Translating the poem "Moonshadow"

Once Max had saved a girl from a group of street thugs. He took her to safety and told her she didn’t owe him anything and was free to go anywhere she wanted. What did the girl, Edna, choose? She chose to go with him. Later, Max became so obsessed with protecting Edna that his obsession eclipsed his original mission. That didn’t end well…

In this poem, Max recalls the night when he saved Edna. He walked through the dark city, his disfigured face hidden under a hood. There was a full moon in the sky. The event happened after his recovery at the swamp. The last stanza hints at the beginning of his obsession that ended up standing in the way of his initial mission.

“Summoned by you” means that Edna cried for help. “Came to you by my own will” means that he chose to help her and wasn’t forced to. That’s important because, as a cultist raised with a specific purpose in mind, Max wasn’t allowed to make many choices of his own.

The original Russian text:

Я помню, как стоял к луне спиною –
Под капюшоном не было лица.
Из древней тьмы я вызван был тобою,
Хотя пришел к тебе я все же сам.

Пришел сквозь темный город, сквозь болото,
Сквозь трудности, угодные судьбе...
Как глуп я был, ища в пути чего-то,
Еще не зная, что иду к тебе!

My rough translation

I remember standing with my back to the Moon,
There was no face (seen) under my hood.
Summoned by you from the ancient darkness,
I came to you by my own will.

I walked through the dark city, through the swamp,
Through the hardships life/destiny threw at me…
How stupid I was, looking for something on this way,
Not knowing yet that I would come to you!

Alan Jackson's translation:


I remember
The moon, full behind me,
My hood’s moonshadow
Safely concealing
My ravaged face,

I heard
Your call, invoking me
From the old darkness,
My choosing to answer,
My choosing to come.

I walked
Through the marshes,
Through the dark city,
Through all the harms
That life did to me.

A stupid fool
Staring around,
Thinking of the journey,
Never of the end,
Never of the purpose
Why I journeyed,

Never of you.

[The original used consonant sounds – especially k/g/kh – to structure the piece, and to emphasise the ‘stupid fool’ – ‘Как глуп’ – as the kernel of the poem. The translation tries to use ‘oo’ sounds for the same purpose, aided by repeated words: ‘moon’, ‘choosing’, ‘through’. It is a long way from the original in form, but I think it preserves the edgy feel of the original, and this form emphasises the ‘oo’ words even more.]

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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.