Rhyming Thomas & the Faery Queen
‘Twas at the breaking of the day
All in a longing as I lay
Her palfrey was a dapple grey,
Her fair hair o’er her head it hung
Her hands they were as white as snow
I lay there to behold that sight
Thomas gladly up he rose
Then answered back that lady bright:
“If thou be held most high in praise
“Ah lady, should’st thou pity me
Down then lit that lady bright
Thomas leapt up with a shout
Then Thomas cried: “Alack! Alas!
But she said: “Thomas, don’t displease,
“Take now your leave of sun and moon,
She led him down at Eildon Hill
They came then to an orchard fair
Thomas reached out with his hand –
She said: «Now Thomas, take not fright
«See ye now yon simple way
«And see ye now yon desolate way
«In faith, True Thomas, there I dwell
«My lord waits in a mighty hall
Said Thomas: «Lady, what delight!
«Indeed, and had it not been so,
Into that hall they boldly went
There was feasting, merry games,
He heard and saw more in that place
«You must make haste your ways to wend
She took him out at Eildon hill
Томас Рифмач и Королева эльфов
На листьях капельки росы
Раскинув руки я лежал,
Сверкает жемчугом седло,
Завороженный я смотрел,
И даже гончих быстрый бег
Своей догадкой потрясён,
Томас быстро побежал,
– Томас, ты не угадал,
– Уж если королева ты,
– О, Королева, я клянусь,
По телу пробежала дрожь,
Томас крикнул от испуга –
Томас крикнул: – Боже мой!
– Ну что ты, Томас, перестань,
Прощайся с солнцем и луной,
За ней от Элдонских холмов
Они вошли в прекрасный сад:
Томас руку протянул,
Она сказала: – Прислонись
– Есть в жизни всем известный путь
Проклятье вечное ждёт тех,
Там, Честный Томас, я живу.
Мой Лорд, в кругу своих солдат,
Сказал он: – Леди, я так рад!
– Меня б он проклял навсегда,
Они уверенно вошли
Веселье, танцы, пир горой,
Он столько повидал всего,
– Семь лет назад, но как вчера,
И вновь на Элдонском холме
Modern English version adapted from four Middle English manuscripts by Thomas Beavitt ©2014. Russian verse translation by Michael Feigin ©2015
На смерть Байрона (1824)
О чем средь ужасов войны
Чему на шатком троне рад
Рыдая, вкруг его кипит
Царица гордая морей!
Из океана своего
Исчезнут порты в тьме времен,
Британец дряхлый поздних лет
Он всё под солнцем разгадал,
Когда он кончил юный век
On the death of Byron (1824)
Amidst war’s horrors, what, alas,
To which, though perched on shaky throne,
Lamenting, all around him boils
Oh, proud czarina of the waves!
Out of the timeless ocean,
As harbours lapse in depths of time
A weary British wanderer
And ponder all beneath the sun,
While youthful peers their fortunes seek,
On the death of Byron by Kondraty Ryleyev. Translated by Thomas Beavitt ©2020
This translation was sponsored by Bella Evloeva
«Герой», Александр Пушкин
Что есть истина?
Да, слава в прихотях вольна.
Все он, все он — пришлец сей бранный,
Когда ж твой ум он поражает
Нет, не у счастия на лоне
Мечты поэта —
Да будет проклят правды свет,
Hero by Alexander Pushkin
What is the truth?
Fame’s lustre is as fancy free
To him of all – that scornful stranger,
So, when your mind thus blithely reckons
It’s not amongst his bosom kindred;
A poet’s cant –
We think the truth is what we know
Hero by Alexander Pushkin. Translated by Thomas Beavitt ©2020
This translation was sponsored by Bella Evloeva
A ten minute snapshot of global history, politics and philosophy, it’s an ambitious and sprawling piece confidently presented by Beavitt and his collaborators.
I imagine Tommy with a wry smile on his face as he performs his impressive, wordy tour of the historic hot-spots with what sounds distinctly like his tongue in his cheek.
This spoken word odyssey is brightly backed by inventive, engaging beats from regular collaborator Nikita Nikitin and the whole piece hangs together as a coherent whole.
