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Aleksandr Pushkin

Aleksandr Pushkin

Ruslan and Lyudmila

1820
DEDICATION,

It’s just for you, my heart’s queens, glorious,
My precious beauties, just for you –
Of times that gone the fable stories,
In leisure’s golden hours, few,
Under the past’s much-talking clamor –
I wrote with my sure hand;
So, receive this playful labor!
Not asking any accolade,
I’m happy with a hope here
That once a maid, in loving fret,
Maybe would steal a look hers dear
At my iniquitous song’s a set.



There’s a green oak-tree by the shores
Of the blue bay; on a gold chain,
The cat, learned in the fable stories,
Walks round the tree in ceaseless strain:
Moves to the right – a song it groans,
Moves to the left – it tells a tale.

There’re marvels there: the wood-spite roams,
Midst branches shines the mermaids’ tail;
There are the strangest creatures’ traces
On the mysterious paths and moors;
There stands a hut on hen’s legs, hairless,
Without windows and doors;
There visions fill a vale and forest;
There, at a dawn, come waves, the coldest,
On the deserted sandy shore,
And thirty knights,  in armors shone, 
Come out the clear waves in a colon,
And their sea-tutor – them before;  
There a brave prince, in a fight, shortest,
Makes to surrender a king, dread;
There, to men’ views, a wizard, worthless,
O’er woods and seas, through clouds, aired,
Carries a worrier on his beard;
A princess pines away in prison,
And a wolf serves her without treason;
A mortar, with a witch in it,
Walks as if having somewhat feet;
There’s King Kashchey, o’er his gold withered;
There’s Russian odour… Russian spirit!
And I there sat: I drank sweet mead,
Saw, near the sea, the green oak, growing,
Under it heard a cat, much-knowing,
Talking me its long stories’ set.
Having recalled one of its stories,
I’ll recite it to the world, glorious…
 



THE FIRST SONG


The things of days, in Lithe gone,
The legends of the past obscure.

In a crowd of a mighty son
And faithful friend in his hall’s lure,
Vladimir-sun was feasting there –
His child Lyudmila, young and fair,
Was marring prince Ruslan, the bravest –
And from a cup, biggest and heaviest,
The sire was drinking to young pair.
Our fathers ate then very slow,
And slow moved around gests, fine,
The jugs and cups, with silver loaded,
Filled with the boiling beer and wine.
They poured into their hearts great gayness,
White foam hissed by the cups breams,
And solemnly bore silent servants,
And low bowed to gests’ whims. 

All speeches merged into one drone;
And hums the circle of gay gests;
But here, pleasant and fast-flown,
Rose a voice of the harp blessed.
The bard is heard in silence common,
And praises his enchanting songs
Lyudmila’s charm, Ruslan’s fame grown,
And the Lel’s wreath which them belongs.
 
But, tired with a flaming passion,
Doesn’t eat, doesn’t drink Ruslan impatient;
He looks at his beloved bride,
Sighs, becomes angry, reddens bright…
Dragging his moustache in the torment,
He counts every passing moment.
In sadness, with their brows dark,
At the one feasting table stuck,
There sit three knights in their young years,
They’re silent behind empty jugs,
Forgot the goblets, circling here,
And put aside the other mugs;
They does not hear the omens singer’s,
Cast down their eyes, confused and sad –
Those are Ruslan’s three competitors;
In his heart, each of them has veiled
His love and poison of his hate.
The first – Rogday, the best of warriors,
Which had spread with his sword, the borders
Of Kiev fertile fields’ a lot. 
The other one – Pharlaph – the loftiest,
Ne’er conquer’d in the feastings longest,
But very shy amidst a sword;
The last, and filled with thoughts of passion, -
The khan of Khazars young Ratmir:
The three are pale in full depression, 
And the gay feast can not them stir.

