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The Joseph Brodsky/Stephen Spender Prize 2011


Read the judges’ report

Ilya Bernstein

Mr Golden Samovar

Have you ever seen a SAM?
Have you ever seen an O?
Have you ever seen a VAR?
Have you ever,
Have you ever
Seen a Russian SAMOVAR?

Mr Samovar was Stately — Mr Samovar was Plump.
Not just chubby — Not just tubby — Not just fat
But Stately Plump!

Boiling water was inside,
Splish-and-splashing was inside,
Swish-and-swooshing was inside!
All a-steaming and a-huffing — Аll a-huffing and a-puffing
Boiling water coming out — Coming out — Through the spout!

Bright and early in the morning — Uncle Petya came downstairs.
Bright and early — Bright and early
Uncle Petya came downstairs.

“I could use a cup of tea!”
“Yes, I could!” said Uncle Petya.
“Yes, indeed!” said Uncle Petya. “I could use a cup of tea!”

After him came Auntie Katya,
Auntie Katya with her cup.
With her beautiful — Her precious — Her exquisite little cup.

“As for me,” said Auntie Katya,
“If you please,” said Auntie Katya,
“To be sure,” said Auntie Katya. “I require a cup of tea.”

In walked Grandpa in his slippers — In walked Grandma with her cane.
In walked Grandpa — In walked Grandma
With their slippers and their cane.

“Personally,” Grandpa said,
“What I really want is tea.
What I really — What I really — What I REALLY want is tea.”

“I could also,” Grandma said,
“Drink a little,” Grandma said,
“Tea for breakfast,” Grandma said. “May I have a little tea?”

In ran Anya, dressed in red.
“Hello, everyone!” she said.
“Here I am! Give me tea! Make it extra sweet for me!”

Then came Moskowitz the cat,
Purry, furry, soft as silk,
For a little — For a little — Boiling water with his milk.

Do you know what happened next?

Boris, finally, arrived.
Yawning, ya-a-a-awning, he arrived.
Stretching, stre-e-e-etching, he arrived.
Very sleepy he arrived.

Boris rubbed his eyes and said,
“Let me have a cup of tea.
Let me have a — Let me have a — Let me have a cup of tea.”

Everybody, Everybody
Tipped the samovar
Tip tip tip.
But the only thing they got
Was a tiny
Drip drip drip.

Mr Russian Samovar! Mr Golden Samovar! Mr Empty Samovar!

Mr Samovar has nothing — For a lazy lazybones!
Mr Samovar has nothing — For a sleepy sleepyhead!
Not a drip drip — Not a drop drop
For a sleepy sleepyhead!

Translated from the Russian by Ilya Bernstein


Иван Иваныч Самовар
Был пузатый самовар,
Трехведёрный самовар.

В нем качался кипяток,
Пыхал паром кипяток,
Разъярённый кипяток;

Лился в чашку через кран,
Через дырку прямо в кран,
Прямо в чашку через кран.

Утром рано подошел,
К самовару подошел,
Дядя Петя подошел.

Дядя Петя говорит:
«Дай-ка выпью, говорит,
Выпью чаю», говорит.
К самовару подошла,
Тетя Катя подошла,
Со стаканом подошла.

Тетя Катя говорит:
«Я, конечно, говорит,
Выпью тоже», говорит.

Вот и дедушка пришел,
Очень старенький пришел,
В туфлях дедушка пришел.

Он зевнул и говорит:
«Выпить разве, говорит,
Чаю разве», говорит.

Вот и бабушка пришла,
Очень старая пришла,
Даже с палочкой пришла.

И подумав говорит:
«Что-ли, выпить, говорит,
Что-ли, чаю», говорит.

Вдруг девчонка прибежала,
К самовару прибежала —
Это внучка прибежала.

«Наливайте!— говорит,
Чашку чая, говорит,
Мне послаще», говорит.

Тут и Жучка прибежала,
С кошкой Муркой прибежала,
К самовару прибежала,

Чтоб им дали с молоком,
Кипяточку с молоком,
С кипяченым молоком.

Вдруг Сережа приходил,
Всех он позже приходил,
Неумытый приходил.

«Подавайте!— говорит,
Чашку чая, говорит,
Мне побольше», говорит.

Наклоняли, наклоняли,
Наклоняли самовар,
Но оттуда выбивался
Только пар, пар, пар.

Наклоняли самовар,
Будто шкап, шкап, шкап,
Но оттуда выходило
Только кап, кап, кап.

Самовар Иван Иваныч!
На столе Иван Иваныч!
Золотой Иван Иваныч!

Кипяточку не дает,
Опоздавшим не дает,
Лежебокам не дает.

Daniil Kharms

Translation commentary

‘Ivan Ivanych Samovar’ is one of Daniil Kharms’s most popular children’s poems. I have translated it here – taking some liberties and making some attempts to incorporate effects used by Kharms in his other children’s poems – with the hope that it might stand up on its own before an audience of English-speaking children who might have never heard of Kharms and who conceivably could care less that the poem they’re hearing or reading is a translation. To be read with feeling, preferably out loud.

Ilya Bernstein