About this Recording
8.554358 - TCHAIKOVSKY: Songs (Complete), Vol. 2

Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
Songs, Volume 2

Russia's contribution to European song during the second half of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth is of considerable importance and interest With little or no tradition of their own, apart from a very distinctive folk-song literature, Russian composers inevitably turned to other Continental models – to Germany in particular, and to Italy – but quickly evolved a national school that may be said to have produced some of their country's finest music. The greatest Russian song composer of the nineteenth century is, without doubt, Mussorgsky, closely followed by Balakirev and Borodin, but close behind them comes Tchaikovsky, whose qualities as a lyricist are understandably overshadowed by his stature as an opera composer (just as his many pieces for solo piano are by his concertos).

Between 1869 and 1893 Tchaikovsky composed just over a hundred songs, most of them published in sets of six and settings of words by second-rate Russian poets. A change from the pervading drawing-room sentiment is offered by the group of sixteen Children's Songs, Op. 54, which were composed between 1881 and 1883. Like the Schumannesque Children's Album, Op. 39 for piano of 1878, the collection reflects his spontaneous love of children; he had none of his own, of course, since his disastrous marriage of 1877 was never consummated and lasted barely three months, but his nephews, nieces and their offspring gave him great joy.

The words of all but two of the Children's Songs are by Alexey Nikolayevich Pleshcheyev (1825-1893), a minor poet whom Tchaikovsky had known since he first went to Moscow in 1866, and two of whose lyrics he used for the Romances composed in 1869 (Op. 6 No. 2) and 1872-3 (Op. 16 No. 4). In January 1881 he had made a setting of Konstantin Sergeyevich Axakov's A Little Children's Song, and it was apparently the appearance of this some weeks later in the monthly periodical Recreation for Children that prompted Pleshcheyev to send Tchaikovsky a copy of his anthology for children The Snowdrop, inscribed 'as a mark of affection and gratitude for his beautiful music to my poor words'. On 5th November 1881 Tchaikovsky wrote to his brother Modest: 'I have set about composing children's songs and am writing one regularly every day… this is very light and pleasant labour, for as my text I am taking Pleshcheyev's The Snowdrop, where there are many delightful things'. On 15th November he sent fifteen songs to his publisher Jurgenson, saying 'If you like, you can add A Little Children's Song to it' – which Jurgenson did.

Most of the songs last less than three minutes, and nearly all of them are technically undemanding; Nos. 6, 14 and 16 are strophic. Children naturally feature prominently, most touchingly in A Legend (No. 5), where the Christ-child is crowned with thorns by children who have picked all the roses in his garden (the theme, based on a well-known carol, was used in 1894, the year after Tchaikovsky's death, by Arensky as the basis for a set of variations for string quartet and for string orchestra) No. 1 is a dialogue between a small boy and his grandmother (each in a different key); On the River-bank (No. 6) is about a fisherman's anxious family; A Winter's Evening (No. 7) depicts a mother telling her children a story and playing the piano for them to dance; and No. 10 is a lullaby. Animals feature in The Little Bird (No. 2), in which God's bird intercedes with the Almighty on behalf of the poor ploughman; in My Little Garden (No. 4), with its buzzing bees; in the hilarious The Cuckoo (No. 8); and in The Swallow (No. 15, to words by Ivan Zakharovich Surikov). Seasons are referred to in Nos. 3, 9 and 13 (Spring), 14 (Autumn), and 7 and 12 (Winter); and flowers and gardens in Nos. 4, 5, 11 and 13. A Little Children's Song (No. 16), a delightful piece of nonsense verse, which started the whole process, appears as a gentle epilogue.

In August 1892 an amateur versifier, Danil Maximovich Rathaus (1868-1937) sent Tchaikovsky six of his poems, and having immediately sketched the voice-part of the first verse of We Sat Together and part of The Sun Has Set, Tchaikovsky promised to set the whole group. He did not begin work in earnest on them until 5th May 1893, however, finishing them on 17th. The cycle (if that is not too grand a word) was Tchaikovsky's last completed work; he dedicated it to Nikolay Figner, the tenor who had created the part of Herman in The Queen of Spades in 1890. In the words of Tchaikovsky's biographer David Brown, 'Rathaus offered simply schemed verses, descriptions based on stock imagery but prettily picturesque, and feelings uncomplicated and familiar Sentimentality reigned supreme and pointed a clear expressive path through verse which never encumbered the music.' In the slow-moving We Sat Together (No. 1) a couple sit sadly by a river, unable to resolve their unhappiness by talking; in the closing bars the voice and the piano quote one of Tchaikovsky's familiar 'Fate' motifs. Similarly, the melancholy descending phrases in Night (No. 2) recall the closing bars of his Symphony No. 6. A livelier musical note is struck in This Moonlit Night (No. 3), but although the song expresses a declaration of love it is tinged with sadness and resignation. In The Sun Has Set (No. 4) the mood is one of unclouded rapture, matched by a lilting accompaniment, but unrest returns in On Gloomy Days (No. 5), with its memories of happier times underpinned by the agitated piano part; and the peace achieved in Once More, As Before (No. 6) is that of resignation and solitude.

