Friday, July 17, 2020

Translation of Poem by IVAN BUNIN, "TEMDZHID" "Тэмджид"

Whirling Dervishes at the Walls of Bukhara

                                           Тяжела, темна стезя земная.


Ivan Bunin


Он не спит, не дремлет.

В тихом старом городе Скутари,
Каждый раз, как только надлежит
Быть средине ночи, – раздается
Грустный и задумчивый Тэмджид.
На средине между ранним утром
И вечерним сумраком встают
Дервиши Джелвети и на башне
Древний гимн, святой Тэмджид поют.
Спят сады и спят гробницы в полночь,
Спит Скутари. Все, что спит, молчит.
Но под звездным небом с темной башни
Не для спящих этот гимн звучит:
Есть глаза, чей скорбный взгляд с тревогой,
С тайной мукой в сумрак устремлен,
Есть уста, что страстно и напрасно
Призывают благодатный сон.
Тяжела, темна стезя земная.
Но зачтется в небе каждый вздох:
Спите, спите! Он не спит, не дремлет,
Он вас помнит, милосердый бог.

Literal Translation


He sleeps not, drowses not.
The Koran

In the quiet old city of Skutari,
Each time, as soon as the night
Finds itself in its mid hours, rings out
The sad and pensive Temdzhid.

At the midpoint between early morning
And evening twilight the Halveti dervishes
Get up, and on the tower [minaret]
They sing the ancient hymn, the sacred Temdzhid.

The gardens sleep, the sepulchres sleep at midnight,
Skutari sleeps. All that sleeps is silent.
But beneath the starry sky from the dark tower
That hymn resounds for those not sleeping:

There are eyes whose sorrowing gaze with anxiousness,
With a secret torment is trained upon the murk,
And there are lips that passionately and in vain
Call out for blessed sleep.

Burdensome, dark is the earthly path.
But every sigh is taken account of in heaven:
Sleep, sleep! He does not sleep, does not drowse,
He remembers you, merciful God.


Literary Translation/Adaptation by U.R. Bowie


He sleeps not, drowses not.
The Koran

In the placid ancient city of Skutari,
As evening wends its way into the night,
From minarets that loom o’er Dede Efendi,
Resounds the pensive music of Temdzhid.

At witching time midway twixt gloaming hour
And morning’s dawn the dervishes perform;
They stand and whirl on high Efendi’s tower,
And sing their ageless hymn, revered Temdzhid.

The sepulchres at midnight, the lovely gardens sleep,
Skutari sleeps in silence, its daylight cares dismissed, 
But under starry skies floats down from minaret
That hymn designed for those who turn and twist.

Their anxious eyes are fixed, intent on midnight murk,
They gaze in secret torment as the shadows slowly creep,
Their lips voice desperate cries, but all in vain,
They plead and whisper prayers for blessed sleep.

Dark and filled with pitfalls is this earthly road of life,
But every human sigh below is reckoned up on high,
Sleep on, O mortal, sleep! God sleeps not, drowses not,
He thinks of you, his mercy’s rife, He watches from the sky.


Translator’s Notes

In the original Russian the rhyme scheme is unusual: Bunin rhymes only two lines out of each four-line stanza. I have done the same in the translation.

Skutari is the Italian and English name for Üsküdar, a large and densely populated district of Istanbul, Turkey, located on the Anatolian shore of the Bosphorus. The Halveti-Jerrahi is an Islamic Sufi brotherhood, an order of dervishes. According to a note in Bunin’s Collected Works in Nine Volumes [Sob. soch. v 9-i tomakh, I, 546], in the tower of the Dede Efendi Monastery the Halveti dervishes year round performed the so-called Temdzhid at midnight. In other mosques this song was sung only during Ramadan. The dervishes at Efendi sang the song by way of sending out consolation to insomniacs.

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