Eduard Bagritsky
The Watermelon

Literal Translation

The Watermelon

The gale is straining its guts; our old tub
Heads out into the risky business of the Sea of Azov.
Watermelons piled on top of each other, and the hold is overloaded,
And the wharf is covered with melons.

In the pre-dawn chill we don’t get our first shot of booze,
Instead we have to yawn through a tedious watch,
We’ll be at sea for three days and three nights;
We’ve already unfurled the sails...

A breaker smashes into a gray-bearded whitecap,
So that spray scatters all over the place,
I pick out a melon that’s as resonant as a tambourine,
With a knife I carve out a heart on it...

An empty sun is setting in the brine,
And waves have shoved off the moon...
The gale’s blowing hard!
Punch away!
Let’s go!
Little bark, get your sails spread and shaking!

The sea is full of thick whitecaps,
It’s dark in the hold, and the melons chafe against each other...

The wind whistles boatswain-style, through two fingers,
And the dark clouds are knocked together into thick clusters,
And the rudder is fidgeting, the planking creaks,
And the sails of canvas have to be reefed.

Smash straight through the waves!
Through the rain sail by guesswork!
Driven on in the whistling foam,
We yaw our way blindly...
All out of kilter and sobbing aloud,
Our wings of canvas wheeze and snort.

We’re drawn into a wild merry-go-round,
And the sea stomps [its feet] like an outdoor market,
We’re tossed on a sandbar,
We’re running aground,
This looks like our last season of fishing!

The sea is full of shaggy-goat whitecaps,
The melons chafe against each other, and it’s dark in the hold...

I have not yet composed my last song,
But I sense the chill of death...
I’ve played cards, I’ve lived as a vagabond,
Time to settle accounts with the sea,

Now my merry life I’m not likely to preserve,
The helm’s torn away, there’s a leak in the hull!

An empty sun rises over the sea,
In order to thaw and warm the air;
Our little bark has vanished, and on the waves floats
A melon with a heart carved into it...

A breaker smashes into a thick whitecap,
A shoal of mackerel flashes past,
The melon rocks shore-bound on ripples,
And sails its way to the shore...

Here it will make an end to its journey;
The wind and the tossing are done,
A Cossack girl whom I love
Picks up the melon with the heart carved into it...

And there’s no one there to let her know
That she holds my heart in her hands!

Literary Translation

The Watermelon

While the gale blows out bluster,
Our rust-bucket freighter
Is Sea-of-Azov bound;
We’re risking our ass.
Our cargo is melons, all fat watermelons,
The wharf is a pile of melon on melon,
The hold of the ship is a melon morass.

In the nippiness pre-dawn we have to stand watch,
So we miss our first booze in the morn,
For three days and nights
We’ll play surf-swell hopscotch;
We’ve unfurled our sails
And the tempest we scorn.

A gray-bearded snow-cap collides with a wave,
So that spindrift and spume fill the air;
I thump me a melon, one fit to engrave,
And I carve out a heart on its green derrière.

The desiccate sun sets way low in the brine,
And the billows are jostling
The moon as she quails,
The squall’s punching dirty, below the beltline,
Watch out for his backhand!
Cast off into dreamland!
Wee three-master skiff,
Get to shaking your sails!

The white-caps are rolling, the elements whinge,
So dark in the hold, where the chafed melons cringe. . .

The wind with two fingers in mouth, like a boatswain,
Whistles shrill shrieks, and its cries resonate,
While shuddering, hunkered-down clouds congregate,
And the rudder’s a-dither,
The planking all wails,
The hands by the halyards
Stand by to reef sails.

Through waves shatter-smash!
Through the rain go a-groping!
We’re driven along with the quavering foam,
Blindly we pitch and we yaw, barely coping,
While wing-flapping mizzenmast
Sobs out its moan.

A merry-go-round is the ride that we’re on,
The querulous ocean is bitching,
We’re tossed toward a sandbar and running aground,
Looks like our last chance to go fishing!

The sea is all white-caps, the billows unhinged,
So dark in the hold, where the chafed melons cringe.

I’m still writing my songs,
And my life’s not yet done,
But I sense a forlorn dissolution,
I’ve gambled at cards, and I’ve lived like a bum,
And the sea brings my just retribution.

No more soaring up high like a free-flying gull,
For the tiller’s ripped off, there’s a leak in the hull!

* * *

With desiccate sun over ocean swells risen,
The kind that thaws air and warms boats,
Nowhere to be seen is our little skiff’s mizzen,
Just a heart-engraved melon upon the waves floats.

A gray-bearded snow-cap collides with a wave,
A mackerel shoal flickers-flash past,
Shore-bound through the ripples drifts melon engraved,
And, eluding all hazards, he makes landfall at last.

So then, at the end of his perilous cruise,
The wind-blown mad tossings all bypassed,
Who picks up the melon and gazes bemused?
A sweetheart of mine, she’s a fine Cossack lass.

And there’s no one to tell her, the news to impart,
That warm in her fair hands she’s holding my heart!

Translated by U. R. Bowie

Эдуард Багрицкий
Арбуз

Свежак надрывается. Прет на рожон
Азовского моря корыто.
Арбуз на арбузе — и трюм нагружен,
Арбузами пристань покрыта.

Не пить первача в дорассветную стыдь,
На скучном зевать карауле,
Три дня и три ночи придется проплыть —
И мы паруса развернули...

В густой бородач ударяет бурун,
Чтоб брызгами вдрызг разлететься;
Я выберу звонкий, как бубен, кавун —
И ножиком вырежу сердце...

Пустынное солнце садится в рассол,
И выпихнут месяц волнами...
Свежак задувает!
Наотмашь!
Пошел!
Дубок, шевели парусами!

Густыми барашками море полно,
И трутся арбузы, и в трюме темно...
В два пальца, по-боцмански, ветер свистит,
И тучи сколочены плотно.
И ерзает руль, и обшивка трещит,
И забраны в рифы полотна.

Сквозь волны — навылет!
Сквозь дождь — наугад!
В свистящем гонимые мыле,
Мы рыщем на ощупь...
Навзрыд и не в лад
Храпят полотняные крылья.

Мы втянуты в дикую карусель.
И море топочет как рынок,
На мель нас кидает,
Нас гонит на мель
Последняя наша путина!

Козлами кудлатыми море полно,
И трутся арбузы, и в трюме темно...

Я песни последней еще не сложил,
А смертную чую прохладу...
Я в карты играл, я бродягою жил,
И море приносит награду, — 
Мне жизни веселой теперь не сберечь —
И руль оторвало, и в кузове течь!..

Пустынное солнце над морем встает,
Чтоб воздуху таять и греться;
Не видно дубка, и по волнам плывет
Кавун с нарисованным сердцем...
В густой бородач ударяет бурун,
Скумбрийная стая играет,
Низовый на зыби качает кавун —
И к берегу он подплывает...
Конец путешествию здесь он найдет,
Окончены ветер и качка, —
Кавун с нарисованным сердцем берет
Любимая мною казачка...

И некому здесь надоумить ее,
Что в руки взяла она сердце мое!..

Перевод стихотворения Эдуарда Багрицкого «Арбуз» на английский.
>