Tuesday, July 3, 2012

No, I'll not take the half…

By Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Translated by George Reavey.

No, I'll not take the half,
Give me the whole sky! The far-flung earth!
Seas and rivers and mountain avalanches--
All these are mine! I'll accept no less!

No, life, you cannot woo me with a part.
Let it be all or nothing! I can shoulder that!
I don't want happiness by halves,
Nor is half of sorrow what I want.

Yet there's a pillow I would share,
Where gently pressed against a cheek,
Like a helpless star, a falling star,
A ring glimmers on a finger of your hand.

  -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

What I like about this particular poem is the contrast between the first two stanzas and the last stanza. The first two stanzas are fiery and passionate and sound so sure while the last paragraph suddenly switches to reveal vulnerability. The most fiery individuals might harbor a soft centre while the timid and  passive ones might hide a fiery streak.

Best known poet of the post-Stalin generation of Russian poets, Yevtushenko become a spokesman for the young post-Stalin generation and travelled abroad widely throughout the Khrushchev and the Brezhnev periods. He was criticized by poets like Joseph Brodsky as an opportunist. His most renowned is ‘Baby Yar’ .

One Quote of  Yevtushenko  that I have always loved is- “Translation is like a woman. If it is beautiful, it is not faithful. If it is faithful, it is most certainly not beautiful.” I then wonder whether this translation is faithful:)

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