Translation of ‘The Russian God’ (Русский бог) by Prince Vyazemskiy

Prince P.A. Vyazemskiy laments the dirt, cold and hunger in which Russia finds itself. This poem was written in 1828, three years after the coronation of Tsar Nicholas I. The “Germans” of the last verse are the German Balts who were, in Vyazemsky’s opinion, far too numerous in the form of hangers-on at court.

This was an easy enough poem to translate given the repetitive rhyme of bog (‘god’) with the second line of each verse. You might be surprised by how many words do rhyme with ‘god’ in English. I simply listed them all and crossed them off as I used them to avoid repeating myself (in which I wasn’t entirely successful). Because the Russian word bog is traditionally pronounced with an aspirated gh-like sound, though, you start to wonder if any of them poem really rhymes at all.

A final note: Vyazemskiy himself almost-rhymed poperyok with bog in verse three, so I’ve taken the liberty of almost-rhyming ‘freezing’ and ‘leasing’. Oh, and: Vyazemskiy leaves out a vulgar word in verse four, so I have, too. Use your imagination to fill in the gap.

The Russian God

Do you need an explanation
Of what is the Russian god?
Here’s for you his information:
What I’ve noted as I’ve trod.

God of blizzards, god of potholes,
God of tracks where horses plod,
Cockroach-filled post-stations, rot-holes:
This is – this – the Russian god.

God of hunger, god of freezing,
Beggars cramming every sod,
God of manors without leasing:
This is – this – the Russian god.

God of —- and sagging places,
God of clogs and feet turned odd,
God of acid cream and faces,
This is – this – the Russian god.

God of fruit-gin, gherkin-water,
Serfs sold with the land by rod,
Brigadier and dimwit daughter,
This is – this – the Russian god.

God of icons worn as pendants,
Servants barefoot, never shod,
Lords in sleighs with two attendants,
This is – this – the Russian god.

To the stupid he is gracious,
To the clever – prick-poke-prod,
God of everything vexatious,
This is – this – the Russian god.

God of glut and plenty clustered,
All that’s queer and somehow odd,
God of dinners made of mustard,
This is – this – the Russian god.

God who sends, as he determines,
Vagrant strangers in a squad,
God whose favour falls on Germans,
This is – this – the Russian god.

Translation: Ian Mac Eochagáin

***

Русский бог

Нужно ль вам истолкованье,
Что такое русский бог?[1]
Вот его вам начертанье,
Сколько я заметить мог.

Бог метелей, бог ухабов,
Бог мучительных дорог,
Станций — тараканьих штабов,
Вот он, вот он русский бог.

Бог голодных, бог холодных,
Нищих вдоль и поперёк,
Бог имений недоходных,
Вот он, вот он русский бог.

Бог грудей и жоп отвислых,
Бог лаптей и пухлых ног,
Горьких лиц и сливок кислых,
Вот он, вот он русский бог.

Бог наливок, бог рассолов,
Душ, представленных в залог,[2]
Бригадирш обоих полов,[3]
Вот он, вот он русский бог.

Бог всех с анненской на шеях,[4]
Бог дворовых без сапог,
Бар в санях при двух лакеях,
Вот он, вот он русский бог.

К глупым полн он благодати,
К умным беспощадно строг,
Бог всего, что есть некстати,[5]
Вот он, вот он русский бог.

Бог всего, что из границы,
Не к лицу, не под итог,
Бог по ужине горчицы,
Вот он, вот он русский бог.

Бог бродяжных иноземцев,
К нам зашедших за порог,
Бог в особенности немцев,[6]
Вот он, вот он русский бог.

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2 thoughts on “Translation of ‘The Russian God’ (Русский бог) by Prince Vyazemskiy

  1. Pingback: Loss (Потеря), Yevgeny Yevtushenko | lingua fennica

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