The call of white cranes
Translated by Peter TEMPEST
* * *
To P. Y.
Rain upon the sill—dazedly I dream of you,
Snow upon the hill—dazedly I dream of you.
Cloudless skies at dawn—dazedly I dream of you,
Fields of summer corn—dazedly I dream of you.
Swallows dip and dart—dazedly I dream of you,
Gather and depart—dazedly I dream of you.
Leaves that blow and whirl, leaves aglow with honey-dew
Give me no respite—dazedly I dream of you.
Surely you’re a girl better than I ever knew
If all day and night dazedly I dream of you.
* * *
My elder brother died twelve years ago
Upon the battlefield of Stalingrad.
My aged mother nurses still her woe
And goes about the house in mourning clad.
And there is pain and bitterness for me
In knowing I am older now than he.
Long have you lived and, still content
To shelter from life’s storms,
You cannot name a single friend
To whom your lone heart warms.
When years have passed and you are old,
People will turn and say:
«He lived a century, poor soul,
Who never lived a day.»
A HUNDRED WOMEN I ADORE
A hundred women I adore,
I see them all about.
Awake—asleep, I swoon—I soar
But cannot blot them out.
A girl I never can forget
First woke my heart to joy
When, coming to the spring, she met
A barefoot country boy.
The little girl seemed from afar
No bigger than her water jar.
Cool was the water that she knelt
To take up from the spring.
Cool? No! For, standing there, I felt
It scald my flesh, and sting.
Her glance, so keen and fancy-free,
Still to this day entrances me.
Later, wandering idly by
The dove-grey Caspian’s shore,
I loved a girl, but was too shy
To knock upon her door.
So I would roam about her home,
A suitor out of mind,
A maple tree I’d climb to see
Her shadow on the blind:
She lived up on the second floor…
And still that young girl I adore.
And there’s another young girl, who
Was travelling by train
To Moscow, and this young girl, too,
I’d love to see again.
I’m grateful, booking clerk, to you,
Who set her at my side
So that we viewed the landscape through
One carriage-window wide.
And all my life beside this girl
I’d gladly travel through the world.
One angry girl I still adore
Who would not be gainsaid,
Who, wild with indignation, tore
My manuscript to shreds.
Another girl I still adore
With merry twinkling eyes,
Who praised a hundred times or more
My poetry to the skies.
A girl who’s spiteful I adore,
A simple girl, too, I adore,
And one who’s prudish I adore,
And one who’s touchy I adore,
And one who finds it all a bore.
The girl who’s very tractable,
The merry girl, too, I adore
And even the refractory.
There is a girl whom I adore
In every town and village,
And women students by the score
All set my senses thrilling.
I call them all «my dear», «my dove»
In frenzy bold and dashing—
There are a hundred girls I love
All with an equal passion.
Why do you glare at me again
As at an enemy?
«I’m one among a hundred, then?
Thank you for telling me!»
No, wait! The hundred, can’t you see,
All in yourself are shown.
A hundred girls you are to me
And I am yours alone.
That time when I was wandering,
A barefoot country boy,
It’s you I met beside the spring,
Who woke my heart to joy.
And in that city by the sea,
Where salty breezes blew,
You surely must remember me,
The youth who followed you?
You surely must recall the sound
Of racing train wheels, Moscow-bound?
You are a hundred girls in one,
And all of them embrace.
In you I find both sorrow, fun,
Rough winter, summer grace.
Sometimes you are indifferent
And cruel, I confess,
At other times—obedient
And purest gentleness.
Wherever you have wished to fly,
I followed in your wake.
Whatever took your fancy, I
Acquired for your sake.
We’ve visited the silent hills,
Where clouds caress the heather,
And cities plying varied skills
We have approached together.
There are a hundred girls I love,
All with an equal passion…
It’s you I call «my dear», «my dove»
In frenzy bold and dashing.
I love a hundred girls, it’s true,
But every one of them is you!