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Monday
Jul072008

Blok, "Незнакомка"

One of the greatest poems ("The Stranger") of the twentieth century, as composed by Aleksandr Blok.   You can read the original here.

tmp1A91-2.jpgAbove the bistros and the day,
A warmer air, both wild and dumb,
Holds shouts and cries of drunken sway,  
The noxious breath of springtime come.

Afar, above the crossroad dust,
Above the languor of dachas plain,
Street pretzel stands sell golden crust,
And children’s cries ring out in vain.

And every eve beyond barred ways,
Fine bowler hats are cocked on tip,
Near ditches ladies stroll and gaze,
As raconteurs their barriers strip.

Above the lake are oarlocks moored,
A female shriek finds no remorse,
And in the sky, to all inured,
A senseless disc repeats its course.

And every eve a single friend,
Reflected in my sordid glass,
As tart and secret potions blend,  
Shares all my stunned and quiet past.

Beside the tables of our confreres,
The servers sleepy tasks amass,
And dizzy drunks with eyes of hares
Exclaim: "In vino veritas."

And every eve, in time prevailed
(Or am I foolishly asleep?),
A girlish shape, in silks regaled,
Moves by the foggy window’s deep.

Between the drunks, still gliding slow,
E’er unaccompanied, alone,
Perfumes and fogs she has to show,
And by the sill she makes her home.

Beliefs of ancients coat the winds:
Elastic silks reform unplanned,
Funereal feathers of past sins,
And rings upon a narrow hand.

In strange closeness so ensnared, I
Escape beyond the darkened veil:
A shore enchanted I espy,
Set softly by enchanted dale.

Unspoken secrets find their tomb,
Between my hands a sun falls grey,
And all wine’s dregs have spun their loom,
My soul’s red thread has gone astray.

And ostrich plumes bent in restraint
Relieve my mind of its dark lore;
And endless eyes of bluish taint
Refract and bloom on distant shore.

And in my soul a secret hides,
Its key is only known as mine!
O, drunken beast whom man derides,
There is indeed much truth in wine.

Reader Comments (2)

Wow, this is a brilliant translation! "Незнакомка" is one of the many that they make us learn by heart at school, and it is also one of my favorites. I can't help feeling that great works of quill must be shared across languages. Thank you very much for carrying Blok's beauty into English, and for taking such care of preserving the atmosphere of the poem.

This is a translation I will be proud to share with my non-Russian friends.

January 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterElena

Thanks very much for your kind words, Elena!

January 13, 2014 | Registered Commenterdeeblog

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