Saturday, November 14, 2015
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Like a white stone in the depths of a well...
working translation by Greg Pavlik
Like a white stone in the depths of a well
within me there lies one memory.
I can not - and do not - want to expel
this, my greatest joy and my agony.
I think that anyone who closely looks
can see this recollection reads
as harrowing sadness in a tragic book -
a warning, and a sign of need.
I know the gods forever strive
to wreck the body but cannot touch the mind;
assurance that you will forever live
as a memory I can’t leave behind.
Как белый камень в глубине колодца,
Лежит во мне одно воспоминанье.
Я не могу и не хочу бороться:
Оно - веселье и оно - страданье.
Мне кажется, что тот, кто близко взглянет
В мои глаза, его увидит сразу.
Печальней и задумчивее станет
Внимающего скорбному рассказу.
Я ведаю, что боги превращали
Людей в предметы, не убив сознанья,
Чтоб вечно жили дивные печали.
Ты превращен в мое воспоминанье.
Sunday, October 11, 2015
translation by Greg Pavlik
Do not lament me, O Mother,
seeing me in the tomb.
The angelic chorus glorified the hour of eternity,
when the heavens convulsed in a river of fire:
He cried to His Father “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?”
And to His Mother, he spoke: “Do not lament me”…
Mary Magdalena writhed, and wept
as the beloved John froze like stone (or salt).
Where the Mother stood in silence -
no one dared to look.
Translator notes. I chose to translate this poem much less loosely than my interpretative translation of Akhmatova’s Lot’s Wife – there Russian readers will recognize that the final stanza is essentially my own poem (with an explicit reference to the unrelated work of Scott Cairns, in fact).
Instead, this section of Requiem is much closer to the original (1), with only minimal augmentation. Nonetheless, it is also very different from Akhmatova’s in certain critical respects. Requiem itself is a difficult and evocative work – its melancholy is inseparable from the suffering of both Akhmatova herself and the Soviet people under Stalin. In some sense, I have abandoned this context in my translation. Educated Russian readers would have recognized Akhmatova’s work as using the imagery of the hymnography of the Paschal Nocturnes, the final liturgical setting of Great and Holy Saturday chanted before the entombed body of the dead Christ, which includes a deeply moving dialogue with his Mother. (2)
I have chosen to deepen the liturgical elements of the poem and play off themes that recur in and around the Lenten Triodion. The text of the Slavonic service is rendered here in English as it is commonly used in American parishes within the Russian Orthodox tradition. Second, I use the Hebrew directly in quotation from the Psalter, emphasizing its position as a liturgical prayer. While the dialogic element from the Nocturnes service is repeated, maintaining the liturgical connection, here the address to the Mother is clearly one of human filial affection.
The river of fire is evocative of the image God as “consuming fire”, which, St Isaac says is experienced as bliss by the pure in heart. The second stanza – and I do not believe there is any intention at all in the original to do this – also points back to the story of Lot and Sodom and implicitly re-invokes the image of fire. Akhmatova makes no association with salt. I have tried intentionally not to recall the poetics of Stabat Mater in the final lines.
(1) Original Russian:
Не рыдай Мене, Мати,
во гробе зрящия.
Хор ангелов великий час восславил,
И небеса расплавились в огне.
Отцу сказал: "Почто Меня оставил!"
А матери: "О, не рыдай Мене..."
Магдалина билась и рыдала,
Ученик любимый каменел,
А туда, где молча Мать стояла,
Так никто взглянуть и не посмел.
1940, Фонтанный Дом
(2) From the Eastern Orthodox Liturgical Service of Paschal Nocturnes:
Do not lament me, O Mother, seeing me in the tomb, the Son conceived in the womb without seed, for I shall arise and be glorified with eternal glory as God. I shall exalt all who magnify thee in faith and in love.
Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee!
I escaped sufferings and was blessed beyond nature at Thy strange birth, O Son, who art without beginning. But now, beholding Thee, my God, dead and without breath, I am sorely pierced by the sword of sorrow. But arise, that I may be magnified.
Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee!
By my own will, the earth covers me, O Mother, but the gatekeepers of hell tremble at seeing me clothed in the blood-stained garments of vengeance; for when I have vanquished my enemies on the cross, I shall arise as God and magnify thee.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Let creation rejoice, let all born on earth be glad, for hateful hell has been despoiled, let the women with myrrh come to meet me, for I am redeeming Adam and Eve and all their descendants, and on the third day shall I arise.
Monday, September 28, 2015
by Anna Akhmatova
an interpretive translation by Greg Pavlik
As if coming from the distant and black mountains.
But his wife,
She saw what was until yesterday her blessing.
Where she sang spinning cloth -
The empty window of the room,
In which her children were born.
For she could look no more:
Her body translucent salt,
Her feet joined the earth.
An insignificant role in a grand saga -
Yet my conscience cannot forget
The one who gave her life for a fleeting glance.
Огромный и светлый, по черной горе.
Но громко жене говорила тревога:
Не поздно, ты можешь еще посмотреть
На красные башни родного Содома,
На площадь, где пела, на двор, где пряла,
На окна пустые высокого дома,
Где милому мужу детей родила.
Взглянула – и, скованы смертною болью,
Глаза ее больше смотреть не могли;
И сделалось тело прозрачною солью,
И быстрые ноги к земле приросли.
Кто женщину эту оплакивать будет?
Не меньшей ли мнится она из утрат?
Лишь сердце мое никогда не забудет
Отдавшую жизнь за единственный взгляд.
Saturday, August 08, 2015
Friday, August 07, 2015
Yukio Mishima: narcissist, political fanatic, suicide. And one of Japan's greatest novelists. I recently completed the Sea of Fertility tetralogy, which traces the life of Shigekuni Honda from youth to retirement as a wealthy attorney, centered around what Honda believes are the successive reincarnations of his friend Kiyoaki Matsugae: as a young rightist, a Thai princess and an orphan. The most powerful of the four novels, in my opinion is the second: Runaway Horses. The book seems to rebuke the militant nationalism of Japanese reactionaries, though ironically enough Mishima himself ends his own life under the banner of a similar ideology. Mishima's fascinating portrait of an inherent dark side of youth - a taming of a deep inhumanism - so to speak, comes through almost all the novels, but most strongly in the last. This echoes a theme he developed in The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea, though I can think of few works that more strongly explore this theme than the Lord of the Flies. In any case, Mishima is masterful in exploring aberrant developmental psychology - even as he, himself, seems to have been stricken with his own disordered personality.
Maria Skobtsova: atheist, symbolist poet, Bolshevik revolutionary - and a renegade nun arrested for helping Jews in Paris by the Gestapo, she allegedly died by taking the place of a Jewish woman being sent to death. Jim Forrest provides a useful overview of her life - unlikely most lives of a Christian saints, this is no hagiography: it is a straightforward story of life. At the same time, we see a life transformed by a dawning realization that self-denial is a path to transformation -
"The way to God lies through love of people. At the Last Judgment I shall not be asked whether I was successful in my ascetic exercises, nor how many bows and prostrations I made. Instead I shall be asked did I feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the prisoners. That is all I shall be asked. About every poor, hungry and imprisoned person the Savior says ‘I': ‘I was hungry and thirsty, I was sick and in prison.’ To think that he puts an equal sign between himself and anyone in need. . . . I always knew it, but now it has somehow penetrated to my sinews. It fills me with awe."
And despite a life dedicated to service, she remained an acute intellectual, a characteristic of so many Russian emigres in Paris. This too reflected her view that redemption and suffering where intertwined - my favorite piece