Speaking In Tongues
Scribbling In Voices

Alexander Blok

Dances of Death


Translated by Boris Leyvi



It's toilsome for a corpse to have appeared
As ardent as a living man.
His creaking bones are hidden; and again,
He'll try it for the sake of his career.

The people sleep. He, from the coffin, hurried,
Fleets to the court, the senate, to the bank.
The brighter is the night, the darker's fury,
And feathers, all triumphant, yank.

He's working, through the day, on his report.
The work is done, and swaying with his back,
He, tired, tells the senator a gag,
An anecdote of an indecent sort.

The night. The shifty rain has spattered both
Pedestrians and buildings... and the rest...
The corpse is taken to another froth
By a rumbling taxi, — he's an honored guest.

Into the hall with pillars and the crowd
He enters swiftly, all dressed-up, and soon
Is greeted by, with smile and a shout,
A husband — idiot, and wife — the rare loon.

The bony creaking deafened by the chords,
The corpse is tired and with boredom fed.
While shaking hands with fellows of all sorts,
He must, he must pretend he isn't dead.

Then, by the pillar he would chance upon
His real friend: she is like him, demised.
And their conversation's phoney tone
Reveal the words they usually disguise:

«My tired friend, it's strange to wear this mask.» —
«My tired friend, the grave is so cold.» —
«It's a midnight.» — «But you have never asked
N-- to the waltz. She loves you, I was told...»

And there's N--. She's searching with a passion
For him, for him; and radiantly glow
Her eyes. The heart beats with obsession
Of senseless love's unthrifty overflow.

He's whispering her a jocose phrase, —
The things that would impassion living souls.
Her eyes and cheeks become a rosy haze,
Her head onto his shoulder falls.

In deadening mixtures of the ballroom pounds,
He's spurting jokes, all in the strangest tone.
«He is so smart! Yes, yes, he is the one!f

Her ears catch unknown, foreign sounds;
A bone has scratched against a bone.


The night, the road, the drugstore's drape,
The gleaming and the senseless light.
May live another twenty-five, —
'T will all remain. There's no escape.
End life — and start the same afresh;
It’ll all repeat, as did before:
The night, the canal's icy mash,
The light, the road, the drugstore.


An empty street. A window's sole gleam.
A chemist-Jew is soughing in his dream.

And at the closet with a sign «Venena»,
His creaking knees bent in an earnest manner,

A skel'ton, in a cloak to his brows,
Is searching; a black grin untied his mouth.

Has found...Unintentionally clinked...
And turned his skull; a sleepy chemist winked,

And rose a bit — and was asleep again.
His visitor just took a little can

To offer to the couple of noseless maids,
Right outside — where the lonely gleaming fades.


The dream is dark, the dream is old…
Lights are running — running where?
Only dismal waters there,
There — oblivion's endless lair.

A shade is cornering the street,
Lo... another crawled to it.
A frac under a cloak's fit;
Crimson in the buttonhole.

An armored knight — a second suit —
Or a lassie-newlywed?
Feathers, helm, a faceless head.
An age-old stillness of a dead.

At the gate the doorbell rang;
The key, while turning, dully clanked.
Who is there? The usual gang:
A lecher and a prostitute.

A chilling wind is howling, howling.
Void, quietness, and dark.
Only lights upstairs spark...

Water's heavy — just like lead;
In it — nothingness is read.
Ghostly, where do you head,
Shade-to-shade so nimbly crawling?


Glad and angry are the rich,
The poor are downbeat.
The eternal lunar leach
Pours upon the street, —

Sending silence onto slurbs,
Grading out stony curves
On the plummets' gaps,
On the blackish caps.

That would all be just in vain,
If the czar did not remain
To rule in his town.

But his mansion isn't there,
And no face with kind stare,
And no golden crown.

Through the wasteland, from aside,
Under gleaming rare lights
He is lurking.

The neck is fastened with a veil,
The hat's holed, the face is pale: