Translating the poem "Kuldagan Desert"

Max visits Kuldagan desert for the second time, as an adult, scarred by battles and bad choices, and feels nostalgic.

He speaks of the union of earth and sky in this poem. It means that when it’s night in Kuldagan, everything is pitch black and it’s hard to tell where the sky ends and the earth begins; and when it’s day there, a sandstorm can produce the same effect: it’s all dust and sand around you, you see nothing else.

In metaphorical sense, this union means going full circle, returning to where everything had begun many years ago.

The original Russian text:

Пустыня Кулдаган

О мир прекрасный и нелепый,
От бед и горестей вдали!
Здесь, как во сне: я даже неба
Не отличаю от земли!

Здесь нянчит звезды молодые
Пустынной ночи колыбель,
И с дальних гор ветра седые
Изгнанников зовут к себе.

Зовут затем, чтоб те вернулись,
Когда б, волнуясь и пыля,
И днем, как ночью, вновь сомкнулись
Друг с другом небо и земля.

Тогда в песчаной круговерти,
Устав, доверишься судьбе,
Тогда подумаешь о смерти,
Но смерть не вспомнит о тебе.

О мир, прекрасный и нелепый,
Ты рассуди мои грехи.
Пусть возвращаюсь я калекой,
Дурные пусть пишу стихи...

Но я живой и, очарован,
Единством неба и земли,
Кажусь себе мальчишкой снова
От бед и горестей вдали.

My rough translation

Oh, the beautiful and grotesque world,
Far away from woes and sorrows!
There, it’s like a dream: I can’t even tell
Where the sky ends and the earth begins!

There, the desert night
Rocks the cradle of young stars
And the old winds from faraway mountains
Welcome all the outcasts.

They call to the outcasts so they would return
When, perturbed and raising dust,
The sky and the earth would become one
During the day just like they did during the night.

Then, in the middle of a sandstorm,
Tired, you would leave your fate in the hands of providence,
Then you will think about death
But death won’t even remember you.

Oh, the beautiful and grotesque world,
Judge my sins.
Yes, I’m coming back as a cripple,
Yes, my poems are wicked…

But I’m alive and, mesmerized
By the union of earth and sky,
I feel like a child again
Far away from woes and sorrows.

Alan Jackson's comments and translation:

The poem. Not an easy one. There's real pain there, isn't there, not just a sense of having made mistakes, but of having wasted opportunities, of not having become what he could and should have become; he can't tell where the future ends and the past begins any more, and yet that is actually a comfort to him.
The drumbeats of the rhymes and assonances, the wavering metre, before you even understand the words the pain is there in every verse.
One especially gorgeous line: "You will think about Death, but Death won't even remember you!"


Kuldagan Desert

O lovely land,
Entrancing land,
Far from woe, far from sorrows within;
As if dreams hide
Where the night sky ends, the earth begins

In the soft night,
the desert soothes
The new-born shining stars to sleep;
From far mountains
Ancient winds an ancient welcome keep

For the outcasts:
To come again
Back to this land of swirling winds
Whose sand storms hide
Where the day sky ends, the earth begins

In the swirling winds,
Tired, past caring,
Just leave to luck where you’re heading to.
You’ll think of death,
But death won’t even remember you

O lovely land,
Entrancing land,
Show me what I have become -
Crippled, outcast,
Even my poems beat a broken drum.

But yet I live,
Entranced, not knowing
Where day and night, sky and earth begin,
Far from woe,
Far from sorrows, a child again.

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.