top of page
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 Michael R Burch

Michael R. Burch


( After Paul Reboux and Charles Müller’s
  Baudelaire parody 
Ut Eructent Quirites)

In your jade palace, where the fancy mulls,
I watch, dear Spleen, as hookah-bubbles fidget,
The curious coupling of a brace of trulls —
Chum-Chum, the giant, and Sélika, the midget.

The tiny partner is a pure jet-black,
Her mate, quince-yellow, like some huge smooth fruit,
Both cruelly linked on Copulation’s rack,
Their disproportion in obscene dispute.

To guarantee a glory less opaque
I shall compare them to those burnt-out dragons
A poet’s love trails in its flaming wake
As fiery engines pull prosaic wagons.

The sick Elvira  heads the hideous band;
Her tenderest words were laced with blood and scum;
All bone-stretched skin, taut to her lover’s hand,
Her thorax echoed like a kettle-drum.

Cassandra next, and long lubricious hugs
From ravished Ronsard’s queen of kitchen-wenches,
A garland — lukewarm, limp — of dangling dugs
And rustic armpits’ suffocating stenches.

Then blesséd Laura, on whose modest worth
The bard she spurned wrote lines to cheat the tomb
Though every year increased her body’s girth
With babies bouncing round her bourgeois womb.

Last of these succubi, that Beatrice
Whom Vampires black-balled, Ghouls, the Damned, the Devil,
Flung down in shame, amid a general hiss,
From Hell to poor old God’s insipid level!

Revolting sisters of these sloughs of Art,
Vile sources of a liquid ranked divine,
Surfeit and saturate my hopeless heart
And wipe its memory clean with Vice’s wine!

Fiercely persist in ever fiercer pleasure,
Ply lash and birch to break through your inertia,
Until Lust’s barbs impale beyond all measure
Your writhing forms that twist like gutta-percha.

And in the rank hutch of your marriage-bed
Where all that’s loathsome lies with all that’s lewd

Spawn in my sight, to fill the world with dread,
STERILITY, first of your monstrous brood!

From Herefordshire, Jerome Betts edits  Lighten Up Online in Devon. His verse has appeared in  Light, The Asses of Parnassus, New Verse News, Parody, Per Contra, Snakeskin, and various anthologies.

Original Text


Dans le palais de jade où tu tisses tes  rêves,
Ô mon spleen, je contemple, en fumant le houka,
L’étrange accouplement qui rapproche deux Èves:
La géante Chum-Chum, la naine Sélika.

Chum-Chum vient de la Chine et Sélika d’Afrique,
L’une, jaune, est pareille à quelque énorme coing,
L’autre est couleur de nuit, Sapho microscopique,
Et leur disparité s’oppose et se conjoint.

De la gloire pourtant leur entr’ouvrant la porte,
Je peux les égaler à ces affreux dragons
Qu’un amour de poète en son sillage emporte
Comme un char enflammé traîne de vieux wagons:

Elvire, ange égrotant, insalubre maîtresse
Qui vomit un poumon à chaque mot d’amour,
Squelette à peau tendue, et dont, sous la caresse
Le thorax décharné sonne comme un tambour.

Cassandre, Hébé des champs, rinceuse de vaisselles
Qui captiva Ronsard en lui nouant au cou,
Parmi des puanteurs suffocantes d’aisselles,
De ses seins pendillants le collier tiède et mou.

Laure, vase béat, dont un lyrique chantre
Illustra la pudeur en immortels accents,
Quand, obscène bourgeoise, elle étalait un ventre
Éternellement plein de fœtus bondissants.

Béatrice, succube affreux, que les Vampires,
Les Stryges, les Démons, les Larves, les Maudits
Chassèrent, dégoûtés, et qui, de leurs empires;
Roula de chute en chute au fond du Paradis!

Abominables sœurs de ces inspiratrices,
Ignobles alambics d’où coule un vin sacré,
Chum-Chum et Sélika, gorgez-moi de vos vices
Et saturez d’oubli mon cœur désespéré!

Poursuivez âprement votre âpre jouissance,
Flagellez-vous du fouet, du stick et du bambou,
Et de ses aiguillons que la concupiscence
Larde vos corps tordus comme du caoutchouc.

Et puissiez-vous un jour dans votre hymen immonde
Où la hideur s’accouple à la lubricité,
Engendrer sous mes yeux, épouvante du monde,
Le monstrueux enfant de la stérilité!

The French text of this parody of the style of Charles Baudelaire by Paul Reboux and Charles Müller was first published in 1913 in the third of their  À la manière de . . . collections.


Your laughter startles, your caresses rake.

Your cold kisses love the evil they do.

Your eyes are pale blue,

like a lotus floating upon a lake.