The feast is done. And by their rows,
Gests stand up in a crowd close,
And all look at the youthful pair:
The bride cast down her eyes gentle,
As if her heart’s in sadness settled,
A bridegroom’s in the gladly glare.
But shadows embrace all nature,
The time is near the middle-night;
The lords, had dozed in a mead’s capture,
With bows, leave for their home light.
The bridegroom’s happy. With great passion,
He fondles in his imagination,
The beauty of the bashful maid;
But with the secret, sad admission,
The Great Prince gives benediction
To the young couple in the end.
  
And now the bride, so young and prettiest,
Is led her wed-bedroom inside;
Lights are extinguished… and Lel restless,
Lights up the icon-lamp of night. 
All dear dreams came real now,
And ready the blessed gifts of love;
The Byzantine carpets above
The avid dresses will lie down…
D’you hear love’s delightful whispers,
And sounds of sweet kisses, then,
And this fast weakening resistance 
Of shyness, last?... The happy man
Forebodes of the heavens’ pleasures;
They’d come… But through a shot time’s span,
There peals a thunder, lightning flashes
Quenches the icon-lamp, runs smoke –
All’s in a darkness and a shock,
And Ruslan’s soul lies in ashes…
All’s silent. And in silence this,
Twice sounded a voice, the nameless,
And someone in the thickness mist’s
Skied up – more blackened than mist’s blackness …
Again, the palace – a mute tomb,
And rises the quite shocked bridegroom.
From his face, a cold sweat runs down;
And trembling, with his cooling hand,
He asks the darkness, mute and bland …
Alas! His sweet friend’s not around!
He catches only empty air;
There’s no Lyudmila anywhere –
Kidnapped by some one, can’t be found.

Oh, if a mortar, in a love, 
Loses a hope for his passion,
His life would have been a sad life,
But still with its continuation.
Yet, after many long a year,
Just to embrace his girl beloved,
The object of his wish, pine, tear,
And, aft a minute, her, so ardent,
To lose for ever…  Oh, my friend,
I’d have been better with the dead.

Ruslan’s alive after this wreckage,
But what then said the poor Great Prince?
Having received the awful message
And cursed a son-in-law his,
He calls him and all courtiers, farther,
“Where is Lyudmila?’’ cries the father.
Ruslan – his brow’s hot and cold –
Doesn’t hear. “Friends, my children dear,
I know rewards of all you here:
O, have a pity for me, old!
Just tell me who from you is ready
To ride for saving of my child?
And him, whose feat is done already –
It’s up to you to weep, you cursed,
Could not preserve the wife of yours! –
She will be married, I do swear,
With half of my so rich a land.   
So, who this service wants to bear?”
“I want,” the saddened bridegroom said,
“And I!” cried in the utter gladness 
Pharlaph, Ratmir and young Ragday,
“We’ll mount in our horses’ saddles
And search the world for night and day.
We’ll not continue separation,
And go for our princess fine.”
And by his gratitude resigned,
Stretches to them his arms, with passion,
The old man, tortured with a pine. 

All four together they go out;
Ruslan – as if were killed with dread:
The thought of his kidnapped beloved
Is making him the almost dead.
They mount their ambitious horses;
Along the Dnepr’s banks, rich and joyous, 
They fly out in the clouds of dust,
And vanish very far and fast…
Now the horsemen aren’t seen more …
But still is looking the Great Prince
Into the now empty fields,
Following them with his thoughts sore.

Ruslan was pined in whole silence,
Having lost almost of his mind;
And looking at them all in askance,
Akimbo in the vainly kind
And loftiness – Pharlaph was riding.
He says: “At last, my dear friends,
I’m free amidst the dangerous lands!
How soon will be my winning fighting
With some wild giant? What a blood 
Will flow, what a heap of perished!
Have fun, my sword of the true heart, 
Have fun, my stallion, never blemished!”

