Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Nativity Poem by Timur Kibirov

Timur Kibirov (2011) / Image courtesy of Богослов.ru

NOTE: As I have done every Christmas Eve since starting this blog, I am posting a nativity poem to mark the holiday. This year’s selection, by the Moscow poet Timur Kibirov, appears in Greek and Roman Catholic Songs and Nursery Rhymes (Греко- и римско-кафолические песенки и потешки), a book that I am in the midst of translating. See the poems from previous years here

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After Dorothy Sayers
by Timur Kibirov

In the night, the dumb ox lowed to the donkey:
“Can you hear, brother, the sounds from the valley,
            the neighs and the horseshoes' clang?
From magical lands, from the edge of the world,
wise magi hasten and kings gallop toward us
            to bow to the King of Kings!
But before all the rest of them, I—a silly,
            dawdling ox—bowed to Our Child!”

In the night, the lop-eared donkey cried out:
“Look at all the angels up there, brother ox,
who have lit up the midnight darkness!
For this one and only time, this joyful time,
the Heavenly Powers have come together
in the sky to sing His praises.
But before them all, I — a stubborn old ass —
have already praised Our Child!

“Glory to God in the highest! Ee-yaw, ee-yaw!
Glory, glory to the Child in the manger!”

Translated from the Russian by Jamie Olson

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Из Дороти Сэйерс
Тимур Кибиров

Замычал в ночи бессловесный вол:
«Слышишь звон в долине, мой брат осел,
            Звон подков и ржанье коней?
Из волшебных стран, от края земли
К нам спешат волхвы, к нам скачут Цари
            Поклониться Царю Царей!
Только раньше их всех, я, медлительный вол,
            Поклонился Нашему Мальчику!»

Лопоухий в ночи возопил осел:
«Сколько ангелов в небе, о брат мой вол,
Озарило синюю тьму!
В этот радостный, в этот единственный раз
Там вся Сила Небесная собралась
Чтобы славу пропеть Ему!
Только раньше их всех я, упрямый осел,
Я восславил Нашего Мальчика!

Слава в вышних Богу! Иа-иа!
Слава, слава Лежащему в яслях!»


  1. Nice! But why "Ee-yaw" rather than the usual "Hee-haw"?

  2. I considered "Hee-haw," but I wanted to avoid association with the silly old TV show. I tried to come up with something closer to the way it actually sounds when we mimic donkeys, and I don't think most of us pronounce either 'H'. Plus, if anything, I'd rather have readers think of Milne's Eeyore.

  3. I pronounce them so vigorously that I was a grown man before I realized that Eeyore was supposed to represent the same sound!

  4. But do you pronounce it as an initial H, or as a kind a rushing sound (inward, then outward) that accompanies the whole thing?

  5. I pronounce it exactly as written; I'm a city boy who grew up with no exposure to actual donkeys.

  6. Dammit, the more I think about it, you're right! I've changed it to "hee-haw" in my working draft. The OED won me over: if they include "hee-haw" (but not "ee-yaw"), then it must resonate as more than just a TV hillbilly reference.