14 July 2011

Two Translations: ‘Yes, grammar is the god of mind’ / 'Grammar is the god of the mind' / «Грамматика есть бог ума»

Yes, grammar is the god of mind’ 

Yes, grammar is the god of mind.
We only say what it decides,
whether we shout or whisper.
It starts the tenses scampering back—
the future turning in its tracks,
playing the past continuous.

Reverberating Russian verbs
eventually get on my nerves,
and I feel my mouth fall open;
I know I can’t restrain it now,
and wait with not a little doubt
to hear what’s going to happen.

In humus brewed from book and heart
the language lives its life apart,
outlasting human ages.
And in it we’re a sigh, no more,
perhaps an ‘ah’, perhaps an ‘oh’—
exiguous exclamations.

(translation © G.S. Smith)

'Grammar is the god of the mind'

Grammar is the god of the mind.
It alone decides all things for us:
what we will yell and what we will whisper.
And the tenses one may write,
the future crawls backwards
and slowly potters into the past.

I'm stuffed full with
the throng of Russian verbs,
and, opening my mouth suddenly,
I know I've lost the bridle,
and wait, not without apprehension,
to see where and what turns up.

Language lives independently
on the humus of souls and books,
and it will survive centuries.
And our century is nothing more
than a sigh, an 'ah', an 'oh',
and two or three chance interjections.

(translation © Henry Pickford)

«Грамматика есть бог ума» 

Грамматика есть бог ума.
Решает все за нас сама:
что проорем, а что прошепчем.
И времена пошли писать,
и будущее лезет вспять
и долго возится в прошедшем.

Глаголов русских толкотня
вконец заторкала меня,
и, рот внезапно открывая,
я знаю: не сдержать узду,
и сам не без сомненья жду,
куда–то вывезет кривая.

На перегное душ и книг
сам по себе живет язык,
и он переживет столетья.
В нем нашего — всего лишь вздох,
какой–то ах, какой–то ох,
два–три случайных междометья.

(Photo by Lev Loseff  /  Фото: Лев Лосев)

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