Boris Pasternak: Hamlet (From Russian)

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

The din dies down. I enter from the wings. 
Leaning inside the doorway to the stage,
I try and catch an echo in the distance, 
A sense of what shall happen in my age.

Thousands of theater glasses focus on me,
Turning on me the darkness of the night. 
If it be in Thy power, Abba Father,
Pray let this cup of torment pass me by.

I love Thy high unwavering conception,
And have agreed to play this part as tasked.
But now another drama is unfolding.
So, just this once, release me from the cast.

But the whole plot has been already written
And journey's end irrevocably marked.
I am alone. It all falls Pharisaic. 
A mortal life is no walk in the park.

The Original:

Борис Пастернак

Гул затих. Я вышел на подмостки.
Прислонясь к дверному косяку,
Я ловлю в далеком отголоске,
Что случится на моем веку.

На меня наставлен сумрак ночи
Тысячью биноклей на оси.
Если только можно, Aвва Oтче,
Чашу эту мимо пронеси.

Я люблю твой замысел упрямый
И играть согласен эту роль.
Но сейчас идет другая драма,
И на этот раз меня уволь.

Но продуман распорядок действий,
И неотвратим конец пути.
Я один, все тонет в фарисействе.
Жизнь прожить - не поле перейти.


  1. The buzz has faded,
    I've lifted on the stage.
    Leaned to curtain, I try to catch in echo -
    What else will happen to this age

    In front of me the gloom of night is spreading
    With thousands lorgnettes in every hand.
    If only it is possible, oh, heaven
    Make me avoid a fate like that!

    I love your plot, Good Lord, which is so stubborn
    And I agree to play my part, no doubt.
    But now you reveal some other drama
    So this is time you have to count me out.

    But schedule is approved, there is no chance to sidestep
    The end of way. I'm standing here alone.
    All of the world have drowned in lies' shadows.
    To get along the life is not like walk through meadows.

  2. "The buzz has faded"...HAH. Yeah, that's the thing about smoking weed, the buzz just never lasts as long as you want.

  3. I look forward to your weekly emails, and I have learned much from them. Fantastic work you are doing. I wonder how many countries you email to? It would be very interesting to know, since poetry has such a beautiful and pure subversive power to transform and lift up -- I can't help wondering if you have any readers in repressive places like Saudi, Bahrain, and UAE etc, places that do not allow much to surface from other cultures. ( I won't add North Korea to that list, because, ghastly and nauseating as it most surely is, they will allow space for beautiful Chinese poetry there, I am sure of that).
    Thanks for sharing such a beautiful, insightful Pasternak work today -- it reminds me of the 'prophetic' passages in Walter Benjamin's 'Theses on the Philosophy of History', and I quote, "The past carries with it a temporal index by which it is referred to redemption.
    There is a secret agreement between past generations and the present one. Our
    coming was expected on earth. Like every generation that preceded us, we have
    been endowed with a weak Messianic power, a power to which the past has a claim.
    That claim cannot be settled cheaply. Historical materialists are aware of that."

  4. Thank you. It always makes me glad to know my work is of value to people. Incidentally, I do have (very few) readers in Saudi Arabia and the gulf. The Firewall of China blocks my site because I post classical chinese texts using not the simplified characters sanctioned by the PRC but the traditional characters employed by users in Taiwan. As for North Korea, most north koreans don't even know what the internet is. Scott Fisher, who is one of the few Americans who speak Korean well and have travelled in North Korea, and author of the travelogue "Journey Into Kimland", writes:

    "The Internet was basically a giant mystery to the North Koreans I met. Some of them had at least heard the word, but they didn't really seem to have a handle on exactly what it was. Even Mr. Baek, who'd once traveled outside the country to China, didn't quite
    have a grasp of what exactly e-mail and the Internet really were."