Robin Golding


Shestnadtsat pesen dlya detey, Oр. 54


Sixteen Songs for Children



Babushka i vnuchek

Pod oknom chulok starushka

Vyazhet v komnate uyutnoy

I v ochki svoi bolshiye

Smotrit v ugol pominutno.


А v uglu kudpyavïy malchik

Molcha k stenke prislonilsya.

Na litse evo zabota,

Vzglyad па chto-to ustremilsya.


«Chto sidish vse doma, vnuchek?

Shyol bï v sad, kopal bï gryadki,

Ili kliknul bï sestryonku,

Pograd bï s пеу v loshadki.»


Podoshyol k starushke vnuchek

I golovkoyu kurchavoy

K пеу pripal.

Оп molchit, glaza bolshiye

Na пеуо glyadyat lukavo...

«Znat, gostintsu zakhotelos? –

­Govorit ети starushka. –

­Vinnïkh yagod, vinogradu,

Il tеbе nuzhna igrushka?»


«Net, gostintsev тпе пе nado!

U тепуа igrushek mnogo.

Sumku tï kupi, da v shkolu

Pokazhi-ka тпе dorogu.»


Grandmother and Grandson

Under the window an old woman

Is knitting a stocking in the cosy room

And through her big spectacles

Looks every now and then into the corner.


And in the corner a curly-headed lad

Leans silently against the wall.

Concern upon his face,

His eyes gazing at something.


"Why do you always sit indoors, grandson?

You should go out into the garden, dig the beds,

Or call your little sister,

And play at horses with her."


The grandson goes towards the old woman

And lays his little curly head

Against her.

He says nothing, but his big eyes

Look at her archly…

"I suppose you'd like a sweetie?"

Says the old woman to him.

"Some figs, or grapes,

Or do you want a toy?"


"No, I don't need sweeties!

I have lots of toys.

Just buy a satchel

And show me the way to school."




Ptichka bozhiya prosnulasya s zareyu,

A uzh pakharya zastala za sokhoyu.

Poletit опа k lazurnïm nebesam

I, chto vidit v syolakh, vse rasskazhet tат.


Skazhet ptichka Bogu, chto bednyak stradaet,

Chto krovavïm potom nivu oroshaet.

Ne mila, kak ptichke, pakharyu vesna:

Ne nesyot s soboyu radostey опа…

Vstretil bï оп solntse pesenkoy veseloy,

Da molchat zastavit gnet nuzhdï tyazhelïy.

Na serdtse zabotï, kak svinets lezhat,

Poпevole pesnya пе poydyot па lad.


Skazhet ptichka Bogu, chtab eva ruka

Padderzhala v gorkoy dole bednyaka.

Chtob ети nesti svoy krest dostalo silï:

Chtob bez ropota dobryol oп do mogilï:

Chtob bez ropota dobryol oп do mogilï...


The Little Bird

God's little bird awakens with the dawn,

But already the ploughman is at his plough.

She flies forth towards the azure heavens

And up there recounts what she has seen in the villages.


The little bird tells God that the poor peasant suffers,

That he's washing the cornfield with blood.

For the ploughman spring is not sweet, as it is for the bird:

It does not bring joy…


He would greet the sun with merry song,

But is reduced to silence by need's heavy yoke.

Care lies on his heart like lead,

Like it or not, his song grows no more tuneful.


The little bird tells God its tale, so that His hand

May support the peasant in his cruel lot

So that his strength may suffice to bear his cross,

So that without complaint he may come to his grave,

So that without complaint he may come to his grave.




Travka zeleneyet,

Salnïshka blestit,

Lasktochka s уепoуи

v seni k пат letit.


S пеуи solntse yarche

I vesna miley…

Proshchebech s dorogi

Nam privet skarey,

Proshchebech s dorogi

Nam privet skorey.


Dam tеbе уа zyaren,

А tï pesnyu spoy,

Chto iz stran dalyokikh

Prinesla s soboy…

Dam tеЬе уа zeren,

А tï pesnyu spoy,

Travka zeleneyet,

Solnïshko blestit,

Lastochka s vesnoyu

V seni k пат letit.


S пеуи solntse yarche

I vesna miley…

Proshchebech s dorogi

Nam privet skorey,

Proshchebech s dorogi

Nam privet skarey.



The grass grows green,

The sun is shining,

In spring the swallow

Journeys towards us.


With her come a brighter sun

And a sweeter spring…

Twittering on her way,

She hastens to greet us.

Twittering on her way,

She hastens to greet us,


I'll give you grain,

But sing the song

You've brought with you

From distant lands.

I'll give you grain,

But sing the song.

The grass grows green,

The sun is shining,

In spring the swallow

Journeys towards us.