While it might take a while for it to be regarded as a feminist meisterwerk, it’s surely a provocative call to re-assess the merits of patriarchy.
Sand animation by Moscow artist Ekaterina Sheffer illustrating a contemporary English version of Lermontov’s poem 1831-go IYUNYA 11 DNYA. The poem, translated and recited by global village bard and Ekaterinburg resident Thomas Beavitt, is accompanied by original music specially composed and recorded by young Urals musicians Andrey Bokovikov and Nikita Nikitin.
Written at the age of seventeen, 1831-go IYUNYA 11 DNYA is one of Lermontov’s most metaphysical lyrical works. According to G.E. Gorlanov, the poem “stands out against the rest of Lermontov’s work in terms of its philosophical significance”, with some stanzas having “programmatic applicability for creativity per se”. In its concentration of the young poet’s worldview, the poem paints a vivid picture of the inner life of an individual set against the grandeur of the Caucasian mountains and Eurasian steppe.
The poem is remarkable for its early concentration of the poet’s prophetic powers. In it, he quite accurately depicts his own violent death in a duel nine years later at the age of 26. Even more remarkably, in also predicting his own literary afterlife, Lermontov explicitly relates to us, his contemporary 21st century audience – like the boy in the second last stanza, «drawn here, he knows not why, to sit a while and meditate alone, pondering my fate upon this stone».
Beavitt’s translation was originally commissioned for Maxim Privezentsev’s documentary film «The Scottish Wind of Lermontov». Intrigued by the rhythmic possibilities of the text, as well as its prophetic and philosophical content, the translator then worked with two talented young musicians from Ekaterinburg’s Conservatoire to produce a soundtrack to accompany its recital. The result is a lush, almost symphonic accompaniment to the spoken word performance, which refers to diverse influences including classical music and contemporary rap at the same time as opening a rich musical space that closely corresponds to the poem’s content.
The project was given its visual dimension by the celebrated sand artist Ekaterina Sheffer, who uses the expressive medium to capture many striking images drawn from Lermontov’s life and work. Sheffer, who has ancestral connections with the Lermontov family, is strongly associated with the famous poet’s work, having presented her sand art creations on Lermontovian themes in Beijing last year, as well as at a special Lermontov festival in Pyatigorsk this year, which was attended by Chinese and Scottish delegations.
The film is also accompanied by Russian subtitles of the original poem.
A few months ago at the «Sail of Destiny» festival in Pyatigorsk, Thomas Beavitt gave this impromptu performance of Lermontov’s Смерть поэта (The Bard is Dead!), which was composed on the occasion of the death of Lermontov’s idol Pushkin in a duel.
The poem is important not only as a contemporaneous record of the strength of popular feeling at this pivotal moment in Russian literary history, but also in the sense that it prefigured Lermontov’s own senseless death, also in a duel, at the hands of his former comrade Martynov on 27th July 1841.
The extreme controversy generated by Смерть поэта would result in Lermontov’s immediate elevation to literary prominence and his banishment to the Caucasus following the personal intervention of Tsar Nicholas I and interrogation by Count Alexander Benckendorff, the head of secret police.
Lermontov’s death several years later in Pyatigorsk can be seen as a direct result of this controversy and banishment. Nicholas is said, on hearing the news, to have remarked: «The dog has died a dog’s death!» – although his attitude may have softened, since he later added: «The one who could have taken Pushkin’s place is dead.»
The musical version of the poem, performed here on the 178th anniversary of Lermontov’s death close to the place where he slept his last night, is Beavitt’s own composition. It was the first time he performed it in public in the original Russian entirely from memory. Audience members include a Scottish delegation (Lermontov had Scottish ancestors) and several contemporary members of the Lermontov bloodline.
Video shot and edited by Dmitry Perednya
Beavitt’s English translation of the poem is as follows:
The Bard is Dead!
The bard is dead! – conscience of our age –
Felled by lies and foul canard,
Lead-choked chest that bursts with rage
And lifts, at last, the proud regard
Of one whose soul could not consent
To yield to mean indignity,
Who railed against this world and went
Alone to face eternity!
Eternity! Spare your crocodile tears…
Your empty praise – a surplus choir,
A token of your petty fears:
The order came from much, much higher!
