“Russian Seasons” again

Since I was puzzled by the words to Desyatnikov’s Russian Seasons I decided to invest in the CD.  That has texts in English and German (not Russian), but they don’t exactly correspond to what I heard (nor to each other).  You can view the texts that accompany the CD here.  The booklet says that the words and music derive from a collection entitled Традиционная музыка русского Поозерья, and you should be able to see a list of contents here.  This is based on expeditions made to the Tver, Smolensk and Pskov regions in the period 1971-1992 (which is not so long ago) and the words are in heavily dialеctal Russian, which explains why I was puzzled.

Anyway here is what I made of the pieces with words:

2. Качульная/Lullaby

I wasn’t very interested in this, and will remark only that the author of the English translation has taken конопля as ‘cannabis’ rather than ‘hemp’, which is rather alarming and makes me wonder if this translation is the work of a native English-speaker (nobody is credited with the English translation).

If anyone writes in sounding interested I might have a go.

5.  Духовская

Ой, кумушки
Кумитеся и любитеся
Любите и мене.

Вы пойдите в зялёный сад, цвяточки рвать
Сорвите вы мне.
Вы будите вяночки вить
Ой, свейте вы мне.

Вы пойдите к ряке Дунай, к ряке Дунай
Возмите и мене.
Вы будите вёнки пускать, вёнки пускать
Пустите вы мне.
Ваши вёнки по ветру плыли, по ветру плыли
А мой на дно пошёл.

Ваши дружки с войны пришли, с войны пришли,
А мой не пришёл.
Он нё идёт, письма нё шлёт
Забыл про мене.

Song for Whitsuntide

Oh my friends
Be friends to each other, love each other
Love me as well.

You will go to the green garden, to pick flowers,–
Pick some for me.
You will make wreaths, make wreaths,
Oh, make one for me.

You will go to the Danube River, to the Danube River,
Take me as well.
You will launch your wreaths, launch your wreaths
Launch one for me.
Your wreaths sailed with the wind, with the wind
But mine went down.

Your boy-friends have come from the war, from the war
But mine hasn’t come
He’s not coming, he sends no letters,
He’s forgotten about me…


The words here work even better in English than Russian, since ‘friends’, ‘be friends’, and–strangely enough–‘love’ are all stronger, simpler and…better…than the originals, and ‘green garden’ doesn’t go so well in Russian either.  In the manner of the Authorised Version, things in italics are those I’ve added so that the translation makes sense.  There’s a whole website devoted to this song here, and it has a lot of dreadful versions by female folk-singers who seem unable to carry a tune.

7.  Постовая

Табе, тело, одно дело
Табе, тело, одно дело
Уйти в глубины, [че]р[в]ям кормить
Уйти в глубины, [че]р[в]ям кормить.

А мне, душе, пострадая удти, пострадая идти
Коло рая и шла, но в рай не вошла
Коло раю и шла, но в рай не дошла
В нашем раю будет весело
Пташки дают
Цвяты цвятут
О на те[х] цвята[х]
Сидят ангелы.

Song for Ember Days

For you, body, there is only one thing
For you, body, there is only one thing-
To go into the depths and feed the worms
To go into the depths and feed the worms.

But for me, the soul, I’ll go suffering, suffering
Repenting all the while,
I went near Heaven, but I didn’t enter Heaven
I went near Heaven, but I didn’t reach Heaven,
In our Heaven it will be merry,
Birds give their voices
Flowers flower
And on those flowers
Angels are sitting.


As well as the italics, I’ve added some things in [square brackets] to what I heard to make it look more like recognisable (to me!) Russian.

9.  Свадебная

Кукуй, кукуша серая
Кукуй, кукуша серая
Так и давно куковала
Так и давно куковала.
Не плачи, младчица Машенька
Так и давно плакали мы.

Nuptial song

Cry ‘Cuckoo’, you grey cuckoo
Cry ‘Cuckoo’, you grey cuckoo
Тhus long ago as well you cried Cuckoo
Thus long ago as well you cried Cuckoo.
Don’t weep, Mashenka, you young girl
Thus long ago as well we wept.


The translation (both English and German) is a bit of a mystery.  If you made it Так не давно кукуя…Так не давно плакали мы, then it would be “Thus not long ago you cried ‘Cuckoo’…Thus not long ago we wept”, which is probably better consolation for the girl, even though it’s not what I heard Julia Korpacheva as singing and it’s still not the same as the translation.

12.  Последняя

Наши руки–грабли,
Наши руки–грабли,
Наши глазы–ямы
Что глазы завидют,
Что глазы завидют,
То руки заграбют.
Как на его, ох на свете,
Пустяки нам надо
Аллилуйя, аллилуйя,
Слава тебе, Бога!

А на том же, о на свете
Ничьё уж нам не надо
Только надо, один сажень земли
Гвозди и досточки.
Аллилуйя, аллилуйя,
Слава тебе, Бога!

Closing Song

Our hands are but rakes,
Our hands are but rakes,
Our eyes are but pits.
What our eyes catch sight of,
What our eyes catch sight of,
That our hands reach for.
How much in it, oh in the world,
We need vanities.
Hallelujah, hallelujah,
Glory to thee, O God!

But in that one, oh in that world,
We need nothing more.
We need only six foot of earth,
Some nails and some boards.
Hallelujah, hallelujah,
Glory to thee, O God!


There’s a wonderful rendition of the original ‘spiritual song’ here.  The ‘four boards’ in the translation seem to have come from the original rather than what’s on the CD.

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: