Boris Pasternak: February (From Russian)

By Boris Pasternak
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original in Russian

February. Get ink. Weep.
Write the heart out about it. Sing
Another song of February
While raucous slush burns black with spring.

Six grivnas* for a buggy ride
Past booming bells, on screaming gears,
Out to a place where rain pours down
Louder than any ink or tears

Where like a flock of charcoal pears,
A thousand blackbirds, ripped awry
From trees to puddles, knock dry grief
Into the deep end of the eye.

A thaw patch blackens underfoot.
The wind is gutted with a scream.
True verses are the most haphazard,
Rhyming the heart out on a theme.

*Grivna: a unit of currency.

The Original:

Борис Пастернак

Февраль. Достать чернил и плакать!
Писать о феврале навзрыд,
Пока грохочущая слякоть
Весною черною горит.

Достать пролетку. За шесть гривен,
Чрез благовест, чрез клик колес,
Перенестись туда, где ливень
Еще шумней чернил и слез.

Где, как обугленные груши,
С деревьев тысячи грачей
Сорвутся в лужи и обрушат
Сухую грусть на дно очей.

Под ней проталины чернеют,
И ветер криками изрыт,
И чем случайней, тем вернее
Слагаются стихи навзрыд.


  1. interesting translation.

    I don't agree with the common translations out there of the first verse... heres what I think it means (from one linguist to another)

    February. Get out the ink and weep.
    Write of February sobbing violently
    Until the rattling slush of
    Blackest spring is burning

  2. also Пока means "While" and not "Until"

  3. I have something that's more of a doubt than a remark.
    Why not starting the verse with "February. etc...". It seems to me that this single word alone in it's own phrase has a poetical weight that can't be lost in translation. Please note that this comes from a complete ignorant in russian.

  4. Being Russian, this translation was very good past the first verse. Though only sketchy parts of the first verse was line 1. Russian is difficult to translate to English, so in my opinion it almost captures the effects of Pasternak.

  5. Overall a strong translation, but "ливень", coming from "lit'" - to pour, to spill - is more than a mere drizzle. 

  6. Google translate is FAR from perfect but it spits out this:

    February. Get ink and cry!Write of it, sob,While roaring slushIn the spring of a black light.

  7. What is so nice or great in this poem. To me it seems very commonplace. Unless any hidden meaning explained.

  8. Awesome translation! I've never seen one that maintains the rhyme scheme before. I'm studying Russian translation myself, and this is quite inspiring. Excellent work.