from Poems for Blok, by Marina Tsvetaeva

lingua fennica


Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941) wrote this for her fellow poet Alexander Blok (1890-1921). It is a play on the sound of his surname. I have tried here to reproduce as closely as possible the stress pattern and rhyming – including the near-rhymes – of the original. The first problem is to nail down the stress, which, being fluid in Russian, is far from straightforward. It seems to me that the struggle must be to re-present both sense and form. There’s a very good translation here that takes what I think is an easier path. (The confusing rendering of “пять” (five) as “four” is explained by the translators’ accommodation of the post-revolution spelling reform, but as the poem was written in 1916 I don’t think that can be justified.) I’m not happy with my despairing “caps” (capital letters) for “букв” (letters). And at first I had “ach – no more!” for “ах, нельзя!”…

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