ailleurs, ailleurs, ailleurs in Ada

Submitted by Alexey Sklyarenko on Thu, 08/04/2022 - 09:12

Describing Ada’s amorous life, Van Veen (the narrator and main character in VN’s novel Ada, 1969) repeats the French word ailleurs (elsewhere) three times:

 

Amorously, now, in her otherwise dolorous and irresolute adolescence, Ada was even more aggressive and responsive than in her abnormally passionate childhood. A diligent student of case histories, Dr Van Veen never quite managed to match ardent twelve-year-old Ada with a non-delinquent, non-nymphomaniac, mentally highly developed, spiritually happy and normal English child in his files, although many similar little girls had bloomed — and run to seed — in the old châteaux of France and Estotiland as portrayed in extravagant romances and senile memoirs. His own passion for her Van found even harder to study and analyze. When he recollected caress by caress his Venus Villa sessions, or earlier visits to the riverhouses of Ranta or Livida, he satisfied himself that his reactions to Ada remained beyond all that, since the merest touch of her finger or mouth following a swollen vein produced not only a more potent but essentially different delicia than the slowest ‘winslow’ of the most sophisticated young harlot. What, then, was it that raised the animal act to a level higher than even that of the most exact arts or the wildest flights of pure science? It would not be sufficient to say that in his love-making with Ada he discovered the pang, the ogon’ the agony of supreme ‘reality.’ Reality, better say, lost the quotes it wore like claws — in a world where independent and original minds must cling to things or pull things apart in order to ward off madness or death (which is the master madness). For one spasm or two, he was safe. The new naked reality needed no tentacle or anchor; it lasted a moment, but could be repeated as often as he and she were physically able to make love. The color and fire of that instant reality depended solely on Ada’s identity as perceived by him. It had nothing to do with virtue or the vanity of virtue in a large sense — in fact it seemed to Van later that during the ardencies of that summer he knew all along that she had been, and still was, atrociously untrue to him — just as she knew long before he told her that he had used off and on, during their separation, the live mechanisms tense males could rent for a few minutes as described, with profuse woodcuts and photographs, in a three-volume History of Prostitution which she had read at the age of ten or eleven, between Hamlet and Captain Grant’s Microgalaxies.

For the sake of the scholars who will read this forbidden memoir with a secret tingle (they are human) in the secret chasms of libraries (where the chatter, the lays and the fannies of rotting pornographers are piously kept) — its author must add in the margin of galley proofs which a bedridden old man heroically corrects (for those slippery long snakes add the last touch to a writer’s woes) a few more [the end of the sentence cannot be deciphered but fortunately the next paragraph is scrawled on a separate writing-pad page. Editor’s Note].

...about the rapture of her identity. The asses who might really think that in the starlight of eternity, my, Van Veen’s, and her, Ada Veen’s, conjunction, somewhere in North America, in the nineteenth century represented but one trillionth of a trillionth part of a pinpoint planet’s significance can bray ailleurs, ailleurs, ailleurs (the English word would not supply the onomatopoeic element; old Veen is kind), because the rapture of her identity, placed under the microscope of reality (which is the only reality). shows a complex system of those subtle bridges which the senses traverse — laughing, embraced, throwing flowers in the air — between membrane and brain, and which always was and is a form of memory, even at the moment of its perception. I am weak. I write badly. I may die tonight. My magic carpet no longer skims over crown canopies and gaping nestlings, and her rarest orchids. Insert. (1.35)

 

Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): ogon’: Russ., fire.

Microgalaxies: known on Terra as Les Enfants du Capitaine Grant, by Jules Verne.

ailleurs: elsewhere.

 

In Baudelaire’s sonnet À une passante (“To a Passer-By”) the last tercet begins with the word ailleurs:

 

La rue assourdissante autour de moi hurlait.
Longue, mince, en grand deuil, douleur majestueuse,
Une femme passa, d'une main fastueuse
Soulevant, balançant le feston et l'ourlet;

 

Agile et noble, avec sa jambe de statue.
Moi, je buvais, crispé comme un extravagant,
Dans son oeil, ciel livide où germe l'ouragan,
La douceur qui fascine et le plaisir qui tue.

 

Un éclair... puis la nuit! — Fugitive beauté
Dont le regard m'a fait soudainement renaître,
Ne te verrai-je plus que dans l'éternité?

