Translating the "Grey tower"

The next poem is a kind of a lullaby Vlada (one of the creators) sings to her wounded apprentice as he falls asleep. Nobody knows who wrote it, maybe she did. It tells us about the lost love between her and another creator, Sereg, but doesn’t go into details. It sounds sad, but not dark. The poem gives us some hints about the creators’ past and the main character’s future, so they should be preserved in the translation:

The Grey Tower (or just the tower), an important location in the story. You may keep the open windows as well. It’s not crucial, but may be a nice detail, because later we’ll learn that Sereg likes his rooms cold and open windows are quite usual in his tower.
Key to happiness. It’s the creators’ lost son. They tried to fill the void by creating Omnis (the world), but it didn’t help much.
North and South. The two parts of the world where the creators live, far away from each other, most of the time.

Original Russian text:

С давних лет, с давних пор
Эта башня за миром глядит.
С острых северных гор
Снег в открытые окна летит.
Завывают ветра,
Одинокие песни поют
И печальные вести
На крыльях холодных несут.

Эта башня не дремлет;
Пространства пред нею, как стол.
Вновь в далекие земли
Хозяин суровый ушел.
Ветер с Юга примчался
И скорую встречу сулил
С той, кого он когда-то
Давно очень сильно любил.

Так случается часто,
Что сводит их вместе беда.
Ключ потерян от счастья,
Его не найти никогда.

My rough translation:

Since the ancient times
This tower watches the world.
From the sharp peaks of northern mountains
Snow flies into its open windows.
Winds howl
Their lonely songs
Bringing sad news
On their wings.

This tower never sleeps,
The lands are seen like a table before it.
Again into far away lands
Its stern lord went.
Warm wind came from the South
And promised him he’d meet again
The one he used to love
A long time ago.

It happens often
That some trouble drives them together,
But the key to their happiness is forever lost
And can never be found again.


Translation by Alan Jackson + his comments:

So I’ve cheated here – but a lullaby in English always has verses of the same length. I had an obvious option: split both the first two verses, making five verses. But the second half of the first verse looks startlingly different in your English version – a big contrast in line length and in rhythm to the rest, and it doesn’t seem to advance the story; why not treat it differently, I thought: why not make it a chorus! Yes, the Russian probably doesn’t justify it, but OK, sue me. On the metre: this is absolutely the sort of thing ballad metre lives for, hiding depths under a cool, casual, innocent, apparently naïve surface. The chorus: I tried to shorten the lines to resemble the English you sent, but I was only partly successful. It’s a song so I’ve given you a very simple tune to sing the English to – I bet it doesn’t fit the Russian!!

The tune is adapted from a Welsh traditional melody: Llangloffan

From long ago, from days of old
The Grey Tower guards the world
Where snow from northern mountains cold
Through open windows swirled
Hark! The winds are singing
Howling, loud and shrill,
Hark! The winds are bringing
Sad news and chill

Unsleeping, o’er the wide world’s spread
The Grey Tower keeps its stand
Again, again its stern lord sped
To some far distant land
Hark! The winds are singing
Howling, loud and shrill,
Hark! The winds are bringing
Sad news and chill

From southern realms with promise good
He heard the warm wind blow;
He’d meet again the one he loved
So many years ago
Hark! The winds are singing
Howling, loud and shrill,
Hark! The winds are bringing
Sad news and chill

And yet though oft some troubles draw
Them near, but still apart,
Their key of happiness is no more –
No meeting there of heart
Hark! The winds are singing
Howling, loud and shrill,
Hark! The winds are bringing
Sad news and chill

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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.