Aleksey Zhokhov: Arctic End (From Russian)

Aleksey Nikolayevich Zhokhov (1885-1915) was my first cousin thrice removed (my great grandfather's cousin). He was a Russian arctic explorer and cartographer who participated in the first polar expedition to navigate the entire Arctic coast from end to end. He discovered a small Siberian island which was posthumously named after him. He himself died on the expedition, and was buried in the Arctic. In this poem of his, the speaker imagines the lonely death of a wanderer in the Arctic. Aleksey was of course unaware that he himself would die such a death, and that this spookily prescient poem would be inscribed on a metal plaque over his grave.

Arctic End
By Aleksey Zhokhov
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Under an icy clod of cold Taymyr
Where a snowfox, startled to a somber bark,
Alone speaks of the drear life of this world
A bleary poet rests in peace and dark.

Morning Aurora's beam will shine no gold
On the forgotten singer's lyre beneath these skies.
The grave is deep as Tuscarora's Rift,
Deep as one woman's dear, beloved eyes.

If only he could reverence them once more,
Gaze on them even from afar across this sweep,
Then death herself would not be so severe,
The bottom of the grave would not seem deep.

The Original:

Под глыбой льда холодного Таймыра,
Где лаем сумрачным испуганный песец
Один лишь говорит о тусклой жизни мира,
Найдет покой измученный певец.

Не кинет золотом луч утренней Авроры
На лиру чуткую забытого певца —
Могила глубока, как бездна Тускароры,
Как милой женщины любимые глаза.

Когда б он мог на них молиться снова,
Глядеть на них хотя б издалека,
Сама бы смерть была не так сурова
И не казалась бы могила глубока.

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