Translating the poem "Snow in May"

Where I live, May is an unpredictable month, so it is in the northern lands where Maximilian was trained for his mission. This is the first of his poems where we notice the weak soothsaying properties of Hot Obsidian reveal themselves.

The important symbols here are snow, dead bird, May, and oath. The oath is the same as the one mentioned in another poem: “Child’s oath” written by the little cultist.

Max begins the poem with himself looking out of the window, gets carried away in thought (his inner voice both asks and answers a question there) then returns back into the real world. Later, a lot of dead birds will be found in the snow under his window. The real fortune-telling here is way deeper, though, for one day Max will die in the snow himself.

The original Russian text:

Майский снег

“В мае дождь, в мае снег,
В мае всякое может случиться...
Отчего, человек,
Ты не вольная сильная птица?

Пляска мыслей в твоей голове
Никому не подвластна...
Оттого ли, скажи, человек,
Ты несчастный?»

«Оттого ли? Хотел бы я знать,
Отчего в самом деле
Оказалась весна
В этой колкой и снежной постели,

Потянуло зимою
И мне приморозило душу...
Я от холода взвою,
Но клятвы своей не нарушу».

Я в небесную даль
Взгляд тяжелый опять поднимаю.
Там сияет звезда,
На заснеженный май не взирая...

В мае дождь, в мае снег,
В мае всякое может случиться...
Даже смерть...
На снегу
Распласталась замерзшая птица.


My rough translation

Snow in May

Rain in May, snow in May…
In May, anything can happen.
“Why, human,
Are you not a free, strong bird?

The dance of thoughts in your mind
Is in no one’s power (unrestrained, uncontrolled)…
Is that why, human,
You are miserable?”

“Why indeed? I wish I knew
How in truth
The spring has ended
In that scratchy snow bed.

It smells of winter
Freezing my soul…
I will bellow with pain in that cold
But won’t break my oath”.

To the sky dome
I raise my heavy gaze again.
A star is shining there,
The snowy May notwithstanding…

Rain in May, snow in May.
In May, anything can happen…
Even death…
On the snow
A dead bird (frozen to death) is sprawled.

Alan Jackson's translation (final version):

Snow in May

May can bring rain, May can bring snow,
May can bring anything, anything at all!
So come on, lad, why not let go!
Fly, a joyful bird, at your own call!

The thoughts that are dancing in your brain,
Unsought, ominous, uncontrolled,
Are they the problem, lad, is that dance to blame
For your heart feeling so cold?

Are they the problem? I wish I grasped
The cause, what fault in me, what woe
Made Spring die, leaving me grounded, lost
In this bitter, clagging blanket of snow.

I’ve conjured Winter, in thought and act;
Its invocation freezes my soul –
But no oath I’ll break, no word retract,
Though I howl with pain for cold

But still I can hope; I can lift my eyes
Past the snow-veil, high to the sky again
Where look! A bright star shines!
Even though it is snowing in May!

May can bring rain, May can bring snow,
May can bring anything, anything at all –
Even death…
…on the snow,
See, a bird’s sprawled corpse, starved with cold

It took us a while to get there, this poem was a difficult one.
Here's our beta versions:


(Alan's beta version)

May snow, May rain,
In May anything at all can happen
So, lad, why then
Aren’t you a bird, free to be gone?

The thoughts are dancing in your brain
Loose, masterless
Is that your problem, lad, is that to blame
For your sadness?

Is it really that? I wish I knew
Why it happened -
But spring ended
In this rough, clammy bed of snow

Winter awakes
Freezing me to my very soul
No oath I’ll break
Though I bellow with pain in the cold

I lift my eyes
To the far sky with hope again
Where a star shines
Even though it is snowing in May
May rain, May snow
In May expect anything at all
Even Death… frozen
On the snow, look, a bird’s corpse


(my beta version)

May is rain, May is snow,
May is when any weather can happen.
Why, my lad, are you wingless,
Not happy and free like a bird?

In your mind, thoughts are dancing
And weaving an ominous pattern.
That's your problem, I guess?
You're unhappy because you have erred?

Is that so? Wish I knew where to look,
How my spring came could have ended
In this bed full of frost, under snow,
In despicable cold.

What has frozen my soul,
What has left me there, hidden and stranded?
While I bellow with pain in that cold
I stay true to my word.

Through the veil of the snow
I look higher, where May has no power.
There's a star, it's so bright
That it shines through my fears and my dreams.

May is rain, May is snow,
May's the chaos around my tower.
May is death...
...on the snow,
There's a bird dead of cold sprawled its wings.


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.