My Translation of Marina Tsvetaeva’s Cycle “Girlfriend” – Part 7

Two aristocratic women in silk white dresses are holding hands in the garden. They are smiling tenderly.
Illustration: The elegant Reventlow sisters by Heinrich August Georg Schiøtt (1840s)
My Translation: 
***
Her neck is lifted—young and free,
Like spring in reverie.
Who knows her name—who knows her age,
Who—home, who—century?

There is no light on these curved lips— 
Capricious and gentle—  
Yet I am blinded and eclipsed
By her Beethoven's temple.

It makes me tender—clear and lit,
Her face, a melted oval,
Her hand, in which a whip would fit,
And—in the silver—opal.

A violin bow could serve her hand,
But into silks it went,
How unrepeatable—this hand,
Unique, beloved hand.

(January 10, 1915)
Continue reading “My Translation of Marina Tsvetaeva’s Cycle “Girlfriend” – Part 7”

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

My Translation of Marina Tsvetaeva’s Cycle “Girlfriend” – Part 5

Illustration: Lady Before the Mirror by John White Alexander
***
I want to ask the looking glass 
With dusty, mistful dreams, 
Which road - which country shall You pass, 
And where Your shelter gleams.

Here, I behold: the ship's tall mast,
And You - on deck alone...
You - in the train's steam... Fields at dusk
Are gloomy and forlorn...

The dusky meadows bathe in dew,
Above - the ravens soar...
To the four winds I scatter You
And bless Your soul!

May 3, 1915

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My Translation of Marina Tsvetaeva’s Cycle “Girlfriend” – Part 4

Illustration: Devotion: the Two Girlfriends, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1895
***
You were too lazy to get dressed,
Too lazy to rise from the armchair.
- Although Your next day could be blessed
With my pure gaiety and laughter.

You were embarrassed most of all
To walk at night amid the snowfall.
- Although Your hours could be bold
With my excitement - jolly, youthful.

My darling, You have meant no harm,
So irreversibly benign.
- You were all innocence and charm,
I was the youth that passed You by.

October 25, 1914

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My Translation of Marina Tsvetaeva’s Cycle “Girlfriend” – Part 3

Illustration: “The Window Seat” by Robert Burns, 1905-1906.
Picture Editing: Pascale Clerie
***
I’ve spent all day beside the window,
The snow was melting everywhere.
My mind was sober, bosom - tender,
Again I live without care.

I don’t know why. It must be languor,
The mere exhaustion of the soul,
I simply couldn’t bear to handle
My pencil - riotous and bold.

And so I stood - the foggy valance -
Concealed both evil and caress,
My finger gently broke the silence
By tapping on the fragile glass.

My spirit’s neither worse, nor better
Than any stranger - whom I’ve met, -
Than puddles of pearlescent glitter,
The mirrored sky above my head,

Than bird in flight, so free and dauntless,
Than racing dog with fluffy ears,
And even the impoverished songstress
No longer can bring me to tears.

The charming art of sweet oblivion
I’ve memorized from the start.
Today a feeling worth a million
Was slowly melting in my heart.


October 24, 1914

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My Translation of Marina Tsvetaeva’s Cycle “Girlfriend” – Part 2

Illustration: Ladies and a Cat, Louis Icart, 1923
***
Under the plush plaid's tender softness
I lie, remembering last night.
Was it a dream? - Who broke the fortress? -
Who lost the fight?

Again comes bitter rumination,
And suffering hits me anew.
Words can't define this revelation -
Do I love you?

Who was the hunter? - Who - the victim? 
The devil has reversed it all!
What purring, wise Siberian kitten
May now recall?

In that self-willed and fervent duel,
Who held the shield, and who - the sword?
Whose heartbeat - Yours or mine - was cruel,
And raced, and soared?

What - after all - was our story?
What do I long for and regret?
Still wondering: was this my glory?
Or my death-bed?


October 23, 1914

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My Translation of Marina Tsvetaeva’s Cycle “Girlfriend” – Part 1

A photograph of Sophia Parnok, to whom Marina Tsvetaeva dedicated this cycle of poems.
***
Aren’t you happy? No! You would hardly tell me!
So - let it be!
You’ve kissed too many, and you’ve loved too many,
In misery.

All of the tragic heroines of Shakespeare
I see in You,
Although nobody saved my lady - young, drear -
Out of the blue!

You are exhausted by repeating blindly
The words of love!
The ring, cast-iron, on your hand - frail, whitely, -
Reveals enough!

I love You. - Deadly sins, like clouds of thunder, -
Above you rest -
For all of Your causticity and candour,
You are the best,

For all the differences left between us -
In shades of gloom,
For Your seductiveness, inspired by Venus,
And stormy doom.

To You, my highbrow, otherworldly demon,
I’ll say goodbye,
For You, the most remarkable of women, -
Will surely die!

For all this sudden trembling - and confusion -
Is this a dream? -
For the ironic, wonderful conclusion -
That you’re not “him.”

October 16, 1914

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