Слово (English translation)

Proofreading requested


В оный день, когда над миром новым
Бог склонял лицо свое, тогда
Солнце останавливали словом,
Словом разрушали города.
И орел не взмахивал крылами,
Звезды жались в ужасе к луне,
Если, точно розовое пламя,
Слово проплывало в вышине.
А для низкой жизни были числа,
Как домашний, подъяремный скот,
Потому что все оттенки смысла
Умное число передает.
Патриарх седой, себе под руку
Покоривший и добро и зло,
Не решаясь обратиться к звуку,
Тростью на песке чертил число.
Но забыли мы, что осиянно
Только слово средь земных тревог,
И в Евангелии от Иоанна
Сказано, что Слово это - Бог.
Мы ему поставили пределом
Скудные пределы естества.
И, как пчелы в улье опустелом,
Дурно пахнут мертвые слова.
Submitted by St. Sol on Sat, 29/04/2017 - 15:04
Submitter's comments:


Align paragraphs
English translation

The Word

In those days when God leant
his face over the new world,
they stopped the sun with a single word,
and with a single word they destroyed cities.
And the eagle did not spread its wings,
stars huddled around the moon in horror
as a word would float high above
like a pink-hued flame.
As for lowly lives, there were numbers,
like domesticated cattle under the yoke,
because smart numbers can convey
every nuance of meaning.
A grey-haired patriarch, having conquered
and gathered good and evil in his grasp,
not daring to resort to sounds,
drew numbers in the sand with a stick.
But we forgot that only the word
shines through earthly troubles,
and that it is said in the Gospel of John
that the Word is God.
We confined the word within the
insignificant limits of nature.
And, like bees in a deserted hive,
dead words give off an unpleasant smell.
Submitted by Guest on Wed, 11/07/2018 - 04:05
Added in reply to request by Sasha Bolgarov
Author's comments:

I apologize for all the mistranslations, but I found the poem intriguing and I would like to get to the bottom of it.
Native help would be greatly appreciated.

The author of translation requested proofreading.
It means that he/she will be happy to receive corrections, suggestions etc about the translation.
If you are proficient in both languages of the language pair, you are welcome to leave your comments.
Nikolay Gumilev: Top 3
See also
Igeethecat    Wed, 11/07/2018 - 13:13

В оный день, когда над миром новым Бог склонял лицо свое,
тогда Солнце останавливали словом, Словом разрушали города.
I think it is’t about ‘this day’, it’s about ‘that day’ or ‘those days’ or ‘in the days, when... ‘

petit élève    Wed, 11/07/2018 - 13:31

I'm sorry, I don't see the difference. I understand the Russian as "In this (particular/fateful) day" or something. You can render that a few different ways in English. Or am I missing the point?

Alexander Laskavtsev    Wed, 11/07/2018 - 13:35

This is a poetry. "В оный" = "В тот самый". In this = "В этот самый". "Этот" we use, when we point at something, that "lays before us", something current...
"В тот" we use when talk about something distant. As a rule, when we talk about the past, we use "Тот день" (that day) and "Этот день" (this day) - for present.

petit élève    Wed, 11/07/2018 - 13:45

Ok, that's pretty much what I thought.
What's wrong with "on this day when" then?
"on this (particular) day (in the past) when (something significant happened)". Sounds pretty close to the Russian to me.
I see no ambiguity in English. You would use "today" or "these days" or "nowadays" to talk about the present.

Igeethecat    Wed, 11/07/2018 - 15:23

because it is not about one particular day in the past, it's about many days in the past when the God was watching over us (Russia)

petit élève    Wed, 11/07/2018 - 15:24

so "these days" would be better?

Igeethecat    Wed, 11/07/2018 - 15:43

In my opinion, ‘those days’ or ‘in the days, when... ‘ would be better because 'these days' to me are still 'now days', present, but in the poem, the point is made that it was happening in the past and now it is the opposite

petit élève    Wed, 11/07/2018 - 16:50

Ok, I'll take your word for that.

Alexander Laskavtsev    Wed, 11/07/2018 - 13:18

точно розовое пламя - like pink flame (not знамя Wink smile )

petit élève    Wed, 11/07/2018 - 13:28

I learned the words as a list of exceptions and since then I keep mixing them up.

"horror" is better than "terror", but "in xxx" is like "because of xxx" so I think that would work here, or wouldn't it?

Alexander Laskavtsev    Wed, 11/07/2018 - 13:30

Well, they huddled not "because of terror", but due to they were horrified. That's my idea, but maybe you are right (my English is still limited Wink smile )

petit élève    Wed, 11/07/2018 - 13:39

It's similar to "recoil in terror" or "stare in disbelief".
The stars are horrified and it makes them huddle around the moon (for comfort/protection).
Sounds pretty appropriate to me.

Igeethecat    Thu, 12/07/2018 - 03:22

I think, «в ужасе» здесь скорее «в испуге» == fright, etc.

Brat    Wed, 11/07/2018 - 17:11

Well, "under a yoke" should go without the article, shouldn't it?
And "not decided" should be "not daring" for sure. Regular smile

petit élève    Wed, 11/07/2018 - 17:14

I don't know. I thought it might work like "under a spell".

"daring" sounds good.

Brat    Wed, 11/07/2018 - 18:05

I'd rather go with "draught cattle", indeed.

Gavin    Wed, 11/07/2018 - 21:02

Yeah, under 'the' yoke would be more typical. Although there's nothing ungrammatical about using 'a'.

petit élève    Wed, 11/07/2018 - 21:08

Point taken. Thanks.

St. Sol    Wed, 11/07/2018 - 17:15

средь земных тревог == through earthly troubles (worries)

petit élève    Wed, 11/07/2018 - 17:16

Ok, "troubles" sounds better.

Igeethecat    Wed, 11/07/2018 - 18:45

Should "figures" be "number(s)"? It's about the number(s) from the previous verse, isn't it?
'Figures' can have different meanings

petit élève    Wed, 11/07/2018 - 20:07

It is about numbers, but "figures" seemed more usual to me.
Other meanings of "figure" would be "lines" or "shapes" or "outlines", which seem rather out of context here.

Igeethecat    Wed, 11/07/2018 - 22:06

and that's my point - he drew numbers (for lowly lives), not circles or lines in the sand

petit élève    Thu, 12/07/2018 - 00:22

I don't think "figures" would evoke lines here, but I can put "numbers" if it makes you more comfortable.

Igeethecat    Thu, 12/07/2018 - 02:30

I am not seeking for a comfort. I don’t think ‘figures’ is a wrong word. If you like ‘fugures’ more, use it, but use it in all three instances. It is almost a proper name here, same as ‘word’.
You used ‘numbers’ for lowly lives, then you switched it to ‘figures’ and this changed the meaning of the verse IMHO

St. Sol    Thu, 12/07/2018 - 02:33

It is "The Word" (of God) vs. "The Numbers" (of mere mortals).

petit élève    Thu, 12/07/2018 - 02:49

Yes, I suppose it is. Pretty ironic considering how the situation changed in a century or so.