Poetry of Sergey Aleksandrovich Yesenin

The Scarlet of the Dawn...
Translated by Lyuba Coffey

The scarlet of the dawn has woven on the lake.
In the pine forest the wood grouse are crying with ringing.

There is an oriole crying somewhere, having hidden in the hollow.
But only I cannot cry -- it is light on my soul.

I know, by evening you'll come out by the ring of roads,
We'll sit in the fresh haycocks below the next haystack.

I'll burden you with kisses until drunk, I'll rumple you like blossom,
The intoxication of such happiness is never changed.

You, yourself, under the rain of my caresses will caste off your silk train,
And I'll carry you, lightheaded, to the bush till morning.

And let the woodgrouse cry with ringing.
There is some merry melancholy in the scarlet of dawn.


The high waters have licked...
Translated by Lyuba Coffey

The high waters have licked
The bed with smoke.
The half moon has dropped
Its yellow reigns.

I'm sailing a boat,
Colliding with the banks.
The churches have
Orange spires by the spinning wheel.

With gloomy chirping
In the silence of the swamps
A black wood grouse
Is calling for the midnight mass.

The grave with blue pitch
Is covering the poor...
I'm praying secretly
For your destiny.


The Birch Tree
Translated by Lyuba Coffey

The birch tree
Below my window
Has covered herself with snow,
Like with silver.

On the thick branches
With a snowy trim
Have bloomed the tassels
Of white fringes.

And there stands the birch tree
In a sleepy silence,
And there burn the snowflakes
In the golden fire.

And the dawn, lazily
Going round,
And scatters the branches
With new silver.


to R.V.Ieanoeu

Translated by Evelyn Bristol

Silence. In the junipers atop the valley,
Autumn -- a roam mare -- rubs her mane for dressing.

Well above the wooded river banks --
That's the dark blue clang her horseshoes make.

Wind, a monk, walks past with wary footsteps
Holding back the foliage on the pathways,

Kissing, when he comes upon the mountain ash,
Crimson wounds that are the marks of Christ unseen.


The Bitch
Translated by Daniel Weissbort

In the morning the bitch whelped
Seven reddish-brown puppies,
In the rye barn where a row
Of bast mats gleamed like gold.
Licking their pelts smooth,
And underneath her, the snow
Melted out in the heat.

But at dusk, when the hens
Were roosting on the perch,
There came the grim-faced master
Who stuffed the pups in a sack.

The bitch bounded alongside him,
Over the snow-deep fields,
And the icy surface of the water
Shuddered a long, long while.

And when at last she struggled home,
Licking the sweat from her sides,
To her the moon above the house
Seemed like one of the pups.

Whimpering loudly she gazed up
Limpidly into the dark,
While over the hill, the slender moon
Slid into the fields beyond.

And softly, as when someone,
Jesting, throws her a stone,
Her tears, like golden stars,
Trickled down into the snow.


I'll glance in the field...
Translated by Lyuba Coffey

I'll glance in the field, glance in the sky --
Both the fields and sky are my paradise.
Again my undone land
Is diving into the stacks of rye.

Again, in the untended groves
There are inescapable herds,
And the water from the golden fountain
Is cascading down the green hills.

Oh, I believe, it must be, the agony
Over the last suffering man
That someone is effusing
Gentle hands like milk.

15 August 1917

to L.I.Kashina

The green hairdo...
Translated by Lyuba Coffey

The green hairdo
Maiden's breasts,
Oh, then birch tree,
Why have you stared at the pond?

What is the wind whispering to you?
What is the sand ringing about?
Or do you want the moon's comb
In your plaits-branches?

Open, open the mystery
Of your forest dreams
I have fallen in love with your soul
Near autumnal noise.

And the birch tree in repy to me:
"Oh, my curious friends,
On this starry night
The shepherd sheds his tears here.

The moon spreads its shadows,
The greens were shinng,
He was embracing me
By my naked knees.

And so, letting out a deep sigh,
Told me by the ring of branches:
"Farewell, my dove,
Till the new cranes".

15 August 1918

I left the native home...
Translated by Lyuba Coffey

I left the native home,
Left my blue Russia.
The birch wood in three stars over the pond
Warms my old mother's sadness.

The moon like a golden frog
Has sprawled on the calm water.
Like the bloom of the apple tree,
Gray hair has appeared in my father's beard.

I will not soon, not soon return!
The blizzard will sing, ring, for long.
The old maple tree on its only leg
Is guarding the blue Rus.

And I know, there is joy in him
For those, who kiss the rain on the leaves
Because that old maple tree
His head, it resembles me.


Translated by Lyuba Coffey

The rain is sweeping
Willow litter about the meadows.
Wind, replete with fagots of leaves,--
I am a hooligan, like you.

I like it when the blue thickets,
As oxen with a heavy trudge,
Muddy their trunks, on their knees.
Their bellies rattling with foliage.

Here it is, my orange herd!
Who could have sung it better?
I see, I see the twilight caressing
The prints of a man's feet.

My Russia, wooden Russia!
I am only your singer and herald,
I fed the melancholy of my animilistic poems
With mignonette and mint.

Glimmer, midnight, the jug of the moon
Should I scoop up the birch trees milk!
As if the churchyard crosses
Desired to choke somebody!