With her comes a brighter sun

And a sweeter spring…

Twittering on her way,

She hastens to greet us.

Twittering on her way,

She hastens to greet us.



Моу sadik

Kak тoу sadik svezh i zelen!

Raspustilas v пуoт siren;

Ot cheryomukhi dushistoy

I ot lip kudryavïkh tеп…


Pravda, net v пет blednïkh liliy,

Gordelivïkh georgin,

I lish pyostrïe golovki

Vozvïshaet mak odin.


Da podsolnechnik u vkhoda,

Slovno vernïy chasovoy,

Slorozhil sebe dorozhku,

Vsyu porosshuyu travoy…


No lyublyu ya sadik skromnïy:

On dushi moyey miley

Gorodskikh sadov unïlïkh,

S set'yu pravilnïkh alley.


I ves den, v trave vïsokoy

Lyozha, slushat bï ya rad,

Kak zabotlivïye pchyolï

Vkrug cheryomukhi zhuzhzhat.


My Little Garden

How fresh and green my garden is!

There the lilac blossoms,

From the bird-cherry trees comes fragrance,

And from the limes curly shade…


There are no pale lilies

Or haughty dahlias,

And only one poppy

Raises its motley heads.


But the sunflower by the gate,

Like a faithful sentinel,

Keeps watch over the path,

All overgrown with grass


But I love this modest garden:

It is dearer to my soul

Than cheerless town gardens,

Criss-crossed by regular paths.


I'd be happy to lie all day.

In the tall grass, and listen

To the diligent bees

Buzzing around the bird-cherry trees.




BÏl u Khrista mladenlsa sad,

I mnogo roz vzrastil on v nyom.

On trizhdï v den ikh polival,

Chtob splest venok sebe potom.


Kogda zhe rozï rastsveli,

Detey evreyskikh sozval on;

Oni sorvali po tsvetku

I sad bïl ves opustoshyon.


«Kak tï splelesh teper venok?

V tvoyom sadu net bolshe roz!»

«Vi pozabïli, chto shipï

Ostalis mne», skazal Khristos.


I iz shipov oni spleli

Venok kolyuchiy dlya nevo,

I kapli krovi, vmeslo roz,

Chelo ukrasili evo.


A Legend

The infant Christ had a garden

Where He grew lots of roses.

He watered them thrice daily,

To weave garlands for himself later.


When the roses were blooming,

He invited the Hebrew children;

They levelled all the flowers to the ground

And the whole garden was devastated.


"How can you weave garlands now?

There are no roses left in your garden!"

"You've forgotten that I still have

The thorns," said Christ.


And from the thorns they wove

For Him a spiny wreath,

And drops of blood, instead of roses,

Adorned His brow



Na beregu

Domik nad rekoyu,

V oknakh ogonyok,

Svetloy polosoyu

Na vodu on lyog.

V dome ne dozhdutsya

S lovli rïbaka:

Obeshchal vernutsya

Cherez dva denka.

No proshol i tretiy,

A evo vsyo net.

Zhdul naprasno deti,

Zhdyot i stariy ded.

Vsekh neterpelivey

Zhdyot evo zhena,

Nochi molchalivey

I kak kholst bledna...


Vot za uzhni seli,

Ey ne do edï:

«Kak bï v samom dele

Ne bïlo bedï»

Vdol reki nesetsya

Lodochka; na ney

Pesnya razdayotsya

Vsyo slïshney, slïshney.

Zvuki toy znakomoy

Pesni uslïkhav,

Deti von iz doma

Brosilis stremglav.

Veselo vskochila

Iz-za pryalki mot,

U i deda cilï

Vdrug nashlos bezhat.


Pesnyu zaglushaet

Zvonkiy krik rebyat

Tshchetno unimaet

Starïy ded vnuchat.

Vot i vorotilsya

Tot chas pro ulov.


Dolgo razdavalsya

Smekh ikh nad rekoy,

Imi lyubovalsya

Mesyats zolotoy

Laskovo mertsali

Zvyozdï s vïshinï;

Detyam obeshchali

Radostnïye snï.


On the River-Bank

There's a little house

above the river.

Through its windows

There shone on the water

Bright bands of light.

In the house they waited impatiently

For the fisherman to return with his catch:

He had promised to be back in two days,

But the third had passed

And he still was not back.

The children waited in vain,

And the old grandfather.

Most impatiently of all,

Waited the wife,

More silent than night,

And as pale as linen…


They sat at supper,

She could not eat:

"But he really can't

Have come to any harm."

Along the river drifted

A little boat; from it

A song was heard,

More and more clearly.

Hearing those familiar sounds

Of singing,

The children rushed headlong

Out of the house.

From behind the spinning-wheel, mother

Leapt gaily,

And suddenly grandfather found

The strength to run.


The song was drowned

By children's ringing shouts,

Old grandfather tried in vain

To calm his grandchildren.

