Translations by Dzhon

Stampeding Horses We were traveling over hill and dale But lost an axle along the way. Went out folk-dancing, our uniforms frilled; Little soldiers of love--deep blue eyes... How did they take, lead us by strange roads; Lead us--yes, bring us here, as I'll show; There sits a pale bird with star-crossed eyes; Well, sing for me, bird, and maybe I'll dance... Sing for me, bird, is a soul sweet without a body? Is it easy to be a bird even if you can't sing? Harness for me, Lord, the Stampeding Horses; I wanted to go on foot, but obviously there isn't the time. But how will I feed the horses if they aren't satisfied? How do you water them if they don't drink water? Silken manes, perfumed and curled; Sharp hooves, and blood-colored tracks. And here are all my comrades--vodka without the bread, One brother Sirin, the other the Savior, And the third who wanted to go to heaven under his own power, got drunk, shattered himself--and that's the whole story. Oh, the little bird flew off -- but he didn't get far; Pecked by a kite and even by doves. They harnessed, bridled for me the Stampeding Horses, And the Horses carried everything away from you. We tried for queens but forgot about the suit; And the trumps are all filthy, howsoever chic. Father Sergei, Father Seraphim! The stars are high above, and our path is snowy...

Translation Notes

Some further info, culled by Dzhon from Encarta and the American Heritage:

Seraphim of Sarov, Saint (1759-1833), Russian monk, ascetic, and spiritual counselor, who followed the contemplative tradition of ancient Eastern Christian hesychast monks (see Hesychasm). Born Prokhor Moshnin in Kursk, he entered the monastery of Sarov at the age of 19 and took the name Seraphim on becoming a monk. From 1794 to 1810 he was a hermit in the forest near Tambov. His way of life included constant mental prayer (the Jesus Prayer) and the weekly reading of all four Gospels. Toward the end of his life he settled in the convent of Diveyevo, near Sarov, welcoming pilgrims and giving spiritual direction. Some of his teachings and visions were recorded by a man he cured of illness, Nicholas Motovilov, in Conversations with Motovilov. Canonized in 1903, he has become one of the most popular saints of the modern Orthodox church.

Dzhon's Note on the Note:

The city of Sarov is located on the southern border of Nizhegorodskaya Oblast' (that is, the region in which I currently live). During the Soviet period Sarov was rechristened "Arzamas-16" and was, and still is, the epicenter of Soviet nuclear weapon research and development. It's one of the few places in the Russia where you still need a special pass to get past the city limits, and the whole place is surrounded by razor-wire fences and patrolled by attack dogs. Coincidence?

Hesychasm (Greek hesychia, "quietness"), term designating a contemplative tradition dating from the 4th century in Eastern Christian monasticism. Hesychast monks, particularly those of the monasteries of Mount Áthos, devoted themselves to unceasing mental prayer in order to achieve union with God. The most popular form of prayer was the Jesus Prayer, also known as "prayer of the heart" and generally consisting of the words: "Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." Hesychasts repeated the prayer continuously, regulating their breathing to correspond to the recitation of the prayer. Through this physical method of prayer they hoped to focus and maintain mental concentration on God's name. The practice was stridently attacked by the Italo-Greek humanist monk Barlaam the Calabrian; in response, the Byzantine theologian St. Gregory Palamas composed his Triads in Defense of the Holy Hesychasts. Palamas's position was formally endorsed at the Orthodox church councils at Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) in 1341, 1347, and 1351. Hesychasm became very popular in Russia and is still practiced among Eastern Christians. An anthology of hesychast writings, known as the Philocalia, was published in Venice in 1782 by St. Nicodemus.

Ехали мы, ехали с горки на горку,  
Да потеряли ось от колеса.  
Вышли мы вприсядку, мундиры в оборку;  
Солдатики любви - синие глаза...  
Как взяли - повели нас дорогами странными;  
Вели - да привели, как я погляжу;  
Сидит птица бледная с глазами окаянными;  
Что же, спой мне, птица - может, я попляшу...  
Спой мне, птица, сладко ли душе без тела?  
Легко ли быть птицей - да так, чтоб не петь?  
Запрягай мне, Господи, коней беспредела;  
Я хотел пешком, да видно, мне не успеть...  
А чем мне их кормить, если кони не сыты?  
Как их напоить? - они не пьют воды.  
Шелковые гривы надушены, завиты;  
Острые копыта, алые следы.  
А вот и все мои товарищи - водка без хлеба,  
Один брат - Сирин, а другой брат - Спас.  
А третий хотел дойти ногами до неба,  
Но выпил, удолбался - вот и весь сказ.  
Эх, вылетела пташка - да не долетела;  
Заклевал коршун - да голубя.  
Запрягли, взнуздали мне коней беспредела,  
А кони понесли - да все прочь от тебя...  
Метились мы в дамки, да масть ушла мимо;  
Все козыри в грязи, как ни крути.  
Отче мой Сергие, отче Серафиме!  
Звезды - наверху, а мы здесь - на пути...