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 JOHN WOODSWORTH
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Sample Russian-to-English translations

Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin
(1799-1837)

Three poems:
I loved you so [Ja vas ljubil]
Winter morning [Zimnee utro]
The Prophet [Prorok]

and an original JW poetic tribute:
To A. S. Pushkin [K A. S. Pushkinu]
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(page updated 21 June 2002)
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Pushkin is often described not only as Russia's best-loved poet, but as the 'father' of the Russian literary language itself.
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PLEASE NOTE:

The following translations were published in The Ottawa Citizen's Weekly (a weekly literary supplement to  The Ottawa Citizen) in its issue of 6 June 1999, the exact date of the bicentenary of Pushkin's birth, along with Lermontov's poetic eulogy to Aleksandr Sergeevich entitled Death of a poet (see my Lermontov translation page). 

Permission was then granted to the Russian Embassy in Canada to post the translations of the three poems by Pushkin himself on the Embassy website, where they remained for over two years, along with the translator's own poetic tribute to the great writer (reproduced at the end of the page below): To Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin.

The latter poem, along with the translation of "I loved you so", was included in the collection [sbornik] prepared for Mme Putina.

CLICK HERE to read JW's article on Pushkin which accompanied these translations in The Ottawa Citizen's Weekly.

CLICK HERE to listen to an audio-recording of a paper (given by JW at a February 2002 conference at the University of Ottawa) entitled:
"Meaning & musicality: striking a balance in poetry translation".

Click on the links below to see the original Russian text.  Two of these poems, accompanied by a voice-recording and a free-verse English translation, may be found on the comprehensive Russian poetry site: From the ends to the beginning: a bilingual anthology of Russian verse.  You will find Pushkin (1799-1837) listed there in reverse chronological order.

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I loved you so
(Ja vas ljubil)

Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin
 
 

CLICK TO SEE ORIGINAL RUSSIAN TEXT


I loved you so -- there is a chance the fervour
Is not yet quite extinguished in my soul.
But let not that distress you any further:
I do not wish to sadden you at all.
I loved you hopelessly... you could not hear me!
Shyness and envy -- plagues I've known thereof!
I loved you tenderly and so sincerely
That God may bless you with another's love.

English verse translation © John Woodsworth
Ottawa (Canada)
24 February 1996

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Winter morning
(Zimnee utro)

Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin
 
 

CLICK TO SEE ORIGINAL RUSSIAN TEXT


Frost and sunshine, day so wondrous!
Friend so charming, still thou slumberest!
Wake thou, my beauty, wake, 'tis time!
Open those eyes by comfort calloused
Toward the Aurora Borealis
Star of the North, rise up and shine!

Just yesterday, dost thou remember,
Was snow and mist of dark December:
Remember how the pale moon shone
Through cloud-grey, smeared with tinge of yellow,
And thou didst sit there, wrapt in sorrow
But now... just look through window yon!

Beneath vast skies of endless azure,
Beneath majestic space unmeasured,
The snow lies glistening in the sun.
So black the stark transparent forest,
So green the fir through fading hoar-frost
Beneath the ice the brooklets run.

Behold, the room with amber rays is
All bathed in light. The stove ablaze is
Cheerfully cracking over there.
'Tis pleasant to sit by the fire,
But could we not ride through the brier
In a sleigh drawn by that old brown mare?

To glide o'er morning snow fresh fallen...
Dear friend, do let us heed that calling
The mare's impatient for the start!
And we shall pass by lonely meadows
And woods bereft of leafy shadows
And shores so dear unto my heart.

English verse translation © John Woodsworth
Ottawa (Canada)
30 May 1987

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The Prophet
(Prorok)

Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin
 
 

CLICK TO SEE ORIGINAL RUSSIAN TEXT


Tormented by a heavenly thirst,
A gloomy desert trek I started,
When lo, a six-winged seraph burst
Upon me where two courses parted;
And with his dream-like fingers spry
He touched the pupil of my eye,
And opened its prophetic sight
As when an eagle takes affright.
He touched my ears, and all around
The air was filled with noise and sound:
And then I heard the heavens shudder,
Beheld the angels' upward flight,
And valley vines in frozen blight
And sea-beasts moving under water.
And bending low, he touched my mouth
And tore my sinful tongue right out --
A tongue by evil gossip sullied,
And put into my mouth benumbed
The sting of a wise serpent's tongue
With his right hand all red and bloodied.
And with his sword he slashed my chest,
And, plucking out my heart still trembling,
He placed into my open breast
A coal red-hot, with fire burning.
A corpse on desert sand I lay,
I heard God's voice cry out and say:
"O prophet, rise with observation,
Be filled with My will, My desire,
That as you pass through every nation,
My Word will set each heart afire!"

English verse translation © John Woodsworth
Ottawa (Canada)
12-13 May 1999

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To Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin
(K A. S. Pushkinu)

John Woodsworth
 
 
 

CLICK TO SEE ORIGINAL RUSSIAN TEXT


I love your genius, marvellous and so clever!
Your fire is still burning in my soul;
But let it shine in new creation ever;
I do not wish it to go out at all.
I love your work in humble adoration,
Passion and verse -- yes, waves I've known thereof!
I love you with so deep an admiration
That God may ever bless you with His love.
 

English verse translation © John Woodsworth
Ottawa (Canada)
30 May 1999

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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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