He had returned

safe and sound!


For a long time their laughter

Was heard above the river.

A golden moon

Looked down on them.

Twinkling gently

From on high, the stars

Promised the children

Happy dreams.



Zimniy vecher

Khorosho vam, detki

Zimnim vecherkom:

V komnate uyutnoy

Seli vï ryadkam,


Plamya ot kamina,

Osveshchaet vas…

Slushaete zhadno

Mamï vï rasskaz.


Radost, lyubopitstvo

Na litse u vsekh,

Chasto nprerivaet

Mamu zvonkiy smekh.


Vot rasskaz okonchen,

Vse pustilis v zal…

«Poigray nam, mama»,

Kto-to propishchal.

«Khot uzh devyat bilo,

Otkazat vam zhal…»

I poslushno sela

Mama za royal.


I poshlo vesel'ye!

Nachalas voznya,

Plyaska, pesni, khokhot,

Vizg i begotnya.


Pust gudit serdito

V'yuga pod oknom.

Khorosho vam, detki,

V gnyozdïshke svoyom!


No ne vsem takoe

Schast'ye Bog dayot.

Est na svete mnogo

Bednïkh i sirot.


U odnikh mogila

Rano mat vzyala;

U drugikh net v zimu

Tyoplovo ugla.


Esli privedyotsya

Vstretit vam takikh,

Vï; kak brat'yev, detki,

Prigolubte ikh.


A Winter's Evening

It is pleasant for you, children,

Of a winter's evening:

In a cosy room

You sit side by side,


The flame from the chimney-corner

Illuminates you...

You listen avidly

To mamma's stories.


Joy and curiosity

On all your faces,

Your ringing laughter

Often interrupts mamma.


Then, the story ended,

You all rush into the parlour…

"Play for us, mamma,"

Somebody squeals.

“Though it's already struck nine,

It would be a shame to refuse.”

And, dutifully, mamma

Sits down at the piano


And the merriment begins!

The bustle starts –

Dancing, singing, laughing,

Squealing and running about.


Let the blizzard at the window

Angrily shriek.

You are fine, children,

In your cosy home!


But God does not grant

Such good fortune to everyone.

There are many in the world

Poor and orphaned.


The grave claims early

Some people's mothers;

Others, in winter, do not have

A warm corner.


Should you, perchance,

Meet with such as these,

You, like brothers, children,

Take tender care of them.




«Tï priletel iz goroda, kakiye

Skazhi, tam slukhi nosyatsya o nas?»

(Skvortsa kukushka sprashivala raz).

«Chto zhiteli tolkuyut gorodskiye,

Khot, naprimer, o pesnyakh solov'ya?

Interesuyus etim ochen ya».


«Ves gorod on privodit v voskhishchen'ye,

Kogda v sadu evo razdastsya trel».

«A zhavoronok?» «I zhavoronka pen'ye

Plenyaet ochen mnogikh». «Neuzhel?»


Nu, a kakov ikh otzïv o drozde?»

«Da khvalyat i evo, khot ne vezde».


«Eshcho khochu sprosit ya, mozhet statsya,

I obo mne tï slïshal koye-chto?»

«Vot pro tebya, sestritsa, tak priznatsya,

Ne govorit reshitelno nikto!»


«A! Esli tak», – kukushku vozopila, – 

«To o sebe, chtob lyudyam otomstit,

Sama ves vek, pokuda khvatit silï;

Ne perestanu ya tverdit:

Ku – ku, ku – ku, ku – ku, ku – ku, ku – ku, ku – ku,

Ku – ku, ku – ku, ku – ku, ku – ku, ku – ku, ku – ku,

Ku – ku, ku – ku, ku – ku, ku – ku, ku – ku, ku – ku,

Ku – ku, ku – ku, ku – ku, ku – ku, ku – ku, ku – ku!»


The Cuckoo

"You have flown in from the town.

What stories do they tell of us there?"

(The cuckoo once asked a starling).

"What do the city-dwellers say,

For instance, of the nightingale's songs?

I'm very interested in such things."


"The whole town goes into raptures

When his warbling is heard in the garden."

"And the lark?" "And the lark's song

Many find enchanting." "Really?


Now what is their opinion of the thrush?"

"They praise him too, though not everywhere."


"Yet I wish to ask, could it be

That you have heard anything about me?"

"About you, little sister, in tribute to you,

Nobody at all says anything!"


"Ah! If that is what they think of me," cried the cuckoo,

To take vengeance on the people

All my days, while I have strength,

I will not cease repeating over and over again:

Cuck-oo, cuck-oo, cuck-oo, cuck-oo, cuck-oo, cuck-oo,

Cuck-oo, cuck-oo, cuck-oo, cuck-oo, cuck-oo, cuck-oo,

Cuck-oo, cuck-oo, cuck-oo, cuck-oo, cuck-oo, cuck-oo!




