Константин Симонов (Constantine Simonov), Жди меня (Wait for me)

I sometimes translate Russian poems into English while retaining the rhyme scheme, general feel, and as close to the line-by-line meaning as I can. Here’s my recent translation of Константин Симонов, Жди меня (Wait for me, by Constantine Simonov).

Константин Симонов

Жди меня, и я вернусь.
Только очень жди,
Жди, когда наводят грусть
Желтые дожди,
Жди, когда снега метут,
Жди, когда жара,
Жди, когда других не ждут,
Позабыв вчера.
Жди, когда из дальних мест
Писем не придет,
Жди, когда уж надоест
Всем, кто вместе ждет.

Жди меня, и я вернусь,
Не желай добра
Всем, кто знает наизусть,
Что забыть пора.
Пусть поверят сын и мать
В то, что нет меня,
Пусть друзья устанут ждать,
Сядут у огня,
Выпьют горькое вино
На помин души…
Жди. И с ними заодно
Выпить не спеши.

Жди меня, и я вернусь,
Всем смертям назло.
Кто не ждал меня, тот пусть
Скажет: – Повезло.
Не понять, не ждавшим им,
Как среди огня
Ожиданием своим
Ты спасла меня.
Как я выжил, будем знать
Только мы с тобой,-
Просто ты умела ждать,
Как никто другой.

Yuriy Zubovski

Wait for me, and I’ll return.
But really truly wait,
Wait, when you are concerned
By yellow rains of late,
Wait, when the snows blow,
Wait, when it’s hot,
Wait, when others say to go,
With yesterday forgot.
Wait, when from far away
Letters don’t arrive,
Wait, when everyone might say
No hope survives.

Wait for me, and I’ll be return,
Do not wish them well
Those who have in their minds burned,
That it’s time to say farewell.
Let the mother and son believe
That I’ve from life retired,
Let friends no longer grieve,
Sit down by the fire,
Drink a bitter wine
In memory of me …
Wait. At the same time
Don’t drink free.

Wait for me, and I’ll return,
Death is who I’ll spite.
Who did not wait for me, in turn
He’ll say I’m lucky, quite.
They who did not wait can’t fathom,
How among the flames
By waiting for me, madam
Helped death be overcame.
How I survived, will consecrate
Only you and I, –
Simply: you knew how to wait,
And refused to say goodbye.

This is only my first pass at it – your comments are more than welcome if you have a suggestion for any specific lines (irrespective of whether you do or do not speak Russian!).



Left, then right
Down they plummet
Circles they make
To the ground from their summit.

Swirling and twirling
Autumn leaves flutter
In a cyclone unseen
They disperse then they clutter.

Stripping and baring
Their verdant attire
Trees in the winter
Look like pronged spires.
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Rhymes Resevered

Rhymes Resevered

I’ve no one left on earth to blame
For what’s become of me, myself, my will
And never had before. I have been weak
To my desires, but weaker still
When trying to invoke them to the world
As wonders, marvels, love! A coward!
I’ll be heard, too late, too little.
Oh what I’d give to be empowered,
Enough to speak my heart, to quell my mind,
To share a kiss, to hit or miss, but swing!
To put that which I own behind me, and stand!
And be a joyous pauper, who wants not rule
Alone, the king of his heart’s land!
I’m affluent in choices, chances, love,
Unchosen, all untaken, and realized none.
I’ve waited long enough, regretting much,
Of what I have, and more of what I haven’t done.

The time to act is now, and has been such
For ever that I can remember. To arms!
Take nothing, no armor, no defense, no weapons!
Leave yourself open to all harm
That comes your way. But chin up, march!
The future is beyond the hill, the battlefield,
The mountain you must scale and river swim!
Lay down your figurative shield
And stand tall! Be willing to lose all
That you have worked to keep and hoard,
Than lose yourself to stale inaction!
Don’t fear to be emotionally gored,
By possible rejection to attraction!
Far better to have tried and failed,
Than never tried at all. And if I fall,
I will get up again to storm the stronghold,
A valiant warrior, bellowing love’s call!
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Severed Rhymes Redux

Severed Rhymes Redux

I find myself repeating the mistakes
That others made and made forget,
But I ignore their learn’ned wisdom,
And for myself these failures I beget.
I cripple my existence with desire,
A sin in which I do not oft partake,
And yet I find my mind on fire
As passion leaves its giant burning wake.
I shear and tense against my bonds,
Attack the boundaries that do hold me in.
I struggle and I writhe, and I hold still;
But never give up hope that I may win
This – an outnumbered battle up a hill.
And how I wonder what a time would be
With you alone, no ties to keep you taught,
And me to come and whisper you myself
And fin’ly win this battle I’ve not fought.

But once is not enough. Tis but a dream
That fleets for good for me to never see.
You surely know the feelings in my heart
That for a moment’s kiss my kingdom goes to thee!
If only would you give that chance
Where when I carry you aweigh across my chest
Clear of your sea of troubles, in crisp air
You sigh relief and smile so I may rest
And know that love extends both ways.
For does it? I bring you remedy for any ail
Or when I pay your troubles into naught
Do you respond with equal action or with stale
Generic answers? I am distraught –
I know that all I do is of my own accord
But I am powerless to stop, to let you go
For if I give you up can I forgive myself?
Can I give up the feelings that I’ll never know?
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Severed Rhymes

Severed Rhymes

My heart is frail and weak
For ne’er before hast this man fallen prey
To such a mischievous attack,
Such harmless play.
Great desperation must weigh heavy
On my soul, my breast, my mind
For me to such conspicuous deception
Fall victim. I am blind,
Or else I would have taken every hint,
Considered every line and word;
I would have criticized those things,
But even though I may have heard,
I should have listened. How I spring,
Pretend to have forgotten what you said.
I rhyme and eloquently cry,
I know not better. Perhaps take solace:
I feel your knives and needles every lie.

I can’t forget, try as I might,
The way that you devoured my esteem.
I had disposed myself of judgement
And let your words wind down my dream.
I can’t refute my undeniable affection
Which made me ready to forgo
The corpses you laid out for me to find.
You wondered whether I would know
That it was you, or maybe if I’d fall
And break my back against your laughter.
I will congratulate your play,
But cannot comprehend what you were after.
Was I the entertainment on a boring day?
Was my humiliation what you sought,
When you castrated my desire
With two rocks? I’m left pathetic,
My former self a broken, fallen spire.
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To a Summer Past

To a Summer Past

What is there twixt yourself and me?
Love? Hope? Three hundred miles?
There’s the horizon and naught else to see:
We frown since we cannot see our smiles.

I’ve spent two months short of a year,
Waiting to sweep you off of your feet.
Four with your voice within my ear,
Whispering words, loving and sweet.

We met and danced at the last ball
Then weeks we laughed and cried and talked
As summer slowly waned to fall
You lay at home whilst streets I walked.

You lay, my head in hand, in bed
Whilst I held yours in autumn night
We’d speak until our phones went dead
Or till the sun gave morning light.

But. The word that turns the situation faux
Appears so frequently within my mind
But this, but that, but, I don’t know;
And soon, ’tis all that I can find.

Three months have gone since we spoke last
Of summer plans and separate lives
Our love has fled us much too fast
And now it shrivels, soon to die.

For months you’d been my one addiction
But our paths may never cross again
Yet I will not dismiss my hopes as fiction
Aurevoir, my love, my dear, my friend.
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