Translating the poem "Light-starer"

This is an old ballad about a woman who fell in love with a famous hero and carried that love through her entire life without ever letting him know about it. The phrase that is important to the plot is “Take me with you”. This is a key phrase and the name of the chapter the poem belongs to. (note: we decided to change the key phrase in the end. It will change the dialogue in the book a little bit but overall I think it made the poem better).

The woman didn’t know the hero’s true name, so she invented her own, secret name for him. In Russian it is “Ne migaiyschiy na svet” (the one who doesn’t blink at the light). Replacing it in English might be quite a puzzle, I’m afraid. In the end she changes the secret name to “Moy liubimiy chelovek” (my beloved man). It rhymes with the previous name though the rhyme is shant/obscure.

Every stanza with the secret name is a chorus. All they are similar, except the last one where she changes the secret name. The order of words is different there, broken. It means that she has died with her beloved’s name on her lips.


The original Russian text:

Не-мигающий-на-свет

С тобой мы встретились в краю,
Где свет слепит глаза;
Там песнь веселую пою -
А по щеке слеза.

И ты в толпе зевак стоял,
Ты руки на груди
Скрестил и молчаливо ждал,
И взгляд не опустил.

Прожег мне душу до глубин
Твой одинокий взгляд
И безвозвратно погубил,
Наверное, меня.

В твоих глазах тяжелый след
Того, что ты герой...
О, Не-мигающий-на-свет,
Возьми меня с собой!..

Потом лишь эхо дел твоих
Мелькало в новостях.
В делах нейтральных, добрых, злых
Заметили тебя.

Я каждый раз мечтала знать,
Где ныне бродишь ты.
Светлы ль еще твои глаза
И помыслы чисты?

Ах, как душа рвалась к тебе,
В рутину или бой!..
О, Не-мигающий-на-свет,
Возьми меня с собой!..

Мои года бежали вдаль -
И пробил судный час
Набросить свадебный вуаль,
Не получив меча.

И, как в болото, в грязный быт
Увязнуть с головой...
Лишь ты... ты не был мной забыт,
Без Имени герой.

От нелюбимого детей
Своих учила я
Так, чтобы вырастить людей,
Похожих на тебя.

Промчался мой короткий век,
Смерть стонет за дверьми...
О, Мой-любимый-человек,
С собой меня возьми...

My rough translation

I met you in a land
Where the light was blinding.
As I sang a merry song there
Tears were rolling down my cheeks.

You stood in the crowd,
Your hands crossed on your chest,
And waited in silence
Without lowering your eyes.

Your lonely gaze
Burned my soul
And must have doomed
Me without a chance to be saved.

The fact that you were a hero
Left its heavy mark in your eyes…
Oh, the one who doesn’t blink at the light,
Take me with you!

A mere echoes of your deeds
I heard in the news.
You were noticed doing things
Both good and evil.

Every time I heard about you
I dreamed to know where you walked,
Whether your eyes were still bright
And your soul pure.

Ah, how my soul yearned to be with you
In a life routine or a battle!
Oh, the one who doesn’t blink to the light,
Take me with you!

My years ran forward.
At last the time had come
To cover my head with a wedding veil
And forget about ever getting a sword,

Time to drown in a bog
Of a housewife’s life…
Only you… you I hadn’t forgotten,
The nameless hero.

The children I birthed of
The husband I never loved
I raised to be
Like you.

My short life has trickled away,
The death is moaning behind my door.
Oh, my beloved,
Take me with you...


Alan Jackson's translation:

Light-starer

My eyes encountered you that day
In a land of blinding light
I sang a song, a merry song,
Though my tears were glistening bright

I saw you standing in the crowd
Arms crossed, silent and still
In that bright light your eyes stared out –
Never blinked and never fell

Your single gaze burned through my soul
To depths I’d never known
Doomed me to scorn all other hope
My old life overthrown

Your eyes betrayed your hero’s soul
Your worth in all you do –
My Light-starer! My Light-starer!
I’d face the world with you!

Your deeds so great for good and ill
Through all the world they’re known
Their rumours fly, their echoes spread –
Reach even my far home

And every echo makes me dream,
Imagining your way
And are your eyes still burning bright
Your soul still pure as day?

Oh how I yearned in peace or war
To be your comrade true –
My Light-starer! My Light-starer!
I’d face the world with you!

But onward rolled the circling years
To that sad, hopeless day
When I put on my wedding chains
Threw hopes of swords away

I drowned my life in housework’s swamp
No footing could I find
Except – that nameless memory!
My hero held my mind

Unloved, my husband crushed my heart
Each child my failure’s shame
But each I raised and taught to be
Like you, your hero’s fame

Now death – I hear it – at the door
My wasted years – how few!
My Light-starer! My Heart-bearer!
I’d face the dark with you!

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