- Sci-fi comic about ancient things people find in melting icebergs
Translating "Hot obsidian"
This poem begins book 2 of the Omnis Trilogy. Another semi-sentient entity, Hot obsidian, speaks here. It has the same ability to predict future as its counterpart Cold obsidian, but also can actively influence it following the goal it was programmed to reach: making its carrier a supreme ruler. The artefact was obviously created by species whose lifespan was way longer than humans’, so no human carrier lived long enough yet for Hot obsidian’s plan to be fulfilled.
The chosen one here is the same guy that was “warrior and poet” Cold obsidian sought in the previous poem. Also, this guy is pretty young, a boy of fifteen.
Hot obsidian has a distinctive look: it keeps a red light inside, glowing when no one carries it and otherwise pulsing with the same rhythm as the carriers’s heart.
Things that should be preserved in the translation:
fire inside volcanic glass (the description of how the artefact looks)
despite the fire beating inside the artefact is cold to the touch
accepting the hot obsidian automatically makes one an enemy to a lot of people
ultimate goal of this artefact’s activity: make its carrier a ruler of the world by manipulating his luck/future
all those who carried hot obsidian died before reaching the goal because their lives were too short for the artefact’s plans, but the new carrier, promised by “one clever man” is an immortal
Things that can be safely thrown away:
reference to angels and prophets
And here goes my translation. I didn’t try to rhyme or keep it true to the metre this time. I know I’m not good at this :)
Original Russian text:
Во внешний мир, жестокий мир,
Не отдаю тепла,
И, падшим ангелом храним,
Принес я много зла.
Огонь, с которым я рожден,
Такой, каким был дан,
В стекло вулкана заключен –
Людьми я в мире нелюбим,
Ни в этом, ни в другом...
И – коль осмелишься – возьми:
Ты станешь им врагом.
Но я не остаюсь в долгу:
Безумным смельчакам, -
Пророки верят, я могу, -
Я власть над миром дам.
Жизнь человечья коротка;
Как снег, она пройдет,
И на меня вновь на века
Так было, но один хитрец
Мне обещал Тебя.
Бессмертным будешь ты, юнец,
Таким же, как и я.
Возьми же красную звезду;
Под стали шум и звон
Тебя, мальчишка, возведу
Я на высокий трон.
My rough translation:
Into the outer world, cruel world
I give away no warmth.
Guarded by a fallen angel,
I brought a lot of evil.
The fire I was born with,
Just the same way it was,
Is imprisoned in a piece of volcanic glass -
Humans love me not,
Be they of this world or the other.
Take me, if you’re brave enough,
And you’ll become their enemy.
But I will pay you back tenfold.
The one mad or brave enough,
Prophets say, I can
Make into the ruler of the world.
Human life is short,
As short as a snowfall in spring.
Those who carry me, die eventually,
I get forgotten for ages.
That was the way of things before,
But one clever man promised you to me.
You will be immortal, young one,
Just like I am.
So take me, the red star.
Among the clash of steel
I will crown you, little boy,
To rule the world.
Translation by Alan Jackson + his comments:
Note: your description of the character of the Hot Obsidian makes iambic pentameter pretty well inevitable. I have aimed at a severe, more formal vocabulary than in the last one, to pick up your “stronger… threatening… dangerous… merciless…”. A native English speaker might pick up a reference to another poem, not as well-known as it used to be.
To the outer world, domain of cruelty,
No warmth I yield, no due, from my hot core;
An outcast spirit my true security –
Ill upon ill my gift, as herebefore
When I was born, my fire, my heart-light glowed
Red through my dark volcanic glassy skin:
My frame, my prison, body, and abode –
My truth: hot fire in hard obsidian.
In the outer worlds, domains of cruelty,
No love I find from folk in either realm.
Have you the courage to take hold of me?
And in that throng of foes be overwhelmed?
No miser I, no niggard hoarding gold;
To you, whose brave heart or whose mind insane
This challenge takes, I will repay ten-fold:
A world I’ll give to you, in fief and main!
A human life a ripple is in the stream;
A thrush’s song, a snowflake in the spring.
My bearers fly, forgotten as a dream
At dawn; and I forgotten lingering.
So has it been, but now a promise sure,
Wrought by a sage, of immortality
For you, my bearer-youth, my end, my cure,
My heart-beat’s beat, my own eternity
So take me, boy, your panoply of war,
Take me, your deathlessness, your hope, your crown,
Take me, and rule the world you’re destined for,
Take me, your power, your Hot Obsidian!
Jump to another poem:About the project:
My scifi and fantasy novels have a lot of poems in them that can not be removed without destroying the plot. Alas, my English in not good enough for translating poetry. Alan Jackson helps me translate the poems. It makes the translation of my novels possible.