Translating the poem "Chance meeting"

On his journey, Max met a person he really liked and wanted to be friends with. He had to abandon that idea, though, because of how urgent his mission had been. He left, knowing, thanks to his soothstone, that he would never see that person again. Autumn and leaves are important symbols that link the poem to the story, so they should survive the translation.

The original Russian text:

Как мимолетна встреча и проста...
На том пути от жизни и до смерти
Мы встретились с тобой, как два листа
В осенней листопадной круговерти.

И лист один другим был восхищен,
Но ветер выл протяжно и сурово...
Мой друг, мы вряд ли встретимся еще;
А хаос ветра не столкнет нас снова.


My rough translation

How simple and short our encounter was…
On this way from life to death
You and I met like two leaves
In the windy autumn fall.

One leaf was in awe of the other
But the wind howled, drawling and cruel…
My friend, I doubt that we will meet once more
For the chaos of the wind won’t bring us together again.



Alan Jackson's comments and translation:

I've gone for 'road' because of the darker vowel, and similarly 'fierce shrieking' for 'shriek-fierce' stretches the 'i' sound further, which gives more power to the line, I think.
By mirroring the line ends the reader builds an expectation of the the last line ending in 'meeting', so the 'never again' - I hope - comes out strong and emphatic.


How brief and how simple our chance meeting
On the road from birth to death that we all travel;
Like drifting leaves flicking together, a touch so brief,
By autumn winds parted as flutter-tumbled they fall.

Awe in one leaf flutters as stalk-tooth-blade brushing they fall,
But in the fierce shrieking wind their friend-kiss is brief –
Never again shall our roads touch; in all our travel,
In all the chance-flickering world-winds’ chaos, never again.


My comments again:

Breaking the expectations is often a great way to make a strong ending, be it a poem or a prose story. I think it works very well here.

Interesting, the two poems look so different in plain text but when I read them out loud, some magic happens and suddenly they have the same chilling mood and look like siblings, not strangers. I think you did something wonderful here, Alan.

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 to translate the poems. It makes the translation of my novels possible.