Aug 16, 2009

My translation of "Physicists and lyricists"

In 1959 a Soviet poet Boris Slutsky wrote a poem about scientists and poets (or physicists and lyricists in the original). Few people know this poem (here it is in Russian), but the terms "physicist" and "lyricist" are widely used in Russia to refer to different worlds of science and culture and those who see themselves as belonging to one or both of these worlds.

The poem reflects on why science is valued so much, while poetry is often considered useless. It is a very simple yet powerful verse. And here is my English translation:

Scientists and poets

Somehow scientists are in favor,
Somehow poets are in disgrace.
It has not been done on purpose
Everything has its own place

Did the truth come out in verses?
Did we stir somebody's soul?
Our rhymes are weak and hollow
They can't fly, they barely crawl.

Our stallion Pegasus
Has no wings, no briskly pace.
That's why scientists are in favor,
That's why poets're in disgrace.

It is obvious and clear.
Arguing won't bring a change.
And it even doesn't pain me;
It is interesting and strange

Watching how our soapy poems
Rise and settle in frustration,
And the greatness little by little
goes to numbers and calculation.