 

Ailleurs, bien loin d'ici! trop tard! jamais peut-être!
Car j'ignore où tu fuis, tu ne sais où je vais,
Ô toi que j'eusse aimée, ô toi qui le savais!

 

The street about me roared with a deafening sound.
Tall, slender, in heavy mourning, majestic grief,
A woman passed, with a glittering hand
Raising, swinging the hem and flounces of her skirt;

 

Agile and graceful, her leg was like a statue's.
Tense as in a delirium, I drank
From her eyes, pale sky where tempests germinate,
The sweetness that enthralls and the pleasure that kills.

 

A lightning flash... then night! Fleeting beauty
By whose glance I was suddenly reborn,
Will I see you no more before eternity?

 

Elsewhere, far, far from here! too late! never perhaps!
For I know not where you fled, you know not where I go,
O you whom I would have loved, O you who knew it!

(tr. W. Aggeler)

 

Baudelaire’s sonnet is addressed to a woman who passes en grand deuil (in heavy mourning). Describing Villa Venus (Eric Veen’s floramors), Van mentions Deuil, a village in Normandy:

 

In the spring of 1869, David van Veen, a wealthy architect of Flemish extraction (in no way related to the Veens of our rambling romance), escaped uninjured when the motorcar he was driving from Cannes to Calais blew a front tire on a frost-blazed road and tore into a parked furniture van; his daughter sitting beside him was instantly killed by a suitcase sailing into her from behind and breaking her neck. In his London studio her husband, an unbalanced, unsuccessful painter (ten years older than his father-in-law whom he envied and despised) shot himself upon receiving the news by cablegram from a village in Normandy called, dreadfully, Deuil.

The momentum of disaster lost none of its speed, for neither did Eric, a boy of fifteen, despite all the care and adoration which his grandfather surrounded him with, escape a freakish fate: a fate strangely similar to his mother’s.

After being removed from Note to a small private school in Vaud Canton and then spending a consumptive summer in the Maritime Alps, he was sent to Ex-en-Valais, whose crystal air was supposed at the time to strengthen young lungs; instead of which its worst hurricane hurled a roof tile at him, fatally fracturing his skull, Among the boy’s belongings David van Veen found a number of poems and the draft of an essay entitled’ Villa Venus: an Organized Dream.’

To put it bluntly, the boy had sought to solace his first sexual torments by imagining and detailing a project (derived from reading too many erotic works found in a furnished house his grandfather had bought near Vence from Count Tolstoy, a Russian or Pole): namely, a chain of palatial brothels that his inheritance would allow him to establish all over ‘both hemispheres of our callipygian globe.’ The little chap saw it as a kind of fashionable club, with branches, or, in his poetical phrase, ‘Floramors,’ in the vicinity of cities and spas. Membership was to be restricted to noblemen, ‘handsome and healthy,’ with an age limit of fifty (which must be praised as very broadminded on the poor kid’s part), paying a yearly fee of 3650 guineas not counting the cost of bouquets, jewels and other gallant donations. Resident female physicians, good-looking and young (‘of the American secretarial or dentist-assistant type’), would be there to check the intimate physical condition of ‘the caresser and the caressed’ (another felicitous formula) as well as their own if ‘the need arose,’ One clause in the Rules of the Club seemed to indicate that Eric, though frenziedly heterosexual, had enjoyed some tender ersatz fumblings with schoolmates at Note (a notorious preparatory school in that respect): at least two of the maximum number of fifty inmates in the major floramors might be pretty boys, wearing frontlets and short smocks, not older than fourteen if fair, and not more than twelve if dark. However, in order to exclude a regular flow of ‘inveterate pederasts,’ boy love could be dabbled in by the jaded guest only between two sequences of three girls each, all possessed in the course of the same week — a somewhat comical, but not unshrewd, stipulation.

The candidates for every floramor were to be selected by a Committee of Club Members who would take into consideration the annual accumulation of impressions and desiderata, jotted down by the guests in a special Shell Pink Book. ‘Beauty and tenderness, grace and docility’ composed the main qualities required of the girls, aged from fifteen to twenty-five in the case of ‘slender Nordic dolls,’ and from ten to twenty in that of ‘opulent Southern charmers.’ They would gambol and loll in ‘boudoirs and conservatories,’ invariably naked and ready for love; not so their attendants, attractively dressed handmaids of more or less exotic extraction, ‘unavailable to the fancy of members except by special permission from the Board.’ My favorite clause (for I own a photostat of that poor boy’s calligraph) is that any girl in her floramor could be Lady-in-Chief by acclamation during her menstrual period. (This of course did not work, and the committee compromised by having a good-looking female homosexual head the staff and adding a bouncer whom Eric had overlooked.)

