Beauty Re-Interpreted – Two Translations – by Olga Zeveleva and Vadim Elenev

Некрасивая девочка
Николай Заболоцкий

Среди других играющих детей
Она напоминает лягушонка.
Заправлена в трусы худая рубашонка,
Колечки рыжеватые кудрей
Рассыпаны, рот длинен, зубки кривы,
Черты лица остры и некрасивы.
Двум мальчуганам, сверстникам её,
Отцы купили по велосипеду.
Сегодня мальчики, не торопясь к обеду,
Гоняют по двору, забывши про неё,
Она ж за ними бегает по следу.
Чужая радость так же, как своя,
Томит её и вон из сердца рвётся,
И девочка ликует и смеётся,
Охваченная счастьем бытия.

Ни тени зависти, ни умысла худого
Ещё не знает это существо.
Ей всё на свете так безмерно ново,
Так живо всё, что для иных мертво!
И не хочу я думать, наблюдая,
Что будет день, когда она, рыдая,
Увидит с ужасом, что посреди подруг
Она всего лишь бедная дурнушка!
Мне верить хочется, что сердце не игрушка,
Сломать его едва ли можно вдруг!
Мне верить хочется, что чистый этот пламень,
Который в глубине её горит,
Всю боль свою один переболит
И перетопит самый тяжкий камень!
И пусть черты её нехороши
И нечем ей прельстить воображенье,-
Младенческая грация души
Уже сквозит в любом её движенье.
А если это так, то что есть красота
И почему её обожествляют люди?
Сосуд она, в котором пустота,
Или огонь, мерцающий в сосуде?


The ugly girl
By Nikolai Zabolotsky

Translated from Russian by Olga Zeveleva

 Among the other kids outside,
This girl looks kind of like a frog.
Her reddish curls get tangled as she jogs.
Uneven teeth, her mouth is wide,
Her features sharp and fairly ugly.
Two boys outside are smiling smugly;
They have new bikes; their faces gleam,
And now they’re showing off their skills;
They’re speeding up and down the hills.
The little girl is left unseen.
She’s chasing them; she’s eager, thrilled.
A joy that isn’t hers to keep
Chokes her with happiness and glee –
She runs, she laughs, and she is free;
The bliss of others stark and deep.

This skinny creature feels no trace
Of jealousy, or gloom, or spite.
The world is an enchanted place;
What’s dead for some, for her is shining with new light.
And I don’t even want to think
That one day those gray eyes will sink
In tears, as she will no doubt find
That she stands out among her friends.
And childhood ignorance will end,
And heartbreak will replace her glee.
I wish to cling to the belief
That this pure, tender inner glow
That glimmers feebly as she grows
Withstands the harshest winds of grief.
Perhaps there’s nothing that’s worth seeing
In features that don’t stir emotion;
But scintillating grace of being
Is outlined in her every motion.
“Beauty.” What does this word hide?
And how does it make people yearn?
Is it an urn that’s bare inside,
Is it the flame within the urn?

An Ugly Girl
By Nikolai Zabolotsky

Translated from Russian by Vadim Elenev

Among the other children playing here,
she stands apart, just like the ugly duckling
An awkward shirt tucked in, her red hair buckling
Curls scattered wildly, falling to her ears
Her mouth is long, teeth crooked and unsightly
Her face not smooth, her body gangly slightly
A couple of kids, two lads as old as she’s,
Got bicycles from parents for their birthdays
The boys, forgetting dinner on this Thursday
Ignore her and ride bikes around the trees
She chases them, not resting for a moment
Another’s joy she feels just liker own
It languishes inside and wants to break out
The girl rejoices, laughing out loud
Entangled in the pleasure of the known
A trace of envy, or a sign of ill-will
This creature doesn’t bear within her head
So many things are novel. It’s a new thrill
To feel the passion others think is dead.
And I reject this feeling that’s been creeping
That there will be a dark day when she, weeping,
Sees to her horror that among her friends
She’s just the ugly duckling, nothing more
I want to think a heart is not a children’s toy nor,
Can it break at once. Instead, it bends.
I want to think that clear is the fire
That burns far down, deep inside her soul
That it alone will comfort and console
Lift up her every burden and not tire
And even if attractive she is not,
And she has nothing that can charm our senses,
An innocent grace is in her soul, untaught,
And every move she makes this grace enhances
And if it’s so, what’s beauty? Let’s decide.
And why for it do we construct a palace?
A chalice, holding emptiness inside,
Or burning flame that glimmers in the chalice?


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