Translating the poem "Book of apprentices"

This poem is a foreword to the “Book of Apprentices” mentioned in “Cold obsidian”. It was written by the book’s author to inspire children reading about the heroes of old. The poem itself is simple and saccharine, there are no hidden depths. In terms of the plot, the only purpose of this poem is to make the character reading it take a look the blank pages at the end of the book.

Things that should be preserved in the translation:
- creators and their apprentices
- 15 thousands (or just thousands) of years
- empty pages at the end of the book (it’s a promise that there will be a lot of new apprentices in future)

Thing that can be safely thrown away:
- River of Time (it just means “always”, “in all times”)

Tone and mood of this poem are not important to the story

Original Russian text:

За миродержцами вослед
Вдоль русла Времени Реки!..
Пятнадцать тысяч долгих лет
За ними шли Ученики.

Пусть только несколько шагов
Судьба им, смертным, отвела,
Но нам из глубины веков
Сияют славные дела.

Конца у нашей книги нет,
Есть только белые листы,
И, может быть, в один из дней
В Ученики пойдешь и ты.

My rough translation:

They followed the creators
Along the River of Time
For fifteen thousands of years,
The Apprentices.

Even though only a few steps
They, mortals, were destined to walk,
Their heroic deeds shine
To us through the ages.

Our book has no ending,
Just blank pages.
Maybe one day
You will become an Apprentice too.


Alan Jackson's translation and comments:

Surprisingly difficult to keep that over-simple patronising tone that ‘poems for children’ so often have, and which you were very clearly aiming at. Although I have removed the double metaphor of the River and of walking, I have still kept a slightly muddled air – we know what ‘the writer’ means, but exactly how can steps hold anything? Anyway, what do you think of my first stab?

I hovered for a long time between ‘rolling’ and ‘stony’ in the first verse – you may feel I made the wrong choice.

The Apprentices are chosen at
The Worldholders’ own say
For fifteen thousand years they’ve walked
Along Time’s rolling way

Each one just took a few short steps
For mortal lives are slight
But those steps held immortal deeds
To us a glorious light

This book’s last sheets are empty, for
Apprentices yet to be;
These heroes still do shining deeds
Just think: could one be me?

My comment again:

I think it's neat :) It sounds kinder and more friendly than the original. I like it.

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