Uzh taet sneg, begut ruch'i,

V okno poveyalo vesnoyu…

Zasvishchut skoro solov'i,

I les odenetsya listvoyu!


Chista nebesnaya lazur.

Tepley i yarche solntse stalo;

Pora meteley zlïkh i bur

Opyat nadolgo minovala.


I serdtse silno tak v grudi

Stuchit, kak budto zhdyot chevo-to;

Kak budto schast'ye vperedi,

I usnesla zima zabotï!


Vse litsa veselo glyadyat.

«Vesna!» – chitaesh v kazhdom vzore

I tot, kak prazdniku, ey rad,

Ch'ya zhizn – lish tyazhkiy trud i gore.


No rezbïkh detok zvonkiy smekh

I bezzabotnïkh ptichek pen'ye

Mne govoryat – kto bolshe vsekh

Prirodi lyubit obnovlen'ye!



Already the snow is melting, the brooks flowing,

At the window a breath of spring air…

The nightingale will soon be singing,

And the wood clothing itself in foliage!


The blue of the sky is clear.

The sun has become warmer and brighter;

The season of nasty blizzards and storms

Once more is over for a long time.


And the heart beats strongly in the breast

As if awaiting someone's arrival,

As if happiness were ahead of us,

And winter's cares behind!


There's happiness on every face.

"Spring!" may be read in everyone's eyes.

And he whose life is but hard toil and grief

Becomes glad, as if on holiday.


But gambolling children's noisy laughter

And the song of carefree birds

Tell me who, more than anyone,

Delights in nature's renewal!



Kolïbelnaya pesn v buryn

«Akh! Uymis tï, burya!

Ne shumite, eli!

Moy malyutka dremlet

Sladko v kolïbeli.


Tï, groza Gospodnya,

Ne budi rebyonka!

Pronesites, tuchi

Chornïye, storonkoy!


Byor eshcho ne malo

Vperedi, bït mozhet,

I ne raz zabota

Son evo vstrevozhit.


Spi, ditya, spokoyno…

Vot groza stikhaet;

Materi molitva

Son tvoy okhranyaet.


Zavtra, kak prosnyoshsya

I otkroesh glazki,

Snova vstretish solntse,

I lyubov, i laski!»


Lullaby in a Storm

"Ah! be still, you storm!

Make no noise, fir-trees!

My babe is slumbering

Sweetly in his cradle


You, Mistress Storm,

Don't wake the child!

Rush on, dark clouds,

Away from us!


Rage not yet awhile –

A little later perhaps –

And not once will care

Disturb his sleep.


Sleep peacefully on, my child…

See! The storm abates;

A mother's prayer

Protects your dreams.


Tomorrow, as you awake

And open your little eyes,

Once more you'll meet with the sun,

And love, and caresses!"




Veselo tsvetiku v pole pestreyut;

Ikh po nocham osvezhaet rosa,

Dnyom ikh luchi blagodatnïye greyut,

Laskovo smotryat na nix nebesa.


S babochkoy pyostroy, s glyashchey pcheloyu,

S vetrom im lyubo vesti razgovor.

Veselo tsvetikam v pole vesnoyu,

Mil im rodimovo polya prostor!


Vot oni vidyat v okne, za reshyotkoy,

Tikho kachaetsya blednïy tsvetok…

Solntsa ne znaya, pechalnïy i krotkiy,

Vïros on v mrachnïkh stenakh odinok.


Tsvetikam zhal evo bednovo stalo,

Khorom oni k sebe brata zovut:

«Solntse tebya nikogda ne laskalo,

Bros eti stenï; zachakhnesh tï tut! »


«Net», otvechol on, «Khot veselo v pole,

I naryazhaet vas yarko vesna,

No ne zaviduyu vashey ya dole,

I ne pokinu sïrovo okna.


Pishno tsvetite! Svoyey krasotoyu

Raduyte, brat'ya, schastlivïkh lyudey.

Ya budu tsvest dlya tovo, kto sudboyu

Solntsa lishyon i poley.


Ya budu tsvest dlya tovo, kto stradaet,

Uznika ya uteshayu odin.

Pust on, vzglyanuv na menya, vspominaet

Zelen rodimïkh dolin!»


The Flower

Gaily the little flowers bloom in the field,

By night refreshed by the dew,

By day warmed by the sun's abundant rays.

Heaven looks tenderly upon them.


With colourful butterfly, with buzzing bee,

With the wind, they enjoy pleasant converse.

The flowers revel in the springtime field,

The spaciousness of their native field is dear to them.


Now through the window, behind the grill,

A faded flower gently sways…

Unacquainted with the sun, grieving and meek,

It has grown up in the gloom of lonely walls.


The flowers feel pity for it,

In chorus, they call their brother to them:

"The sun has never caressed you,

Abandon those walls, where you'll wither away!"


"No," he answers, "Though you grow gaily in the field,

And Spring dresses you brightly,

I do not envy you your lot,

And will not leave the damp window


Bloom on magnificently! With your beauty

Gladden, brothers, the fortunate folk.

