My Translation of Marina Tsvetaeva’s Cycle “Girlfriend” – Part 6

Two women embracing in a snowstorm, a painting by Édouard Bisson called "Winter."
Illustration: ‘Winter’ by Édouard Bisson (French, 1856-1939)
My Translation: 
How merrily the snowflakes brightened
 Your—grey, my—sable fur,
 How at the Christmas fair excited
 We looked for ribbons—best of all.

 How rosy-pink and very savoury
 I ate too many waffles—six!
 How every ginger horse delighted me—
 In honour of Your noble deeds.

 How vendors traded garments—full like sails—
 They sold the cheapest shreds and swore,
 How at the Moscow ladies, young and strange,
 The country women gaped in awe.

 How in the evening, when the crowds had left,
 We entered the cathedral, bored,
 How on the Virgin Mary's face bereft
 Your gaze fell like a solemn sword.

 How gloomy was her countenance and gentle
 The love in her exhausted eyes,
 Locked in the icon case with chubby angels
 From the Elizabethan times.

 How You let go of my hand tenderly
 And whispered: "Oh, I want her so!" 
 How you have placed a candle carefully 
 In candelabrum - yellow, tall…

 —O, with an opal ring mysterious
 Your Hand! —O, all my wretched plight—
 How I have promised You, my dearest,
 To steal this masterpiece tonight!

 How to the inn of this grand monastery
 —The rumbling bells and setting sun—
 Blessed like two baptized girls with honesty
 Like a battalion, we have come.

 How I have told You—to remain as beauteous—
 With age—and always spilled the salt,
 How for three times—You were so furious— 
 In cards, my King of Hearts had won.

 How You have squeezed my hair in sweet reproach,
 Caressing every single curl— 
 How cold was Your enamel flower brooch
 Which made my lips tremble and burn.

 How I, against Your slender fingers.
 Have brushed my tired, sleepy head,
 How You have teased me like an infant,
 How You have loved me just like that…

(December 1914)

 Tsvetaeva's Original:
 Как весело сиял снежинками
Ваш — серый, мой — соболий мех,
Как по рождественскому рынку мы
Искали ленты ярче всех.

 Как розовыми и несладкими
Я вафлями объелась — шесть!
Как всеми рыжими лошадками
Я умилялась в Вашу честь.

 Как рыжие поддевки — парусом,
Божась, сбывали нам тряпьё,
Как на чудных московских барышень
Дивилось глупое бабьё.

 Как в час, когда народ расходится,
Мы нехотя вошли в собор,
Как на старинной Богородице
Вы приостановили взор.

 Как этот лик с очами хмурыми
Был благостен и измождён
В киоте с круглыми амурами
Елисаветинских времён.

 Как руку Вы мою оставили,
Сказав: «О, я её хочу!»
С какою бережностью вставили
В подсвечник — жёлтую свечу…

 — О, светская, с кольцом опаловым
Рука! — О, вся моя напасть! —
Как я икону обещала Вам
Сегодня ночью же украсть!

 Как в монастырскую гостиницу
— Гул колокольный и закат —
Блаженные, как имянинницы,
Мы грянули, как полк солдат.

 Как я Вам — хорошеть до старости —
Клялась — и просыпала соль,
Как трижды мне — Вы были в ярости! —
Червонный выходил король.

 Как голову мою сжимали Вы,
Лаская каждый завиток,
Как Вашей брошечки эмалевой
Мне губы холодил цветок.

 Как я по Вашим узким пальчикам
Водила сонною щекой,
Как Вы меня дразнили мальчиком,
Как я Вам нравилась такой…

( Декабрь 1914 )

20 thoughts on “My Translation of Marina Tsvetaeva’s Cycle “Girlfriend” – Part 6

  1. Such a beautiful poem. Hard to accept that without your translation, Veronica, we’d never have read it.
    Thank you. Hope you are keeping safe and well.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dear Gwen, thank you so much, as always! You have the kindest heart. Tsvetaeva was a true genius, and translating her work is a real honour for me!

      ~ I hope you are well, too. Keep writing and sharing your light with the world!

      With gratitude,

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, dear Kevin! I miss you, my literary friend. I hope you are well. You are always on my mind when I am writing the picture descriptions – and it is a joy to know you appreciate them!

      With gratitude,

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Veronica. I am keeping well and I hope you are too. I’m happy to see you posting once more, and look forward to reading more of your own work and the excellent translations you kindly post here. All the best. Kevin

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I have been reading Emily Dickerson work. I didn’t know her story till I watched a Youtube video. She never published using her name. She wasn’t allow to published, being a woman. Now the U.S.A greatest female poet. This is sad. Good morning from Michigan.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Dear John,

        Yes, it is disheartening that Emily Dickinson’s works only became known after her death. Nevertheless, she succeeded in achieving the immortality she so often wrote about in her imaginative poems.

        Sending you love from the Siberian forests,
        Veronica. ~ 💌

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Now she is the greatest American female poet. I hope she can see from heaven. She isn’t forgotten. Hello dear Veronica, have fun in the Siberian forest. I hope, not too cold.


  2. These words were so good, so wonderful dear Veronica. You are amazing and I was glad to see your name on my board. Good morning from Michigan and I hope you are doing well and having some fun.


    1. Dear Cheryl, your praise made my day!

      Tsvetaeva is a very challenging poet to translate – her language is akin to a forest fire that cannot be controlled.

      Despite all the difficulties and linguistic conundrums, translating her poetry is one of the most fulfilling tasks I have completed. I hope more English speakers can discover her passionate verse!

      Thank you for your kind wishes ~ I reciprocate them and wish you lots of inspiration and love – the essential elements for every poet. 🌹

      With appreciation,

      Liked by 1 person

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