Eccentricity is the greatest grief’s greatest remedy. The boy’s grandfather set at once to render in brick and stone, concrete and marble, flesh and fun, Eric’s fantasy. He resolved to be the first sampler of the first houri he would hire for his last house, and to live until then in laborious abstinence.

It must have been a moving and magnificent sight — that of the old but still vigorous Dutchman with his rugged reptilian face and white hair, designing with the assistance of Leftist decorators the thousand and one memorial floramors he resolved to erect allover the world — perhaps even in brutal Tartary, which he thought was ruled by ‘Americanized Jews,’ but then ‘Art redeemed Politics’ — profoundly original concepts that we must condone in a lovable old crank. He began with rural England and coastal America, and was engaged in a Robert Adam-like composition (cruelly referred to by local wags as the Madam-I’m-Adam House), not far from Newport, Rodos Island, in a somewhat senile style, with marble columns dredged from classical seas and still encrusted with Etruscan oyster shells — when he died from a stroke while helping to prop up a propylon. It was only his hundredth house! (2.3)

 

Eric’s grandfather, David van Veen is a namesake of David, Ivanov’s pupil in VN’s story Sovershenstvo (“Perfection,” 1932). In VN’s story Ivanov wants to let the dappled voices, the bird calls, filter through his being and to enter for a moment into a passerby’s soul as one enters the cool shade of a tree:

 

Всё казалось прекрасным и трогательным в эти первые жаркие дни,-- голенастые девочки, игравшие в классы, старики на скамейках, зелёное конфетти семян, которое сыпалось с пышных лип, всякий раз, как потягивался воздух. Одиноко и душно было в чёрном; он снимал шляпу, останавливался, озирался. Порою, глядя на трубочиста, равнодушного носителя чужого счастья, которого трогали суеверной рукой мимо проходившие женщины, или на аэроплан, обгонявший облако, он принимался думать о вещах, которых никогда не узнает ближе, о профессиях, которыми никогда не будет заниматься,-- о парашюте, распускающемся как исполинский цветок, о беглом и рябом мире автомобильных гонщиков, о различных образах счастья, об удовольствиях очень богатых людей среди очень живописной природы. Его мысль трепетала и ползла вверх и вниз по стеклу, отделяющему её от невозможного при жизни совершенного  соприкосновения  с  миром. Страстно хотелось всё испытать, до всего добраться, пропустить сквозь себя пятнистую музыку, пёстрые голоса, крики птиц, и на минуту войти в душу прохожего, как входишь в свежую тень дерева. Неразрешимые вопросы занимали его ум; как и где моются трубочисты после работы; изменилась ли за эти годы русская лесная дорога, которая сейчас вспомнилась так живо.

 

During those first warm days everything seemed beautiful and touching: the leggy little girls playing hopscotch on the sidewalk, the old men on the benches, the green confetti that sumptuous lindens scattered every time the air stretched its invisible limbs. He felt lonesome and stifled in black. He would take off his hat and stand still for a moment looking around. Sometimes, as he looked at a chimney sweep (that indifferent carrier of other people’s luck, whom women in passing touched with superstitious fingers), or at an airplane overtaking a cloud, Ivanov daydreamed about the many things that he would never get to know closer, about professions that he would never practice, about a parachute, opening like a colossal corolla, or the fleeting, speckled world of automobile racers, about various images of happiness, about the pleasures of very rich people amid very picturesque natural surroundings. His thought fluttered and walked up and down the glass pane which for as long as he lived would prevent him from having direct contact with the world. He had a passionate desire to experience everything, to attain and touch everything, to let the dappled voices, the bird calls, filter through his being and to enter for a moment into a passerby’s soul as one enters the cool shade of a tree. His mind would be preoccupied with unsolvable problems: How and where do chimney sweeps wash after work? Has anything changed about that forest road in Russia that a moment ago he had recalled so vividly?

 

Walking with David in the forest, Ivanov mentions the rarest of birds fly past:

 

Иванов потёрся спиной,-- она нестерпимо горела и чесалась,-- о ствол дерева и задумчиво продолжал: "Любуясь природой данной местности, я всегда думаю о тех странах, которых не увижу никогда. Представь себе, Давид, что мы сейчас не в Померании, а в Малайском лесу. Смотри, сейчас пролетит редчайшая птица птеридофора с парой длинных из голубых фестонов состоящих, антенн на голове".

