A birthday poem for a Russian émigré who is in her 70s.
January 9, 2015 10:03 AM   Subscribe

I am looking to send a poem to a woman in her 70s for her birthday who is a big fan of Russian classics (Lermontov, Yesenin, Tsvetaeva etc). Poem needs to be birthday appropriate, written in Russian by one of the Russian classical writers. Suggestions would be most appreciated.
posted by mooselini to Grab Bag (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
These came to mind, but there are risks (as there always are with poetry).

Winter Evening -- won't work if she could be offended by a reminder of her age (моя старушка, translated as "dear old granny" but the root word doesn't mean grandmother, it means "old")

Wagon of Life -- won't work if she could be offended by a swear; this is explained at the link.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 11:20 AM on January 9, 2015

Anna Akhmatova: Sunlight has Filled the Room (from Requiem)

Солнце комнату наполнило
Пылью желтой и сквозной.
Я проснулась и припомнила:
Милый, нынче праздник твой.

Оттого и оснеженная
Даль за окнами тепла,
Оттого и я, бессонная,
Как причастница спала.

Akhmatova's 20th C. of course, and it's a bit bleak as it's set within the grand scope of her cycle of Stalin's purges, but it's so lovely and sad and quintessentially Russian.

Sunlight fills my room
With hot dust, lucent, grey.
I wake, and I remember:
Today is your saint’s day.

That’s why even the snow
Is warm beyond the window,
That’s why, sleeplessly,
Like a communicant, I slept.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 12:09 PM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Osip Mandelstam was pretty good.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:49 PM on January 9, 2015

Pushkin is always reliable for such things; here's a poem he wrote for his friend Alexandra Smirnova's birthday (and written in her persona):
В тревоге пестрой и бесплодной
Большого света и двора
Я сохранила взгляд холодный,
Простое сердце, ум свободный,
И правды пламень благородный,
И как дитя была добра;
Смеялась над толпою вздорной,
Судила здраво и светло,
И шутки злости самой черной
Писала прямо набело.

In the motley, fruitless anxiety
of the grand monde and the court
I have kept a cool glance,
a simple heart, a free mind,
and have been as good/kind as a child;
laughing at the foolish crowd,
I have judged sensibly and radiantly,
and the darkest, most malicious jokes
I have written fair, with no corrections.
(Note that dark, malicious jokes are a good thing as far as Russians are concerned.) And here's a nice little birthday quatrain by Tyutchev:
Все, что сберечь мне удалось,
Надежды веры и любви,
В одну молитву всё слилось:
Переживи, переживи!

All that I have been able to preserve,
my hopes of faith and love,
have blended in a single prayer:
Live through your life, outlast, survive!
> Osip Mandelstam was pretty good.

Osip Mandelstam was maybe the greatest poet of the 20th century, but he didn't really do birthday poems, and you linked to ‘In transparent Petropolis we will leave only bone,’ which not only has nothing to do with birthdays but includes such warm and fuzzy lines as "We drink the air of death, each breath of the wind’s moan,/ and every hour is our death-hour’s keeper." Is that really what you meant to do?
posted by languagehat at 2:54 PM on January 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

If we do not grapple with our ultimate mortality at every fleeting instant, even the most joyous, what is our life worth?!

(yeah, possibly not the best answer there seb)
posted by Sebmojo at 8:34 PM on January 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

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