Gary Light: Without Your Music (From Russian)

Without Your Music
By Gary Light
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
"What am I without your music..."
—Elena Kasian
Without your music I'm just putting lyrics down.
Verses require the resonance of lyres. 
See that's a gift. Not reasoned or acquired. 
It needs the fundaments of rhythm to hold sound. 

Whatever figurines of speech you scan
Will lilt out so much livelier as a hand
Strums the guitar. Let critics reprimand.
Without your music it's a strain to be what I most am.

To me through poetry of the guitar
Came the potential to believe and rhyme.
I couldn't pull the strings to check the chords with mine.
Accept my thanks for what you gave and are. 

Without your music, emptiness would have been all,
I'd sit uncomfortable, alone beyond relief.
Each stanza has its own ulterior motifs.
I'm grateful for the octave interval.

Let words that come as if unnotedly
Transcribed, play hard into that music's bars.
Atlases give the sky to Goliards.
Words without music don't seem meant to be. 


This poem is quite different from the original text in a great many ways. I've rejiggered much. The third line has the ability coming "from on high" and not simply being a gift, a phrase followed by a bookish word for "inscrutable" whose lexical root is often used to refer to confession. (But it is common for translators to over-interpret, so I'll leave that there.) Some things like ízysk rečevój and slóžno bytj sobój are in fact idioms, which I have turned into unidiomatic English. In the former case because (a) I cannot for the life of me think of an expression in English for "a pretentiously coined and ostentatiously novel phrase, logodaedaly that takes itself too seriously" that would go well in this poem, and (b) because translating the phrase so as to instantiate its own self was appealing. In the latter case it was because "hard to be myself" is an irredeemably hackneyed line in English. It lacks the musical and sub-surface connotative qualities of the Russian phrase in context here. So in this particular case, I went with my gut.

The penultimate line of this poem in the original is allusive (in a way I'm pretty sure I haven't even fully apprehended) and also heavily music-reliant. To translate it as I have here done rather ruins things. I'm not satisfied with it. (It's halfway toward translating serdéčnaja toská as "cardiac pain.") But other possibilities would require pulling a Zhukovski, and completely redoing at least half the stanza to echo Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. I'd have done this (incidentally, the rhymes I had in mind involved "through you" and "Hallelujah") but couldn't come up with anything that was so good that it seemed like a justified replacement. And the fact is that — even music and likely intent aside — the line does read interestingly, if you imagine Atlases (i.e. classical antiquity) handing over care for the heavens to the Goliards of medieval bibulousness and blasphemy — a moment of heretical triumph, and righteous hubris, if you will. It works, I think, but not the way the Russian works, and that's fine I suppose.

The line literally reads "The Atlases (Atlánty) have given the sky over to the Goliards (Vagántam)." It calls to mind a famous song by Aleksandr Gorodnitski titled Atlánty "Atlases" (referring to the stone columnar figures at the hermitage.) The opening reads

Когда на сердце тяжесть    
И холодно в груди,
К ступеням Эрмитажа
Ты в сумерки приди,
Где без питья и хлеба,
Забытые в веках,
Атланты держат небо
На каменных руках.

When it gets cold inside you
And heavy on your heart,
Just come out to the steps of
The Hermitage at dark,
Where without food or water,
Passed over and alone,
The Atlases stand holding 
The sky on hands of stone.

The Vagánty could be a reference to any number of things, but the term is much more resonant in Russian than its exact denotative translation of "Goliards" in English. In any case the line is quite a musicked one. (The term Vagántam is topicalized, placed at the beginning of the line rather than the end, leaving Vagánty as an imperfect rhyme which in turn magnifies the effect of the topicalization as Vagántam would have been a perfect rhyme were it not topicalized.)

The Original:

Без Вашей Музыки
Гари Лайт

«... Что я без музыки твоей...»
Елена Касьян

Без вашей музыки – я просто автор слов.
Звучанье лир стихам необходимо --
Ведь это свыше. Неисповедимо.
И не звучит без ритмики основ.

Какой угодно изыск речевой,
в сто крат живей с гитарным перебором,
пусть критики порой глядят с укором,
без вашей музыки мне сложно быть собой.    

Ко мне – через поэзию гитар,
пришла возможность рифмовать и верить,
но не сложилось самому аккорды сверить,
примите благодарность за ваш дар.

Без вашей музыки, была бы пустота,
мне было б неуютно, одиноко.
В строфе всегда бывает подоплека,
Благодарю за интервал октав.

Пусть этой музыке потворствуют слова,
пришедшие невидимым диктантом --
Вагантам небо подали Атланты.
Словам без музыки – похоже не судьба...

Bez vášej múzyki
Gary Light

Čto ja bez múzyki tvojéj?
Jelena Kasjan

Bez vášej múzyki ja prósto ávtor slov.
Zvučánje lir stikhám neobkhodímo.
Vedj eto svýše. Neispovedímo.
I ne zvučít bez rítmiki osnóv.

Kakój ugódno ízysk rečevój,
V sto krat živéj s gitárnym perebórom,
Pustj krítiki porój gljadját s ukórom,
Bez vášej múzyki mne slóžno bytj sobój.

Ko mne — čerez poéziju gitár,
prišlá vozmóžnostj rifmovátj i véritj,
no ne složílosj samomú akórdy svéritj
primíte blagodárnostj za vaš dar.

Bez vášej múzyki, bylá by pustotá,
mne býlo b neujútno, odinóko.
V strofé vsegdá byvájet podoplëka,
Blagodarjú za intervál oktáv.

Pustj étoj múzyke potvórstvujut slová,
prišedšije nevídimym diktántom
Vagántam nébo pódali Atlánty.
Slovám bez múzyki — pokhože ne sudjbá.

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