In his boiled fancy, the young khan
Is now embracing his Lyudmila,
He’s almost dancing his horse on,
The hot blood is his vessels filling
His hope’s blazing from his eyes:

He’s driving very fast sometimes,
Sometimes is mocking his horse raving,
Turning him round, or at once
Rearing him or up-hills sending.  

Ragday is grim and mute … Depending
Of the unknown karma’s prance,
And burning in sensations selfish,
He’s troubled more than all, it seems,
And very often his look, hellish,
Is following the riding prince.
  
Along the same unchanging road,
They’re riding for a whole day.
Blackens the bank of the Dnepr, broad,
The eastern shades push light away;
Mists dress the river’s precipitation;
It’s time for horses’ rest, they feel.
There it is seemed – the intersection
Of roads under that high hill.
“To separate” – they said – “the time is!
Let’s give selves to the fateful wave.”
And every horse, not feeling armors,
Made chosen its own way.

What are you doing, Ruslan, helpless,
Alone in the desert, grim?
Think that that you’d seen Lyudmila precious
And that bad day just in your dream?
Your copper helmet’s on your brow,
Your horse’s bridle’s hanging low –
You’re slow riding through the fields
And slowly in your soul’s deeps
Is dying all your faith and hope…

But suddenly in the hill’s slope,
The lighted cave he clearly sees,
Goes strait under their dozing arches –
The contemporaries of nature –
Enters, the saddened. What is there?
The old man looking clear and fair:
His beard is gray, his eye is patient;
The icon-lamp before him flares.
By it the ancient book is placed –
He’s reading it with deep attention.
“You’re very welcome, my dear son!”
He hailed Ruslan, while kindly smiling,
“For twenty years I’m here, alone,
In darkness of the life, declining; 
But now, at last, it came – the day,
I’ve foreseen so long ago.
We’re put together by Fate’s Law;
Sit down and listen what I’ll say.
  
O prince Ruslan, you’ve lost Lyudmila:
Your manly heart is in a thrilling;
But the sad trice will soon pass by –
Your lot is bad just for a while.
With a hope and a faith, the merry,
Go against all and don’t be sad;
With a sword, sharp and never scarred,
Your fighting road must be set.

Know, Ruslan, that your offender
Is the magician Chernomor,
The old thief of the fair gender,
The northern mountains’ Great Lord.
Till now no one could even throw
One’s look at his abode, though;
But, of the low deals a destroyer –
You’ll enter it, and the blackguard,
Will perish under your arm, hard.
I must not tell you any more;
From now, my son, you will decide
What your fate must have in its store.”
 

Our knight fell to the old man’s feet,
Kissing his hand in recognition.
With light of hope his eyes are lit
And heart forgot the past infliction.
Again he lives; and yet again
His flamed face shows desolation…
“I know your woe’s explanation;
But there’s no reason for complain,”
The old man said, “Your consternation
Is raised by love of the fiend, grayed;
Be calm: in vain is his black passion –
And safe from it the young maid’s held.
He throws down stars from heavens,
He whistles – and the moon is mad;
But ‘gainst the law, that time engraves,
His mighty science is impotent.
The guard, observant one and jealous,
Of all locks of the merciless doors,
He’s just a torturer, the helpless,
Of Beauty, in his prison closed.
Around her he, silent, roams,
Curses his so cruel fate…
But now, o noblest of the warriors,
You need a rest – it’s getting late.”

Ruslan lies on the moss heap, gentle,
Before the slow dying flames.
He seeks a sleep, its lulling waves,
Turns round, sighs in stiffness, mental…
In vain! And speaks at last the knight:
“My father, I can’t sleep this night!
What can I do? My heart lost patience,
My sleep’s not sleep, my life’s not life.
Permit me to relax my strife
With your so holly conversation.
Forgive my asking not polite:
Say, who are you, my noble savior,
My fate’s mate of the strange behavior?
Why are you in this desert site?”

[TO BE CONTINUED]


Translated by Yevgeny Bonver, February, 2004-February, 2005


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