I shall blossom for those who by fate

Are deprived of sun and field.


I shall bloom for those who suffer;

Alone, I shall console the prisoner.

May he who looks on me remember

The verdure of his native valleys!"




Ded, podnyavshis spozaranku,

K vnuchkam v komnatu speshit.

«Dobroy vestochkoy uteshit

Vas prishol ya», – govorit.

«Vsyo zimï vï zhdali, delki,

Nadoyela vam davno

Osen khmuraya s dozhdyami;

Posmotrite-ka v okno!


Za noch vïpal sneg glubokiy,

I moroz, kak v dekabre.

Uzh vpryagli v salazki Zhuchku

Rebyatishki na dvore».

I tormoshit ded raskrïvshikh

Glazki sonnïye vnuchat;

No na starovo plutishki

Nedovyorchivo glyadyat.


Podnyal shtoru ded, – i tochno!

Sneg nod solnechnïm luchom

Brilliantami sverkaet,

Otlivaet serebrom.

«Slava Bogu! Slava Bogu!»,

Detki veselo krichat,

I v ume ikh voznikaet

Uzh kartin znakomïkh ryad:


Na salazkakh s gor katan'ye,

I katan'ye na konkakh…

I rozhdestvenskaya yolka,

Sverkhu donizu ognyakh!



Grandad, rising very early,

Hurries to his grandchildren's room.

"I have come to cheer you

With some good news," he says.

"All winter you have waited, children,

For a long time; gloomy autumn

Plagued you with its rains;

Just look out of the window!


Overnight deep snow has fallen,

With frost as in December.

Already the children have harnessed

Juchka to the sleigh in the yard."

And grandad pesters the grandchildren

Who have opened sleepy eyes.

But the little rogues look at the old man

With distrust.


Grandad raises the blind, and, indeed!

Beneath the sun's beams

Snow sparkles like diamonds

Shot with silver.

"Thank God! Thank God!"

The children gaily cry,

And in their mind arises

A series of familiar scenes:


Toboganning on the hills,

And skating on the ice…

And the Christmas fir

Ablaze from top to bottom!



Vesennyaya pesnya

V starïy sad vïkhozhu ya. Rosinki,

Kak almazï; na list'yakh blestyat.

I tsvetï mne golovkoy kivayut,

Razlivaya krugom aromat.


Vsyo vlechyot, veselit moyi vzorï.

Zolotaya pchela na tsvetke,

Raznotsvetnïye babochki krïl'ya

I sineyushchiy les vdaleke.


Kak yarka eta zelen derev'yev,
Kupol neba kak chist i glubok!

I brozhu ya, vostorgom obyatïy,

I sleza zastilaet zrachok!


Kak lyubov'yu i radost'yu dïshet

Vsya priroda pod veshnim luchom!

I dusha blagodarnaya chuyet

Zdes prisutstviye boga vo vsyom!


Spring Song

I go out into the old garden.

Dewdrops sparkle like diamonds on the leaves.

And flowers nod their heads at me,

Spreading fragrance all around.


Everything attracts and cheers my eyes

Golden bees on a flower,

Colourful butterflies' wings

And the distant forest tinged with blue.


How bright the greenery of the trees,

How clear and deep heaven's dome!

And I wander, filled with delight,

A tear clouding my eye.


How lovingly and joyfully

All nature breathes beneath the vernal rays,

And a grateful soul feels here

The presence of God in everything!




Skuchnaya kartina!

Tuchi bez kontsa,

Dozhdik tak i l'yotsya,

Luzhi u krïtsa…

Chakhlaya ryabina

Moknet pod oknom;

Smotrit derevushka

Serenkim pyatnom.


Chto tï rano v gosti,

Osen, k nam prishla?

Eshcho prosit serdtse

Sveta i tepla!

Vse tebe ne radï!

Tvoy unïlïy vid

Gore da nevzgodï

Bednomu sulit.


A teper navodit

Zholtïkh list'yev shum

Na dushu bolnuyu

Roy zloveshchikh dum!

Rano, rano, osen,

V gosti k nam prishla…

Mnogim ne dozhdatsya

Sveta i tepla!



A sad picture!

Endless clouds

And teeming rain,

With puddles on the porch...

Sickly rowans,

Soaked, beneath the window;

The village seems

a grey spot.


Why did you come to us

So early, Autumn?

The heart still begs

For light and warmth!

There is no gladness in you!

Your cheerless aspect

Promises grief and misfortune

To a poor man.


Now the noise

of yellowed leaves

Brings to the sick soul

A swarm of ominous thoughts!

Early, early, Autumn,

You have come to visit us…

Many will be deprived

Of light and warmth!




Idyot devochka-sirotka,

Tyazhelo vzdïkhayet,

A nad neyu goremïchnoy

Lastochka letayet.


