie eine Fortgeliehne

und wurde einfach alt und wurde blind

und war nicht kostbar und war niemals selten.

 

 

Eine Welke

     Rainer Maria Rilke

 

Leicht, wie nach ihrem Tode,

trägt sie die Handschuh, das Tuch.

Ein Duft aus ihrer Kommode

verdrängte den lieben Geruch,

 

an dem sie sich früher erkannte.

Jetzt fragte sie lange nicht, wer

sie sei (: eine ferne Verwandte),

und geht in Gedanken umher

 

und sorgt für ein ängstliches Zimmer,

das sie ordnet und schont,

weil es vielleicht noch immer

dasselbe Mädchen bewohnt.

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) was a Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist, widely recognized as one of the most lyrically intense German-language poets.

Better Than Starbucks is delighted to announce publication of an epic Russian poem,

MTSYRI by Mikhail Lermontov

translated into English by Don Mager.

Early publication discount of 40% on purchases from Lulu. Click on the cover image to order your copy.

Mtsyri-camel-mountains.jpg

Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov (1814-1841) died in a senseless duel at age 27. Unique to 19th century Russian writers he produced seminal masterpieces in all three major genres: prose fiction, A Hero of Our Time, drama Masquerade, and poetry (narratives and short lyrics). With the death of Pushkin, in 1837, at age 23, Lermontov assumed the role of successor, with his widely disseminated, although unpublished, eulogy “Death of a Poet,” and quickly was acclaimed the second greatest Russian poet. Besides the short lyrics, Lermontov excelled in poemy—the Russian name for long narrative or reflective poems, first developed fully by Pushkin. Two of these are judged landmark masterpieces: Mtsyri (Мцыри), and The Demon (Демон). Except for The Demon, much of his poetry is not well known to English readers.

Mtsyri is one of Lermontov’s many works set in Georgia. It is celebrated for its eloquent depiction of the Caucasus Mountains and Georgian landscape. Mtsyri’s battle with the leopard is similar to a popular Georgian folk legend and there are at least fourteen versions of the folksong “Young Man and a Tiger.”

 — Don Mager

water and tree scape

Archive of Translations

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