На полях “A Shropshire Lad” (Тimur Kibirov)


A E Housman

Well, this book (На полях <<A Shropshire Lad>>, Тимур Кибиров, Поэтическая библиотека, М. 2007) is rather fine!  It contains the 63 poems from Housman’s ‘A Shropshire Lad’ each accompanied by a…response…from Kibirov.  Usually this comprises a poem in Russian where the theme of Housman’s original is applied to Kibirov’s own life and world-view, but sometimes we have an adaptation or response in English, a literal translation or a collection of summaries from different points of view.  In general, Kibirov’s responses keep to about the same length and the same level of regularity in metre and rhyme as the originals, which is of course less surprising in Rusian than it would be in English.

In No. 22, in response to Housman’s The street sounds to the soldiers’ tread, Kibirov reflects on his strange meeting with Housman:

Ну почему не Честертон,
Не Донн, не Вальтер Скотт?!
С какого перепугу он
К себе меня влечет?

На кой мне этот пессимизм,
И плоский стоицизм,
И извращенный эротизм,
И жалкий атеизм?

Зачем же про себя и вслух
Я эти песни пел?..
О, где бы ты ни был, бедный дух,
Professor, I wish you well.

Timur Kibirov

So, in response to Housman’s pessimism, banal stoicism, perverted eroticism and wretched atheism, Kibirov proposes humour, heterosexual love, Christianity and a kind of hard-won optimism.  He also rather passes by the detailed nature descriptions in Housman in favour of the background provided by his own life and tends to substitute British patriotism by references to the glories of Russian literature.

So, in number 40 Into my heart an air that kills, we have as a response

Издалека пахнуло тем,
Что гибелью грозит:
Где ж эти вешние холмы,
Где ж та листва шумит?

Ах, это край, где вечно май,
Где вечно мы, дружок,
Сидим на склоне, расстелив
В длину мой пиджачок.

So in place of Housman’s detailed description of the landscape and bitterness at what has been lost, we have a pleasant reminiscence from Kibirov of sitting outside and enjoying romance in the open air.  Or similarly, in response to the elemental resignation of No. 32,  From far, from eve and morning

Kibirov feels that, with love, something remains and something can yet be achieved:

Конечно, не так, как прежде,
Но все же вынослив я,
Сношу-выношу нагрузки
И тяготы бытия.

Но как же, Господи, тяжко!
Как злато и как свинец…
А все-таки смерть перевесит
Тяжелую жизнь под конец.

Вот так же невыносима
Любовь. Но тебя, дружок,
(Пусть не на руках – на закорках)
Еще б я понес чуток…

Conveniently enough, you can find the complete texts here.

Literal translations of Kibirov’s versions

No. 22

Well, why not Chesterton,
Not Donne, not Walter Scott?
In what fright does he
Attract me to himself?

Why do I need this pessimism,
And banal stoicism,
And perverted eroticism,
And wretched atheism?

Why is it, to myself and aloud,
I have sung these songs?
Oh, wherever you are, poor spirit,
Professor, I wish you well.

No. 22

From far off it smells of that
Which threatens ruin:
Where then are these eternal hills
Where then does that foliage rustle?

Ah, that land, where it is always May,
Where we  are always, my friend,
Sitting on the slope, having spread out
My jacket lengthwise.

No. 32

Of course, not the same as previously,
But all the same I’m sturdy,
I carry and I bear the loads
And the burdens of existence.

But Lord how difficult it is!
Like gold and like lead…
And all the same death outweighs
A hard life at the end.

There’s love, in the same way
Unbearable.  But you, my friend
If not in my arms, on my back,
I would carry a little further…

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