Black dismay is wandering about the hills,
The thief's gloom is flowing in our garden,
But it is I, myself, a robber and a cad
And in my blood,-- a horse thief of the steppes.

Who saw the bird cherry's troops
Burning in the night?
I'd rather stand alone with a tassel
Somewhere on the blue steppe, at night.

Ah but the bush of my head is withering,
The song's captivity has engulfed me
I am condemned to turning poetic millstones
About the drudgery of emotions.

But don't you be afraid, my insane wind,
Replete with leaves, blowing calmy about the meadows
The 'poet' signature will not destroy me,
I am in the songs, like you, a hooligan.


to Mariengoff

I am the last poet of the village...
Translated by Lyuba Coffey

I am the last poet of the village,
The plank bridge is modest in its songs.
I am standing for the farewell mass
Of the birch trees incensing with their foliage.

The candle of the waxen flesh
Will burn away with a golden flame,
And the moon's wooden clock
Will wheeze my twelfth hour.

On the blue field's track
Soon an iron guest will appear.
Oats, poured with the dawn,
Will he reap, with a black hollow of a hand.

Lifeless, in a stranger's grasp,
My songs will die in your presence!
But the ears of oats like horses
Will mourn for their old master.

The wind will take up their neighing, eternally
Celebrating the mass dance.
Soon, soon the wooden clock
Will wheeze my twelfth hour.


Hooligan's Confession
Translated by Lyuba Coffey

Not everyone can sing,
Not everyone can fall
Like an apple at a stranger's feet.

This is the greatest confession,
That a hooligan can have.

I go unkempt on purpose,
With my head, like a kerosene lamp, on my shoulders.
The leafless autumn, your souls in darkness --
I love to light.
I like it when the stones of abuse
Are hurled at me, like hail from a belching thunderstorm,
I just grip all the tighter
drew me, a moth to flames,
With my hands -- the shaken bubble of my hair.

How nice then for me to recall
The overgrown pond, hoarse ring of the alder,
That there, somewhere, live my father and mother,
Who do not care for all my poems,
To whom I am dear, like a field, like flesh,
Like rain, that loosens the greens in spring.
They would come to pierce you with a pitchfork
For each insult of yours thrown at me.

Poor, poor peasants!
You must have become unattractive
As before, afraid of God and the swamp's depths.
Oh, if you could only understand
That your son is in Russia
Is the best poet!
Wasn't it you, whose heart froze in fear of his life,
When he was dipping his feet in the autumn ponds?
And now he wears a top hat and patent leather shoes.

But alive still is the fervor of a former conduct
Of a country ruffian
To each cow from the butcher's sigh
He bows from afar.
And having met the coachman in the square,
Remembering the smell of dung from native fields,
He is ready to don each horse's tail,
Like the long trail of a wedding dress.

I love my Motherland.
I love my Motherland very much!
Though there is some willow rust in it.
Swine's soiled muzzles and toads' croaking calls in the night's stillness
Are dear to me.
I am weakly ill for such childhood memories,
I dream of April's moist newness.
As if our maple crouched to become warm
Before the fire of dawn.
Oh, how many eggs from crows' nests
I stole, climbing on the boughs!
Is it still the same, with its green crown?
Is its bark still firm?

And you, my favorite
Devoted, piebald dog?!
With age have you become whiny and blind
Do you meander about the yard, dragging your flabby tail,
Having lost your instinct for where the doors and shed are.
Oh, how dear all these pranks are to me,
When, having stolen bread from Mother's,
You and I bit it in turns,
Without deceiving each other at all.

I am still the same.
In my heart I am still the same.
Like cornflowers in the rye, my eyes bloom in my face.
Spreading like golden mats, my poems,
I wish to relate tender thoughts to you.
Good night!
Good night to you all!
The scythe of the twilights' dawn has sung out
Today I very much want to piss
The moon from the window.

Blue light, light you are so blue!
I am not sorry to die in such blue.
So what if I appear to be a cynic,
Having hooked a lantern on my ass!
Old, kind, ridden off Pegasus
Should I need your soft trot?
I have come, like a stern maestro,
And glorified and praised the rats.
This noddle of mine, as with August,
Rains with the wine of stormy hair.

I desire to be the yellow sail
To that country, we are sailing to.

November 1920

Prayer for the First Forty Days of the Dead
a fragment
Translated by Rose Styron

Have you seen the locomotive
On its cast-iron hoofs
Charge across the countryside
Dodging in and out of mists
Hissing by the lake through its nostrils of iron?

And running awkwardly beside --
As in some desperate race
On an overgrown gymkhana course --
Springing through the high grass,
Its slender legs flung out too far,
A foal with a red mane?

Dear foolish little colt!
Where, why does he race?
Hasn't he heard that cavalries
Of steel have conquered live steeds
And all his chasing, galloping,
Over the sad plain

Cannot catch those days gone by
When Pechenegs would barter
A pair of lovely Russian girls
Of the steppes for a single horse?
Fate in the marketplace has changed.

The color of our deep and tranquil
Waters has awakened them
To the noise of gnashing steel,
The braying train,
And spent, for a locomotive,
Tons of horseflesh and skin.


Yesenin's Biography Index of Russian Poets