I letayet, i shchebechet,

Nad golovkoy v'yotsya,

V'yotsya, kroshka, i krïlami

V kosu chut ne b'yotsya.


«Chto tï v'yosh'sya nado mnoyu,

Nad sirotkoy, ptashka?

Akh, ostav menya, i tak mne

Zhit na svete tyazhko!»


«Ne ostavlyu, ne ostavlyu!

Budu ya kruzhitsya,

Shchebetat tebe pro brata,

Chto v tyurme tomitsya.


On prosil menya: Sletayka,

Ptashka, v kray rodimïy,

Poklonis moyey sestritse,

Goryacho lyubimoy.


Vsyo I menya ona, golubka,

Dobrom vspominayet,

vsyo I ona eshcho o brate

Slyozï prolivayet?»


The Swallow

Here comes a little orphan girl,

Sighing heavily

Whilst above this hapless one

There flies a swallow.


And it flies and sings

And twists and turns over her head;

The whirling little creature, with its wings,

Almost strikes her hair.


"Why do you whirl above me'

Around an orphan, little bird?

Ah, leave me alone, to live

My life in this painful world!"


"I will not leave, I will not leave!

I will wheel around,

Singing to you of my brother

Who languishes in prison.


He asked me: little flier,

Little bird,

greet my beloved sister

Warmly in our homeland.


Is she, the little dove,

Always ready to remember me?

Does she still shed tears

For her brother?"



Detskaya pesenka

Moy Lizochek tak uzh mal, tak uzh mal,

Chto iz krïl'yev komarishki

Sdelal dve sebe manishki,

I v krakhmal, i v krakhmal!


Moy Lizochek tak uzh mal, tak uzh mal,

Chto iz gretskovo orekha

Sdelal stul, chtob slushat ekho,

I krichal, i krichal!


Moy Lizochek tak uzh mal, tak uzh mal,

Chto iz skorlupï yaichnoy

Faeton sebe otlichnïy

Zakazal, zakazal!


Moy Lizochek tak uzh mal, tak uzh mal,

chto iz skorlupï rachouka

sshil chetïre bashmachonka

I na bal, i na bal!


Moy Lizochek tak uzh mal, tak uzh mal,

chto iz listika sireni

sdelal zontik on dlya teni

i gulyal, i gulyal!


Moy Lizochek tak uzh mal, tak uzh mal,

Chto, naduvshi oduvanchik,

Zakazal sebe divanchik,

Tut i spal, tut i spal!


Moy Lizochek tak uzh mal, tak uzh mal,

Chto natkat sebe kholstinï

Pauku iz pautinï

Zakazal, zakazal!


A Little Children's Song

My Lizo is so small, so very, very small,

That from a gnat's wee wing

He made himself a false shirt front,

And starched it, he starched it!


My Lizo is so small, so very, very small,

That from a walnut shell

He made a chair, to hear the echo,

And shouted, he shouted!


My Lizo is so small, so very, very small,

That, from the shell of an egg,

A perfect phaeton for himself

He ordered, he ordered!


My Lizo is so small, so very, very small,

That from a little crayfish shell

He sewed two pairs of dancing shoes –

Come dancing; come dancing!


My Lizo is so small, so very, very small,

That from a little lilac leaf

He made himself a parasol,

And went strolling, strolling!


My Lizo is so small, so very, very small,

That, blowing on a dandelion,

He stuffed himself a little bed,

And slept there, he slept there!


My Lizo is so small, so very, very small,

That, to weave some linen for him,

From its own cobweb, a spider

He ordered, he ordered!



Shesl romansov, Op. 73


Six Romances



Mï sideli s toboy

Mï sideli s toboy u zasnuvshey reki.

S tikhoy pesney proplïli domoy rïhaki.

Solntsa luch zolotoy za rekoy dogoral…

I tebe ya togda nichevo ne skazal.

Zagremelo v dali…Nadvigalas groza…

Po resnitsam tvoyim pokatilas sleza…

I s bezumnïm rïdan'yem k tebe ya pripal…

I tebe nichevo, nichevo ne skazal.


I teper, v eti dni, ya, kak prezhcte, odin,

uzh ne zhdu nichego ot gryactushchikh godin…

V serdtse zhiznennïy zvuk uzh davno otzvuchal…

Akh zachem, ya tebe nichevo, nichevo ne skazal!


We Sat Together

We sat together by a sleepy stream.

With a soft song, fishermen sailed past, heading homeward.

The sun's light burned out across the water…

And I spoke not a word to you.


Distant thunder rolled…the storm drew nearer…

On your lashes a tear began to pearl…

And with mad sobs I pressed myself to you

But nothing, nothing did I say to you.


And now, these days, as alone as before,

I expect nothing of the years to come…

In my heart, long since, that vital voice has ceased…

Oh, why, oh, why did I say nothing, nothing to you?




