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The Drowned Man poem – Alexander Pushkin

A poem by Alexander Pushkin – Pouchkine, Pooshkin (1799-1837), in English translation

Children running into izba,

Calling father, dripping sweat:

“Daddy, daddy! come — there is a

Deadman caught inside our net.”

“Fancy, fancy fabrication…”

Grumbled off their weary Pa,

“Have these imps imagination!

Deadman, really! ya-ha-ha…

“Well… the court may come to bother –

What’ll I say before the judge?

Hey you brats, go have your mother

Bring my coat; I better trudge…

Show me, where?” — “Right there, Dad, farther!”

On the sand where netting ropes

Lay spread out, the peasant father

Saw the veritable corpse.

Badly mangled, ugly, frightening,

Blue and swollen on each side…

Has he fished in storm and lightning,

Or committed suicide?

Could this be a careless drunkard,

Or a mermaid-seeking monk,

Or a merchandizer, conquered

By some bandits, robbed and sunk?

To the peasant, what’s it matter!

Quick: he grabs the dead man’s hair,

Drags his body to the water,

Looks around: nobody’s there:

Good… relieved of the concern he

Shoves his paddle at a loss,

While the stiff resumes his journey

Down the stream for grave and cross.

Long the dead man as one living

Rocked on waves amid the foam…

Surly as he watched him leaving,

Soon our peasant headed home.

“Come you pups! let’s go, don’t scatter.

Each of you will get his bun.

But remember: just you chatter —

And I’ll whip you, every one.”

Dark and stormy it was turning.

High the river ran in gloom.

Now the torch has finished burning

In the peasant’s smoky room.

Kids asleep, the wife aslumber,

He lies listening to the rain…

Bang! he hears a sudden comer

Knocking on the window-pane.

“What the…” — “Let me in there, master!”

“Damn, you found the time to roam!

Well, what is it, your disaster?

Let you in? It’s dark at home,

Dark and crowded… What a pest you are!

Where’d I put you in my cot…”

Slowly, with a lazy gesture,

He lifts up the pane and; what?

Through the clouds, the moon was showing…

Well? the naked man was there,

Down his hair the water flowing,

Wide his eyes, unmoved the stare;

Numb the dreadful-looking body,

Arms were hanging feeble, thin;

Crabs and cancers, black and bloody,

Sucked into the swollen skin.

As the peasant slammed the shutter

(Recognized his visitant)

Horror-struck he could but mutter

“Blast you!” and began to pant.

He was shuddering, awful chaos

All night through stirred in his brain,

While the knocking shook the house

By the gates and at the pane.

People tell a dreadful rumor:

Every year the peasant, say,

Waiting in the worst of humor

For his visitor that day;

As the rainstorm is increasing,

Nightfall brings a hurricane –

And the drowned man knocks, unceasing,

By the gates and at the pane.

translated by: Genia Gurarie

email: egurarie@princeton.edu

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Copyright ©: 
Genia Gurarie

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