2007 September 16

Translating Moscow Nights


Moscow's Red Square at sunset

My friend Andrei, from Moscow School No. 45, got married in September 2007. Since his American wife's family was mostly from Massachusetts, the wedding was held in Salem. Large bride's party; smaller groom's party able to make the trip from Russia. I wanted to bring a little balance to the reception, so I toted along my 6-string and was allowed to serenade the couple with the old Russian standby Подмосковные вечера (Moscow Nights). Back in the mid-1980s, the opening bars were used by the Moscow radio station to introduce the evening news.

Not wanting to leave the Americans totally in the dark, I sang each verse first in Russian, then in English. I didn't find an existing translation that I liked, so I wrote my own.

(Original Russian lyrics by M. Matusovskii)

Не слышны в саду даже шорохи,
Все здесь замерло до утра,
Если б знали вы,
как мне дороги
Подмосковные вечера

Речка движется и не движется,
Вся из лунного серебра,
Песня слышится
и не слышится
В эти тихие вечера

Что ж ты, милая, смотришь искоса,
Низко голову наклоня?
Трудно высказать
и не высказать
Всё, что на сердце у меня

А рассвет уже все заметнее,
Так, пожалуйста, будь добра,
Не забудь и ты
эти летние
Подмосковные вечера

(English translation by Elliot Grant)

This garden grove is still, silent through and through
All is sleeping until dawn's light
If you only knew
How dear to me are you
And these beautiful Moscow nights

The river flows along, then it seems to stay
All is bathed in silver moonlight
A song begins to play
Then it fades away
In the dark of these quiet nights

Dearest, raise your eyes—do not bow your head
Though I do not know how to start
It's so hard to tell
And yet not to tell
All that I hold within my heart

Dawn is breaking now, and the moon has set
I beg of you with all of my might
You will not forget
How we always met
On these summertime Moscow nights