"Ах, кватч",-- уныло сказал Давид.

По-русски надо сказать "ерунда" или "чушь". Конечно, это ерунда. Но в том-то и дело, что при известном воображении... Если когда-нибудь ты, не дай Бог, ослепнешь или попадешь в тюрьму, или просто в страшной нищете будешь заниматься гнусной, беспросветной работой, ты вспомнишь об этой нашей прогулке в обыкновенном лесу, как -- знаешь -- о сказочном блаженстве".

 

Ivanov rubbed his unbearably burning and itching back against a tree trunk and continued pensively: “While admiring nature at a given locality, I cannot help thinking of countries that I shall never see. Try to imagine, David, that this is not Pomerania but a Malayan forest. Look about you: you’ll presently see the rarest of birds fly past, Prince Albert’s paradise bird, whose head is adorned with a pair of long plumes consisting of blue oriflammes.”

Ach, quatsch,” responded David dejectedly.

“In Russian you ought to say ‘erundá.’ Of course, it’s nonsense, we are not in the mountains of New Guinea. But the point is that with a bit of imagination—if, God forbid, you were someday to go blind or be imprisoned, or were merely forced to perform, in appalling poverty, some hopeless, distasteful task, you might remember this walk we are taking today in an ordinary forest as if it had been—how shall I say?— fairy-tale ecstasy.”

 

Golubye festony (blue oriflammes) of Prince Albert’s paradise bird bring to mind le feston et l'ourlet (the flounces and hem) of the woman’s skirt in Baudelaire’s sonnet À une passante. Prince Albert was the husband of Victoria (1819-1901), Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Describing Villa Venus, Van mentions King Victor (the Antiterran counterpart of Queen Victoria) who visits floramors incognito (as Mr. Ritkov):

 

Demon’s father (and very soon Demon himself), and Lord Erminin, and a Mr Ritcov, and Count Peter de Prey, and Mire de Mire, Esq., and Baron Azzuroscudo were all members of the first Venus Club Council; but it was bashful, obese, big-nosed Mr Ritcov’s visits that really thrilled the girls and filled the vicinity with detectives who dutifully impersonated hedge-cutters, grooms, horses, tall milkmaids, new statues, old drunks and so forth, while His Majesty dallied, in a special chair built for his weight and whims, with this or that sweet subject of the realm, white, black or brown. (2.3)

 

In a conversation with Marina (Van’s, Ada’s and Lucette’s mother) in her boudoir Van uses the word erunda (nonsense):

 

Naked-faced, dull-haired, wrapped up in her oldest kimono (her Pedro had suddenly left for Rio), Marina reclined on her mahogany bed under a golden-yellow quilt, drinking tea with mare’s milk, one of her fads.

‘Sit down, have a spot of chayku,’ she said. ‘The cow is in the smaller jug, I think. Yes, it is.’ And when Van, having kissed her freckled hand, lowered himself on the ivanilich (a kind of sighing old hassock upholstered in leather): ‘Van, dear, I wish to say something to you, because I know I shall never have to repeat it again. Belle, with her usual flair for the right phrase, has cited to me the cousinage-dangereux-voisinage adage — I mean "adage," I always fluff that word — and complained qu’on s’embrassait dans tous les coins. Is that true?’

Van’s mind flashed in advance of his speech. It was, Marina, a fantastic exaggeration. The crazy governess had observed it once when he carried Ada across a brook and kissed her because she had hurt her toe. I’m the well-known beggar in the saddest of all stories.

‘Erunda (nonsense),’ said Van. ‘She once saw me carrying Ada across the brook and misconstrued our stumbling huddle (spotïkayushcheesya sliyanie).’

‘I do not mean Ada, silly,’ said Marina with a slight snort, as she fussed over the teapot. ‘Azov, a Russian humorist, derives erunda from the German hier und da, which is neither here nor there. Ada is a big girl, and big girls, alas, have their own worries. Mlle Larivière meant Lucette, of course. Van, those soft games must stop. Lucette is twelve, and naive, and I know it’s all clean fun, yet (odnako) one can never behave too delikatno in regard to a budding little woman. A propos de coins: in Griboedov’s Gore ot uma, "How stupid to be so clever," a play in verse, written, I think, in Pushkin’s time, the hero reminds Sophie of their childhood games, and says:

 

How oft we sat together in a corner

And what harm might there be in that?