Was it not you who cruelly mocked
The music from his golden lyre,
For entertainment, did concoct
A little, sly, tormenting fire?
Well? Enjoy the show… he burned
Until he could no longer stand beneath
But puttered out, expunged, and earned
His wilted laurel wreath.
His vicious killer, unbelieving,
Dealt the blow, gave not an inch:
Empty heart beat, cool and even;
Gun-hand did not flinch.
Occidental, quelle surprise!
Bequeathed to us by will of fate,
His wealth and rank to cultivate,
Like hundreds of such refugees.
The native customs of our land
Dismissed in terms derogatory;
Ridiculed our national glory;
Misconstrued this blood-soaked story;
And with that he raised his hand!…
And so he was slain and his body taken,
Like the nightingale, whose dulcet songs awaken
The envy and resentment of the deaf.
Exalted them till all tunes were forsaken,
Dumfounded, as was he, by the callous hand of death.
Why, from calm obscurity and artless geniality,
Did he step into the light, the glaring, harsh reality,
To sate a heart of free and ardent passion?
Why did he ever give his hand to rogues and fake princesses?
Why did he never countermand the false words and caresses?
He, who, from an early age, discerned life’s meagre ration…
And so, replacing with a crown of thorns, his wreath,
Intertwined with laurel, they thus contrived – and how! –
Clandestine needles sticking in beneath
That pricked his glorious brow,
Embittering his final hours with stress
And the subtle whispering of cretins…
And so he died – with vain thoughts of redress,
The intimate annoyance of mislaid expectations.
The mellifluous tones of our tragic nation
No more to be pealed
As, taking up his cramped accommodation,
The singer’s lips were sealed.
And you, O arrogant descendants
In whom are amplified the faults of your ancestors,
With slavish heels that trample on the fragments
Isn’t it a jolly game for their malign successors!
A greedy crowd with drooling, gaping maw,
Vapid executioners of freedom, wit and glory!
Cowards, taking refuge in the law,
For you, is truth and justice just a story?
But there is a sacred court, O intimates of vice!
There is an awful trial: there He sits and waits;
There’ll be no church bells chiming to entice;
Thoughts and deeds already known behind those final gates…
Then in vain will you recall the time before the flood,
With hearts already hard:
For you will never wash away the blood,
The righteous blood of the bard!
Excerpt from ‘When a harp rings out boldly in eternal halls of fame’ , English version of Lermontov’s early poem 1831-го ИЮНЯ 11 ДНЯ, translated and performed at the 2019 ‘Sail of Destiny’ festival, in Pyatigorsk by Thomas Beavitt. The soundtrack was written by composer Nikita Nikitin and recorded by producer Andrei Bokovikov in Ekaterinburg in 2019. Live sand painting by Ekaterina Sheffer.
Шотландский бард Томас Бивитт поёт свои музыкальные аранжировки на стихи Лермонтова «Гроб Оссиана» и «Желание» у дверей домика, где знаменитый русский поэт провел последнюю ночь. Представление было частью фестиваля «Парус Судьбы», который состоялся в июле 2019 года в Пятигорске. Фотограф-видеограф Валерий Шилов, Пятигорск.
Раннее стихотворение Лермонтова 1831-го ИЮНЯ 11 ДНЯ, переведенное и начитанное Томасом Бивиттом. Фонограмма написана композитором Никитой Никитиным и записана продюсером Андреем Боковиковым в Екатеринбурге в 2019 году.
Часть перевода была также показана в недавнем фильме «Шотландский ветер Лермонтова» Максима Привезенцева, который первоначально заказал перевод.
По мнению переводчика, поэма, написанная Лермонтовым за один день в возрасте 17 лет, является одним из самых выдающихся достижений русской литературы. В дополнение к гармоничному объединению большого количества метафизических и психологических тем на естественном фоне Кавказских гор, она также сложно ритмичная и согласованная. Несмотря на то, что изначально казалось, что она опирается на ранние романтические клише, язык поэма довольно современен в своем ощущении. Более того, это, пожалуй, первая крупная поэтическая работа, в которой Лермонтов начинает развивать двойные силы пророчества и психологического понимания, которыми он так справедливо известен.