Translations, PR 10 (2007)

"Mniszek's Sonnet"

In Honor of J. Thomas Shaw, Pushkinist Extraordinaire


     In recognition of Professor Shaw’s lifetime work and numerous contribu­tions to the field of Pushkin studies in North America, we are including two special sections to the journal for this issue.


Part 1:[1]  Contest for the best rhymed translation of “Mniszek’s Sonnet” in Boris Godunov. 

     Following Professor Shaw’s studies of the rhymes in Pushkin’s play, we invited literary, rhymed translations of the final fifteen lines of scene 12 in Boris Godunov. Professor Shaw has discussed the function of the sonnet in the context of sonnets in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Act I, scene 5. For more information, see Professor Shaw’s article, “Romeo and Juliet, Local Color, and ‘Mniszek’s Sonnet’ in Boris Godunov” (Slavic and East European Journal 35: 1 [Spring 1991]: 1–35), or his book, Pushkin’s Poetics of the Unexpected (Columbus, OH: Slavica, 1993).

     Many thanks to our judges, James Falen and J. Douglas Clayton.


Мы, старики, уж нынче не танцуем,
Музыки гром не призывает нас,
Прелестных рук не жмем и не целуем —
Ох, не забыл старинных я проказ!
Теперь не то, не то, что прежде было:
И молодежь, ей-ей — не так смела,
И красота не так уж весела —
Признайся, друг: всё как-то приуныло.
Оставим их: пойдем, товарищ мой,
Венгерского, обросшую травой,
Велим отрыть бутылку вековую,
Да в уголку потянем-ка вдвоем
Душистый ток, струю, как жир, густую,
А между тем посудим кой о чем.
Пойдем же, брат. 


И дело, друг, пойдем.



Antony Wood, London (UK)


Old men like us no longer join the dance;
The sound of the mazurka has no thrill
For us who do not squeeze or kiss soft hands…
Ah, memories of those times are with me still!
Now things are different, youth is not so bold,
Nor beauty so light-hearted as we knew it—
I fear we must acknowledge that the world
Is now a duller place; we’ll leave them to it.
I would propose we don’t stay here, my friend,
One moment more; we'll see if we can find
Some old Hungarian vintage, moss-encrusted,
And in a corner, just the two of us,
We'll pour the rich, fat, fragrant stream and taste it,
And there’ll be many things we shall discuss.
Dear comrade, come.


Yes, just the two of us.



Alyssa Dinega Gillespie, University of Notre Dame


We ancient chaps no longer join the dancing,
The music’s cadence leaves us strangely cold,
Nor pet and kiss each hand that charms our fancy—
Oh no, I’ve not forgot our pranks of old!
Now nothing, nothing keeps its former sparkle:
Young men, forsooth, are not so brassy now,
Young beauty, too, has lost its merry glow—
Admit it, friend: somewise the world’s grown darker.
Let’s leave them be: my dear companion, come,
We’ll bid a flask of aged Hungarian,
All furred in moss, be dug out from the cellar
And find a cozy nook wherein to share
The aromatic liquid, smooth and mellow,
Meanwhile dispensing judgments here and there.
Let’s go, man.


Gladly, friend—a prospect fair.


Hilary Drummond, Dalhousie University (Canada)


We, in our winter’s age, decline the dances,
And now refrain from urging strains of song,
Renounce the charming hands and sweet advances—
Though I recall those roguish days long gone!

The present lacks; it lacks the light of yesterday:
The youth, ah me—these boys are half as bold,
Bright beauty’s far less beautifully told—
My friend, confess: all dwell in shades of gray.

Let’s leave them now; my trusted friend, let’s go,
To find Hungarian wine, with grass overgrown,
We’ll bid them crack the bottle’s ancient seams,

Aye, in a quiet crook we’ll coax the flow
Of fragrant sap, as thick and rich as cream
While by the by, we’ll weigh the ways men know.

Let’s go then, brother.


Indeed, my friend, let’s go.


Download: Pushkin, Alexander. "Miszek's Sonnet," translated by Antony Wood, Alyssa Dinega Gillespie, Hilary Drummond. Pushkin Review 10 (2007): 151 - 53.

[1] For Part 2, testimonials to Tom Shaw, see section “Notes/Заметки,” below.