 

but in Russian it is a little ambiguous, have another spot, Van?’ (he shook his head, simultaneously lifting his hand, like his father), ‘because, you see, — no, there is none left anyway — the second line, i kazhetsya chto v etom, can be also construed as "And in that one, meseems," pointing with his finger at a corner of the room. Imagine — when I was rehearsing that scene with Kachalov at the Seagull Theater, in Yukonsk, Stanislavski, Konstantin Sergeevich, actually wanted him to make that cosy little gesture (uyutnen’kiy zhest).’

‘How very amusing,’ said Van.

The dog came in, turned up a brimming brown eye Vanward, toddled up to the window, looked at the rain like a little person, and returned to his filthy cushion in the next room.

‘I could never stand that breed,’ remarked Van. ‘Dackelophobia.’

‘But girls — do you like girls, Van, do you have many girls? You are not a pederast, like your poor uncle, are you? We have had some dreadful perverts in our ancestry but — Why do you laugh?’

‘Nothing,’ said Van. ‘I just want to put on record that I adore girls. I had my first one when I was fourteen. Mais qui me rendra mon Hélène? She had raven black hair and a skin like skimmed milk. I had lots of much creamier ones later. I kazhetsya chto v etom?’

‘How strange, how sad! Sad, because I know hardly anything about your life, my darling (moy dushka). The Zemskis were terrible rakes (razvratniki), one of them loved small girls, and another raffolait d’une de ses juments and had her tied up in a special way-don’t ask me how’ (double hand gesture of horrified ignorance ‘— when he dated her in her stall. Kstati (à propos), I could never understand how heredity is transmitted by bachelors, unless genes can jump like chess knights. I almost beat you, last time we played, we must play again, not today, though — I’m too sad today. I would have liked so much to know everything, everything, about you, but now it’s too late. Recollections are always a little "stylized" (stilizovanï), as your father used to say, an irrisistible and hateful man, and now, even if you showed me your old diaries, I could no longer whip up any real emotional reaction to them, though all actresses can shed tears, as I’m doing now. You see (rummaging for her handkerchief under her pillow), when children are still quite tiny (takie malyutki), we cannot imagine that we can go without them, for even a couple of days, and later we do, and it’s a couple of weeks, and later it’s months, gray years, black decades, and then the opéra bouffe of the Christians’ eternity. I think even the shortest separation is a kind of training for the Elysian Games — who said that? I said that. And your costume, though very becoming, is, in a sense, traurnïy (funerary). I’m spouting drivel. Forgive me these idiotic tears... Tell me, is there anything I could do for you? Do think up something! Would you like a beautiful, practically new Peruvian scarf, which he left behind, that crazy boy? No? It’s not your style? Now go. And remember — not a word to poor Mlle Larivière, who means well!’ (1.37)

 

Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): chayku: Russ., tea (diminutive).

Ivanilich: a pouf plays a marvelous part in Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich, where it sighs deeply under a friend of the widow’s.

cousinage: cousinhood is dangerous neighborhood.

on s’embrassait: kissing went on in every corner.

erunda: Russ., nonsense.

hier und da: Germ., here and there.

raffolait etc.: was crazy about one of his mares.

 

In his sonnet Le Couvercle ("The Cover") Baudelaire mentions un opéra bouffe:

 

En quelque lieu qu'il aille, ou sur mer ou sur terre,
Sous un climat de flamme ou sous un soleil blanc,
Serviteur de Jésus, courtisan de Cythère,
Mendiant ténébreux ou Crésus rutilant,

Citadin, campagnard, vagabond, sédentaire,
Que son petit cerveau soit actif ou soit lent,
Partout l'homme subit la terreur du mystère,
Et ne regarde en haut qu'avec un oeil tremblant.

En haut, le Ciel! Ce mur de caveau qui l'étouffe,
Plafond illuminé par un opéra bouffe
Où chaque histrion foule un sol ensanglanté;

Terreur du libertin, espoir du fol ermite;
Le Ciel! Couvercle noir de la grande marmite
Où bout l'imperceptible et vaste Humanité.

