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 JOHN WOODSWORTH
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Sample Russian-to-English translations: 3

Anna Akhmatova
(1889-1966)

Four poems:
Creativity [Tvorchestvo]
To an artist[Khudozhniku]
Separation [Razluka]
Song of our last meeting
[Pesnja o poslednej vstreche]
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(page updated 28 June 2002)
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Anna Akhmatova (real name: Anna Andreevna Gorenko) of St-Petersburg was one of the foremost poets of the so-called Russian 'Silver Age' of the early 19th century.  In 1910, while on honeymoon in Paris with her husband, fellow-poet Nikolaj Gumilev, she happened to make the acquaintance of a local artist, Amedeo Modigliani (originally from Italy), and the resulting relationship would have a profound influence on her future poetic creativitiy, as well as on his subsequent artistic career.

Russian-Canadian writer Mikhail Levitin has authored a play (or dramatic dialogue) based on the two weeks they spent together in Paris in the spring of 1911, entitled Anna & Amedeo: an unforgettable spring, now translated into English by JW, along with some thirty of Akhmatova's poems relating to this episode of her life.  (Click here to see the project description.)  The multi-media project -- involving slides of Paris, re-creation of the drawing and writing process on an overhead projector, as well as music and dance of the period (to be performed live) -- is currently in search of funding to bring it to an Ottawa stage.  Four of the poems included in the script are reproduced below in JW's English verse translation.

In February 2002 JW gave a conference paper at the University of Ottawa, entitled "Meaning & musicality: striking a balance in poetry translation", using the translation of "Tvorchestvo" (the first poem below) as an illustrative example. 
Click here for an audio-recording of this paper.

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Click on the links below to see the original Russian text.

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Creativity
(Tvorchestvo)

Anna Akhmatova

CLICK TO SEE ORIGINAL RUSSIAN TEXT









I sometimes feel a kind of weary languor:
The clock chime never ceasing in my ears,
And far away the dying thunder's clangour.
I seem to hear the plaintive moans and fears
Of captive and unrecognisable voices...
Some kind of secret circle closes in,
But through the endless void of whispered noises
One all-pervading sound transcends the din.
Around it reigns inexorable quiet,
As grass is heard to grow in woodland earth,
Or knapsacked grief to tread the globe and ply it...
But listen, waitÉ already I hear words
And little telltale sounds of rhymes a-skipping, --
Now, all at once I start to understand,
And, simply, lines dictated come a-tripping
Onto the snow-white pages from my hand.
 

English verse translation © John Woodsworth
Ottawa (Canada)
24 December 2001
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To an artist
(Khudozhniku)

Anna Akhmatova

CLICK TO SEE ORIGINAL RUSSIAN TEXT


Your paintings still before mine eyes are floating,
Your blessed works, that ever with me stay:
The ever-autumn lindens' gilded coating,
The blue of water made by you today.

I close my eyes, so delicately drowsy,
And into your bright gardens I am led...
I search for any trace of you with frenzy,
Still frightened by each turn I see ahead.

Shall I 'neath that transfigured dome now enter
(The one your hand's transformed to heaven's centre)
To cool my hateful passion when it rears?

For there indeed shall I be blessed for ever,
And, closing eyelids hot with burning fever,
I shall once more obtain the gift of tears.
 

English verse translation © John Woodsworth
Ottawa (Canada) 
9 November 2001..

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Separation
(Razluka)

Anna Akhmatova

CLICK TO SEE ORIGINAL RUSSIAN TEXT


My love, this dark and sombre separation
Is ours to bear as equals, it would seem.
Weep not -- give me your hand in glad elation,
And promise me you'll visit in a dream.
For you and I are like two mountains parted...
No meeting place on earth can now be ours.
I only hope, when midnight hours have started,
You'll send me your sweet greeting through the stars.
 

English verse translation © John Woodsworth
Ottawa (Canada)
31 December 2001

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Song of our last meeting
(Pesnja poslednej vstrechi)

Anna Akhmatova

CLICK TO SEE ORIGINAL RUSSIAN TEXT


My breast was chilled through, oh so helpless,
But my steps were still very light.
I picked up the glove for the left hand
And put it by chance on the right.

It seemed like the steps were so many,
But I knew there were only three!
Fall's whisper, with maple-trees blending,
Requested: "Now die with me!

I'm deceived by this my specious
Fate far too fickle, untrue."
I replied: "My precious, my precious!
Me too.  I shall die with you..."

'Tis the song of our very last meeting.
I glanced at the house now all dark.
Only candles in the bedroom were burning
With a nondescript yellowish spark.
 
 

English verse translation © John Woodsworth
Ottawa (Canada)
20 January 2002

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...
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"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you... 
Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

-- John 14:27
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