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Nikolai Gumilev –

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Agamemnon’s Warrior by Nikolai Gumilev

A queer and fearful question is tight,
Oppresses my soul and tosses:
Can one be alive if Atreus has died —
Has died on a bed of roses.

All that we dreamed of and everywhere praised,
All our longing and fear —
Were fully reflected in those calm eyes,
As were in a glass of a tear.

Ineffable power dwelt in his hands,
A saga of feet was retold;
A beautiful cloud he was for his land
Mycenae — the country of gold.

What am I? A fragment of ancient dread,
A javelin, fallen on earth —
Atreus, the leader of nations, is dead, —
But I have been spared by death.

The down is full with reproachful flame,
The waters enticingly sing,
It’s hard to exist with the horrible shame,
If one had forfeited one’s king.

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver, October, 1995


I am quite unsure about this translation, as I am unsure about poetry translations in general, but I haven’t found anything better, and I haven’t yet attempted to translate this on my own.  Translations are evil. In some ways, they are a necessary evil, but an evil nonetheless. That’s maybe why Nabokov translated Pushkin’s (Pouchkine, Pooshkin) Eugene Onegin, a perfectly rhymed work, into what is, in Nabokov’s reality, an unrhymed piece of prose. I am afraid Gumilev’s poetic luster is lost in translation, but we’ve got what we’ve got.

Russian original 

Nikolay Gumilev, Gumilioff, Gumilyov

Николай Гумилев – Воин Агамемнона

Смутную душу мою тяготит
Странный и страшный вопрос:
Можно ли жить, если умер Атрид,
Умер на ложе из роз?

Все, что нам снилось всегда и везде,
Наше желанье и страх,
Все отражалось, как в чистой воде,
В этих спокойных очах.

В мышцах жила несказанная мощь,
Нега — в изгибе колен,
Был он прекрасен, как облако, — вождь
Золотоносных Микен.

Что я? Обломок старинных обид
Дротик, упавший в траву.
Умер водитель народов, Атрид, —
Я же, ничтожный, живу.

Манит прозрачность глубоких озер,
Смотрит с укором заря.
Тягостен, тягостен этот позор —
Жить, потерявши царя!

 


Other poems by Nikolai Gumilev

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