Reading: Sergei Yesenin – The Bitch

Sergei Yesenin (1895-1925) was a famous Russian lyrical poet who married four times and died young by suicide. His works were republished in the USSR after 1966 and are now taught to Russian schoolchildren. I found the translation of “The bitch” on poetryverse.

The Bitch

In the morning the bitch whelped
seven reddish-brown puppies,
in the rye barn where a row
of bast mats gleamed like gold.
Licking their pelts smooth,
and underneath her, the snow
melted out in the heat.

But at dusk, when the hens
were roosting on the perch,
there came the grim – faced master
who stuffed the pups in a sack.

The bitch bounded alongside him,
over the snow – deep fields,
and the icy surface of the water
shuddered a long, long while.

And when at last she struggled home,
licking the sweat from her sides,
to her the moon above the house
seemed like one of the pups.

Whimpering loudly she gazed up
limpidly into the dark,
while over the hill, the slender moon
slid into the fields beyond.

And softly, as when someone,
jesting, throws her a stone,
her tears, like golden stars,
trickled down into the snow.

It is a beautiful sad little cosmology: seven puppy dogs (as many planets were known at the time) were taken away by the ‘grim master’ of the Universe and later the bitch things the moon is one of her pups, creating the stars when she cries over the disappearance of the moon. I am sure the lines sound much better in Russian.

Googling the Russian back translation of the seven puppy’s led me to a site about Ginsburg. Ginsburg called it “really pretty”.

“Утром в ржаном закуте,/Где златятся рогожи в ряд,/Семерых ощенила сука,/ Рыжих семерых щенят./ До вечера она их ласкала,/ Причесывая языком,/ И струился снежок подталый/ Под теплым ее животом./ А вечером, когда куры/ Обсиживают шесток,/Вышел хозяин хмурый,/Семерых всех поклал в мешок./ По сугробам она бежала,/ Поспевая за ним бежать…/ И так долго, долго дрожала/ Воды незамерзшей гладь/ .А когда чуть плелась обратно,/Слизывая пот с боков,/Показался ей месяц над хатой/Одним из ее щенков./ В синюю высь звонко/Глядела она, скуля,/ А месяц скользил тонкий/ И скрылся за холм в полях./ И глухо, как от подачки,/ Когда бросят ей камень в смех,/Покатились глаза собачьи/ Золотыми звездами в снег.”

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