To Kachalov’s Dog, translated by Karolina Kukhta

Jim, give me your paw for luck,
In all my life I haven’t seen one like it.
And at the moon let’s howl and bark
When nature’s still and silent.
Come Jim, give me your paw for luck.

My dear, do not lick yourself so.
With me accept the simple things, I pray.
What living life is like you do not know,
You do not know the price you have to pay.

Your owner is both known and admired
And he has guests, full house of them beset,
As each one with a smile extends their hand
To pat your fur of shining velvet.

You are a devilishly handsome dog,
With such an amiable, good nature.
Like a drunk friend you kiss and snog,
Not waiting on approval neither censure.

My dear Jim, among your guests
The one from many so-and-sos
That was the saddest and the quietest
Didn’t pass by, you don’t suppose?

Oh she will come, on that I swear and vow.
So without me, look at her sweetly,
And gently lick her hand with tender love
For all of which I was and was not guilty

 

‘To Kachalov’s Dog’ was written in 1925 when the poet visited his friend Kachalov. During the visit Yesenin established a strong bond with Kachalov’s dog (Jim).When I read the poem I immediately fell in love with its musicality. I looked at translations of the poem but was disappointed that most dismissed the rhyme scheme and overlooked the poem’s lyrical meter which was its unique feature. This inspired me to create my own version of the poem and I challenged myself to preserve the iambic pentameter meter. I did this by listening to the poem and comparing its musicality to my translation and I felt it was necessary to preserve the ABAB rhyme scheme, representing Jim’s sincerity and predictability. As I was translating I encountered ‘приятцей’ which comes for the word ‘приятно’ (pleasant). I couldn’t translate it because it was made up to preserve the rhyme. I translated this to ‘good nature’ as I felt that Jim’s good looks reflect his inner beauty and goodness. I decided to change the last line of the first stanza by adding ‘come’ while in the original poem it’s ‘Jim give me your paw for luck’. In English commands are usually followed by ‘please’ to sound polite which isn’t the case in Russian. I added the ‘come’ to communicate to the reader the respect and friendship that the poet and dog share. Also Russian words can be made to sound softer by adding a certain suffix to them e.g. ‘голубчик’ (the ‘чик’ is the suffix). The word literally means ‘pigeon’ but is used to show respect or care so I translated it to ‘dear’ however ‘милый’ also means ‘dear’ and appears in the poem but the repetition would further show Yesenin’s admiration for Jim which is why I kept it as ‘dear’ in both cases.

Собаке Качалова

Дай, Джим, на счастье лапу мне,
Такую лапу не видал я сроду.
Давай с тобой полаем при луне
На тихую, бесшумную погоду.
Дай, Джим, на счастье лапу мне.

Пожалуйста, голубчик, не лижись.
Пойми со мной хоть самое простое.
Ведь ты не знаешь, что такое жизнь,
Не знаешь ты, что жить на свете стоит.

Хозяин твой и мил и знаменит,
И у него гостей бывает в доме много,
И каждый, улыбаясь, норовит
Тебя по шерсти бархатной потрогать.

Ты по-собачьи дьявольски красив,
С такою милою доверчивой приятцей.
И, никого ни капли не спросив,
Как пьяный друг, ты лезешь целоваться.

Мой милый Джим, среди твоих гостей
Так много всяких и невсяких было.
Но та, что всех безмолвней и грустней,
Сюда случайно вдруг не заходила?

Она придет, даю тебе поруку.
И без меня, в ее уставясь взгляд,
Ты за меня лизни ей нежно руку
За все, в чем был и не был виноват.

Cергей Есенин

 

Original poem by Sergei Yesenin.