It is a rich, full-bodied whistle,
cracked ice crunching in pails,
the night that numbs the leaf,
the duel of two nightingales,
the sweet pea that has run wild,
Creation’s tears in shoulder blades.

[Это – круто налившийся свист,
Это – щелканье сдавленных льдинок,
Это – ночь, леденящая лист,
Это – двух соловьев поединок.
Это – сладкий заглохший горох,
Это – слезы вселенной в лопатках.]

Boris Pasternak (1890-1960) Russian poet, novelist, and literary translator
“Definition of Poetry [Определение поэзии],” ll. 1-6, My Sister — Life [сестра моя – жизнь] (1922)

This is the translation, source unknown, given in Pasternak's obituary, "Farewell in a Poet's Land," Life Magazine (1960-06-13), and frequently quoted from there.

Alternate translations:

It's a tightly filled whistle,
it's the squeaking of jostled ice,
it's night, frosting the leaves,
it's two nightingales dueling.
It's the soundlessness of sweetpeas,
the tears of the universe in a pod.
[tr. Rudman/Boychuk (1983)]

It's a whistle that howls in the veins,
It's the crackle of ice under pressure,
It's the leaf-chilling night in the rain,
It's two nightingales dueling together.
It's the sweet pea all choked in the fields,
It's the universe weeping in pea pods.
[tr. Falen (2012)]

It’s a whistle, acutely full,
It’s a crackle of squeezed ice,
It’s night, freezing a leaf,
It’s two nightingales in a duel.
It’s the sweet grown-wildness of peas,
It’s tears of the universe in pods.
[tr. Livingstone (2015)]

It's a whistle blown ripe in a trice,
It's the cracking of ice in a gale,
It's a night that turns green leaves to ice,
It's a duel of two nightingales.
It is sweet-peas run gloriously wild,
It's the world's twinkling tears in the pod.

Added on 25-Jun-24 | Last updated 25-Jun-24
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