The water lilies are less pallid than your face.


You move like water parting.

Your hair falls in rootlike tangles.

Your words rise like treacherous rapids.

Your arms, flexible as reeds, strangle,


choking me like the long reeds of the river.

I shiver

in their enlacing embrace.

Drowning in agony without an illuminating moon,

I vanish without a trace,

lost in a nightly swoon.



Ton rire est clair, ta caresse est profonde,

Tes froids baisers aiment le mal qu’ils font;

Tes yeux sont bleus comme un lotus sur l’onde,

Et les lys d’eau sont moins purs que ton front.


Ta forme fuit, ta démarche est fluide,

Et tes cheveux sont de légers roseaux ;

Ta voix ruisselle ainsi qu’un flot perfide ;

Tes souples bras sont pareils aux roseaux,


Aux longs roseaux des fleuves, dont l’étreinte

Enlace, étouffe, étrangle savamment,

Au fond des flots, une agonie éteint

Dans un nocturne évanouissement.

Kim Cherub is a poet and translator who has been published recently by Asses of Parnassus, Poem Today and The Society of Classical Poets.

Renée Vivien, born Pauline Mary Tarn (1877-1909), was a British poet and high-profile lesbian of the Belle Époque who wrote French poems in the style of the Symbolistes and Parnassiens.

Capital projects

(Kapitalni projekti)

they, he says
know very well
how many
should crash
on each section
they, he says
when someone dies
make a phone call
your son
he was not wearing a helmet
and he did not follow
the orders
they, he says
pull out the contract
in which it clearly states
you are ready to die
to die
to them, he says
in the dark only
a foot misses a step
and the only thing heard
the only thing heard is a thump
and a cry for help




I cannot love at the push of a button
Even less stop loving
Vive mon amour, vive
In my brutalities
As a humane religion
That preaches the cutting off of the hand
Opposing itself
Like a phantasmagoria in gray
Prolonging, intending, sweating
Who would have said that it is so easy to say I love
In a language that is allergic to the word love
It doesn’t have to mean but it can
What hits the head does not strike the heart and vice versa
The one who reads quickly will never reach the essence
The one who loves slowly doesn’t go anywhere
It’s just a warning
Somebody is going to constrain your laughter once
And seize your lips in glass
Without a reason, without a name, without a question
Vive mon amour, vive
With blood boiling like a simoom
And a breakup as cold as frozen soil
A conclusion as short as death
Harmless, helpless, sad
But with its serenity
It forces me to fear

Kapitalni projekti

(Capital projects)

oni, kaže
lijepo znaju
koliko njih
na svakoj dionici
treba da strada
oni, kaže
kad neko strada
obave telefonski poziv
vaš sin
nije imao kacigu
i nije slušao
oni, kaže
potegnu ugovor
u kom fino stoji
spreman si da pogineš
da pogineš
njima, kaže
u mraku samo
noga promaši stopu
i čuje se samo
čuje se samo tup
i upomoć






Ne umijem voljeti kad pritisneš dugme
Još manje prestati
Vive mon amour, vive
U brutalnostima mojim
Kao humana religija
Koja propovijeda odsijecanje ruke
Protivna samoj sebi
Kao fantazmagorija u sivom
Kao odugovlačenje namjeravanje preznojavanje
Ko bi rekao da je tako lako reći volim
Jezikom koji je alergičan na riječ ljubav
Ne mora da znači a može da bude
Što udara u glavu ne udara u srce i obrnuto
Onaj ko čita brzo nikada neće stići do suštine
Onaj ko sporo voli ne ide nikuda
To je ipak samo upozorenje
Neko će jednom obuzdati tvoj smijeh
I u staklo ti zatočiti usne
Bez razloga bez imena bez pitanja
Vive mon amour, vive
Sa krvlju vrelom kao samum
I rastankom hladnim kao zemlja
Zaključkom kratkim kao smrt
Bezazleno je nemoćno tužno
Ali me svojom vedrinom
Prisiljava da ga se bojim

Danijel Golobič, from Slovenia, born in 1981, is a poet and translator. His book of poems, Album zaprašenih slik, was published in 2014. He translates into Slovenian and English.

Tijana Rakočević is a Montenegrin poet, essayist and short story writer. Her poetry has been translated into many world languages.

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.


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

Mar/19     Jan/19      Nov/18      Sept/18     Jul/18    Jun/18     May/18      Apr./18     Mar./18     

   Feb./18     Jan/18     Dec/17      Nov/17     Oct/17     Sept/17     Aug/17     July/17     June/17     May/17       Apil/17     March/17     Feb./17     Jan./17     Dec./16      Nov./16     Oct./16    

bottom of page