 

Wherever he may go, on land or sea,
Under a blazing sky or a pale sun,
Servant of Jesus, courtier of Cythera,
Somber beggar or glittering Croesus,

City-dweller, rustic, vagabond, stay-at-home,
Whether his little brain be sluggish or alert,
Everywhere man feels the terror of mystery
And looks up at heaven only with frightened eyes

Above, the Sky! that cavern wall that stifles him,
That ceiling lighted by a comic opera
Where every player treads on blood-stained soil;

Terror of the lecher, hope of the mad recluse:
The Sky! black cover of the great cauldron
In which boils vast, imperceptible Humanity.

(tr. W. Aggeler)

 

The opéra bouffe of the Christians’ eternity mentioned by Marina also brings to mind l'éternité in Baudelaire's sonnet À une passante.

 

The element that destroys Marina is fire:

 

Numbers and rows and series — the nightmare and malediction harrowing pure thought and pure time — seemed bent on mechanizing his mind. Three elements, fire, water, and air, destroyed, in that sequence, Marina, Lucette, and Demon. Terra waited.

For seven years, after she had dismissed her life with her husband, a successfully achieved corpse, as irrelevant, and retired to her still dazzling, still magically well-staffed Côte d’Azur villa (the one Demon had once given her), Van’s mother had been suffering from various ‘obscure’ illnesses, which everybody thought she made up, or talentedly simulated, and which she contended could be, and partly were, cured by willpower. Van visited her less often than dutiful Lucette, whom he glimpsed there on two or three occasions; and once, in 1899, he saw, as he entered the arbutus-and-laurel garden of Villa Armina, a bearded old priest of the Greek persuasion, clad in neutral black, leaving on a motor bicycle for his Nice parish near the tennis courts. Marina spoke to Van about religion, and Terra, and the Theater, but never about Ada, and just as he did not suspect she knew everything about the horror and ardor of Ardis, none suspected what pain in her bleeding bowels she was trying to allay by incantations, and ‘self-focusing’ or its opposite device, ‘self-dissolving.’ She confessed with an enigmatic and rather smug smile that much as she liked the rhythmic blue puffs of incense, and the dyakon’s rich growl on the ambon, and the oily-brown ikon coped in protective filigree to receive the worshipper’s kiss, her soul remained irrevocably consecrated, naperekor (in spite of) Dasha Vinelander, to the ultimate wisdom of Hinduism.

Early in 1900, a few days before he saw Marina, for the last time, at the clinic in Nice (where he learned for the first time the name of her illness), Van had a ‘verbal’ nightmare, caused, maybe, by the musky smell in the Miramas (Bouches Rouges-du-Rhône) Villa Venus. Two formless fat transparent creatures were engaged in some discussion, one repeating ‘I can’t!’ (meaning ‘can’t die’ — a difficult procedure to carry out voluntarily, without the help of the dagger, the ball, or the bowl), and the other affirming ‘You can, sir!’ She died a fortnight later, and her body was burnt, according to her instructions. (3.1)

 

Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): dyakon: deacon.

 

“Naperekor (in spite of) Dasha Vinelander” brings to mind naperekor stikhiyam (in spite of the elements), a phrase used in Griboedov’s play Woe from Wit (Act III, scene 22) by Chatski:

 

Пускай меня объявят старовером,

Но хуже для меня наш Север во сто крат

С тех пор, как отдал всё в обмен, на новый лад,

И нравы, и язык, и старину святую,

И величавую одежду на другую

По шутовскому образцу:

Хвост сзади, спереди какой-то чудный выем,

Рассудку вопреки, наперекор стихиям;

Движенья связаны, и не краса лицу;

Смешные, бритые, седые подбородки!

Как платья, волосы, так и умы коротки!..

Ах! если рождены мы всё перенимать,

Хоть у китайцев бы нам несколько занять

Премудрого у них незнанья иноземцев;

Воскреснем ли когда от чужевластья мод?

Чтоб умный, бодрый наш народ
Хотя по языку нас не считал за немцев.

 

I may be called an old-believer, yet I think

Our North is worse a hundredfold

Since it adopted the new mode,

Having abandoned everything :

Our customs and our conditions,

The language, moral values and traditions,

And, in exchange of the grand gown,

Regardless of all trends

And common sense, in spite of the elements

We put on this apparel of a clown:

A tail, a funny cut - oh, what a scene !

It's tight and doesn't match the face;

This funny, grey-haired shaven chin !

'Which covers thee discovers thee!'- there's a phrase

If we adopt traditions from abroad with ease

We'd better learn a little from Chinese,

Their ignorance of foreigners.

Shall we awaken from the power of alien fashions

So that our wise and cheerful Russians

Might never think us to be Germans?