Alexy Kotsov: Song

Alexy Koltsov (1809-42) was the self-taught native singer that appears from time to time in Russia's literary history. Koltsov was not a 'son of the soil, but a merchant, the son of a cattle dealer in Voronezh. Though essentially remaining a provincial attached to country ways, Koltsov was introduced to literary society in Petersburg and Moscow, and could count Krylov, Viazemsky and Puskin among his friends. {1}

fedor sologub translation from moistened clay

Kolsov's often appear artless country songs, but conceal a good deal of literary craft. They are highly finished, coherent and polished. When rhymed, the line endings can be dactylic, i.e. feature an extra unstressed syllable. Often the poems are on personal themes, of rural poverty and injustice and feature the runaway serf, the robber, rebellious youth.

Love is apt to be unrequited, forced or lost through death. Sorrow is a constant theme, combined by a wistfulness, even a resentment. Many of the poems were set to music by Rimsky-Korsakov, Musorgsky and Balakirev.

Russian Text


Ты не пой, соловей,
Под моим окном;
Улети в леса
Моей родины!

Полюби ты окно
Прощебечь нежно ей
Про мою тоску;

Ты скажи, как без ней
Сохну, вяну я,
Что трава на степи
Перед осенью.

Без неё ночью мне
Месяц сумрачен;
Среди дня без огня
Ходит солнышко.

Без неё кто меня
Примет ласково?

На чью грудь отдохнуть
Склоню голову?

Без неё на чью речь
Улыбнуся я?

Чью мне песнь, чей привет
Будет по сердцу?

Что ж поёшь, соловей,
Под моим окном?

Улетай, улетай
К душе-девице!


The TTS Audio Recording is:

Prosodic Analysis of Poem

The poem is unrhymed and generally written in trimeters, though a few lines have only two stressed syllables:

Ты не пой, солове́й,     3
Под мои́м окно́м;     3
Улети́ в леса́     3
Мое́й ро́дины!     3
Полюби́ ты окно́     3
Души́-деви́цы…     2
Прощебечь не́жно ей     3
Про мою́ тоску́;     3
Ты скажи́, как без ней     3
Со́хну, вя́ну я,     3
Что трава́ на сте́пи     3
Пе́ред о́сенью.     3

Previous Translations

Ruverses have two renderings. I give the first eight lines of each:

1. Maurice Bowra

Sing not, nightingale,
Under my window;
Fly away to the woods
Of my own country!
Learn to love the window
Of my soul’s maiden!
Sing to her tenderly
Of my agony;

2. Eugene Mark Kayden

Cease thy song, nightingale,
Here before my window!
Fly away, nightingale,
To my village grove.
And there light on the window
Of my sweetheart-love.
Sing to her there a song
Of my anguish, pain.

English Translation of Koltsov's Poem

The poem is not difficult to translate, even to reproduce the two and three stresses to the line, but we also have to keep the whole thing fresh and simple, exhibiting that repeated naturalness common to folk songs:

Sing not, nightingale,
nor haunt my window here,
but fly to woods
and larger motherland!

And though you keep to window,
my own sweet soul,
bid it now farewell.

Say how much I long,
and am without her lost,
how much I'm withering,
as does the autumn grass.

Without her through the night
how the month is dark,
midday lacks its fire,
the sun goes on its way.

Without her, who am I?
Who will greet me kindly,
on whose breast to lie,
and softly rest my head?

Did I say I'd hear
what greeting song will say,
how it hurts the heart?

Why sing, nightingale?
Fly, fly away,
my own sweet soul.

References and Resources

1. Bristol, E., A History of Russian Poetry (1991, O.U.P.) 133-35.

Russian poem translations on this site: listing.