Merknet slabïy svet svechi…

Brodit mrak unïlïy

I toska szhimayet grud,

S neponyatnoy siloy…


Na pechalnïye glaza

Tikho son niskhodit…

I s proshedshim v etot mig

Rech dusha zavoctit.


Istomilasya ona

gorest'yu glubokoy.

Poyavis zhe, khot vo sne,

O, moy drug dalyokiy!



The candle', faint light grows dimmer…

A cheerless gloom hovers…

And melancholy weighs upon the breast

With a strange force.


On sorrowing eyes

Sleep descends softly…

And this instant establishes

A soul's communion with the past


She is exhausted

By profound misfortune…

Come forth, then, be it but in dreams,

Oh, my distant dear one!



V etu lunnuyu uoch

V etu lunnuyu noch, v etu divnuyu noch,

V etot mig blagodatnïy svidan'ya,

O, moy drug, ya ne v silakh lyubvi prevozmoch,

Uderzhat ya ne v silakh priznan'ya!


V serebre chut kolïshetsya ozera glad…

Naklonyas, zasheptalisya ivï…

No bessilnï slova! Kak tebe peredat

Istomlyonnovo serdtsa porïvï?

Noch ne zhdyot, noch letit…Zakatilas luna…

Zaalelo v tayinstvennoy dali…

Dorogaya, prosti! Snova zhizni volna

Nam nesyot den toski i pechali!


This Moonlit Night

On this moonlit night, this moonlit night,

In this rich moment of our meeting,

Oh, my dear, I am tillable to vanquish love,

I am unable to hold back my avowal!


In the silvering, the glassy surface of the lake rocks a little...

I stoop, in whispers we begin to talk…

But how weak are words! How to impart to you

The transports of a weary heart?


Night is not patient, the night flies…the moon is setting…

A glow in the mysterious distance…

Dearest, forgive me! Once more life's current

Brings to us a day of gloom and sadness!



Zakatilos solntse

Zakatilos' solntse, zaigra]i kraski

Lyogkoy pozolotoy v sineve nebes…

V obayan nochi sladostrastnoy laski

Tikho chto-to shepchet zadremavshiy les…


I v dushe trevozhnoy umolkayut muki

I dïshat vsey grud'yu v etu noch legko…

Nochi divnoy teni, nochi divnoy zvuki

Nas s toboy unosyat, drug moy, daleko.

Vsya obyata negoy etoy nochi strastnoy,

Tï ko mne sklonilas na plecho glavoy…

Ya bezumno schastliv, O, moy drug prekrasnïy,

Beskonechno schastliv v etu noch s toboy!


The Sun Has Set

The sun has set, its colours fading

To a light gilding in the sky's blue…

In the enchantment of night's voluptuous caress

The drowsy woods softly whisper something…


And in a troubled soul, the pangs abate,

And all breathe easily on this night,

The shades of glorious night, the sounds of glorious night

Take you and me, my dear, far, far away


All bound in bliss this passionate night,

You have rested your head on my shoulder…

I'm madly happy, oh, my beautiful love,

Infinitely happy with you this night!…



Sred mrachnïkh dney

Sred mrachnïkh dney, pod gnyotom bed,

Iz mglï tumannoy proshlïkh let,

Kak otblesk radostnïkh luchey,

Mne svetit vzor tvoyikh ochey.


Pod obayan'yem svetlïkh snov

Mne mnitsya, – ya s toboyu vnov.

Pri svete dnya, v nochnoy tishi

Delyus vostorgami dushi.


Ya vnov s tabay! – moya pechal

Umchalas v pasmurnuyu dal…

I strastno vnov khachu ya zhit – ­

Toboy dïshat, tebya lyubit!


On Gloomy Days

On gloomy days, beneath misfortune's burden,

Out of the hazy mist of years past,

Like a reflection of joyful rays,

The look in your eyes shines upon me.


Under the spell of luminous dreams

It seems to me I am with you once more.

In the bright day, in the silent night,

I share the delights of the heart.


I am with you once more! My sadness

Whirls away into the cloudy distance…

And again, passionately, I want to live­-

To breathe for you, to love you!



Snova, kak prezhde

Snova, kak prezhde, odin,

Snova abyat ya toskoy…

Smotritsya topol v okno,

Ves ozaryonnïy lunoy…


Smotritsya topol v okno…

Shepchut o chyom to listï…

V zvyozdakh goryat nebesa…

Gde teper, milaya, tï?


Vsyo, chto tvoritsya so mnoy,

Ya peredat ne berus…

Drug! pomolis za menya,

Ya za tebya uzh molyus…

Once More, As Before

Once more, as before, alone,

Once more I am filled with anguish…

A poplar is reflected in the window,

All illuminated by the moon…


The poplar is reflected in the window…

Leaves are whispering of something…

The sky sparkles with stars…

Where are you now, my sweet?


Everything that happens to me,

I do not mind telling…

Friend! Pray for me,

I am praying for you…

Translations: Wil Gowans

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