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Toska: translations

I translated these from Russian, with the added insight and craft of Richard D. Sylvester, "Rachmaninoff's Complete Songs" (2015)


From Opus 21, Twelve Romances (1902)

Op. 21, No. 11 No prophet, I

Text: Aleksandr Kruglov (1852-1915)


I am not a prophet, I am not a warrior,

I am not a teacher of the world;

I am - by the grace of God - a singer,

My weapon - a lyre.

I create at the pleasure of the Lord;

avoiding every kind of lie,

With my song I speak to the heart,

to awaken the divine spark.


Op. 21, No. 7 It’s so nice here

Text: G. Galina (1870-1942)


It’s so lovely here …

Look, in the distance

The river glitters like fire,

The meadows are a colorful carpet,

There are whitening clouds.

There are no people,

Here it is quiet …

There is only God and me.

Flowers, and old pine trees,

And You, my dream!



Opus 38, Six Poems (1916)


Op. 38, No. 1 At night in my garden

Text: Aleksandr Blok (1880-1921)

Russian translation of a poem by Avetik Isahakian (1875-1957)


At night in my garden,

A weeping willow cries,

And nothing will console her,

The sad, sad willow tree.

Early morning light will shine,

Dawn, a tender maiden,

From the dear willow, weeping bitterly,

Will wipe away her tears with her curling tresses.


Op. 38, No. 2 To her

Text: Andrei Bely (Boris Nikolaevich Bugaev)

The grass is adorned in pearls,

Somewhere greetings sorrowful I hear -

Greetings, Dear …

Dear One, where are you, Dearest?

Evening lights bright,

Evening lights red,

My arms raised: I await you.

Dear One, where are you, Dearest?

Arms raised: I await you

In streams of Lethe

[You are] washed away by Lethe’s pale stream.

Dear One, where are you, Dearest?


Op. 38, No. 3 Daisies

Text: Igor-Severianin (1887-1941)


O, look!

How many daisies there are,

Here and there!

They are blooming, so many; in abundance;

All in flower!

Their triangle petals are like wings of white silk.

In them, summer’s power,

The joy of abundance,

In them, a bright army.

Earth, prepare them a drink of dew,

Give juice to the stem …

O girls,

O stars of daisies,

I love you!


Op. 38, No. 4 The pied piper

Text: Valery Briusov (1873-1924)


I play on my little pipe,

Tra la la la la la la,

I play my little pipe,

Making merry many a soul.


I walk along the quiet brook,

Tra la la la la la la,

Sheep are sleeping peacefully,

Fields are softly waving.


Sleep on, little lambs and rams,

Tra la la la la la la,

Beyond meadows of red buckwheat,

Stately poplars rise.


A tiny house is hiding,

Tra la la la la la la,

A sweet girl [who] dreams

That I gave my soul to her.


And to the tender call of reed pipes,

Tra la la la la la la,

She will come, as if to a bright goal,

Through the garden, through the fields.


And in the dark forest, beneath a dark oak,

Tra la la la la la la,

She will wait in languorous delirium,

For the hour when the earth sleeps.


I will meet my dear guest,

Tra la la la la la la,

And kiss her until dawn,

Quenching my heart’s desire.


Then, exchanging little rings with her,

Tra la la la la la la,

I will let her go back to the little lambs,

In the garden where stately poplars rise.


Op. 38, No. 5 Dreams

Text: Feodor Sologub (1863-1927)


In this world,

There is nothing more longed for than sleep.

Charms has he, and peace,

On his lips are neither sadness nor laughter,

And in his bottomless eyes, many mysterious delights.

He has wide, two wide wings,

Weightless, so light,

Like midnight darkness.

How you are borne, unknown,

And where, and on what —

His wings do not flap,

And his shoulders do not move.


Op. 38, No. 6 A-oo!

Text: Konstantin Balmont (1867-1942)

Your tender laughter was a fairytale of changing mood,

Calling like a reed pipe that summons me to sleep.

And so I crown you with a wreath of verse,

Let’s go, let’s run together to the mountain slope.

But where are you? I only hear the ringing echo of the heights.

A flower for a flower in daylight lit a candle.

And someone’s laughter lures me deep inside.

I sing, I search: A-oo! A-oo! I call.

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