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Кое-что про Петербург

Original Text

Слезают слёзы с крыши в трубы,

к руке реки чертя полоски;

а в неба свисшиеся губы

воткнули каменные соски.

 

И небу — стихши — ясно стало:

туда, где моря блещет блюдо,

сырой погонщик гнал устало

Невы двугорбого верблюда.

German

Etwas über Petersburg
Translated by Ruth Wyneken

 

Die Tränen triefen vom Dach in die Rohre,

zum Flussdelta fließen streifig Pfützen;

des Himmels Lippen, hängend von oben -

verstopft mit steinernen Zitzen.

 

Der Himmel, beruhigt, folgerte richtig:

Dort, wo des Meeres Schale gleißend klar,

hintrieb der klammnasse Treiber gemächlich

der Newa zweihöckriges Dromedar.

  • Country in which the text is set
    Russia
  • Featured locations
    St. Petersburg
  • Impact

    The poem is one of the earlier lyrical works by Mayakovsky, in which he uses a rather traditional metre, but undoubtfully extraordinary fresh and audacious metaphors embedded into syntactic inversions.  Who but Mayakovsky would have compared the many Petersburg churches’ cupolas to teats, and the Neva to a camel with two humps? Obvious references to Petersburg’s rainy climate become incredibly poetic as the sky over the city is compared to a human face with lips sucking on the teats of the church towers.

    Mayakovsky moved to St. Petersburg, the capital famous for its wealth, cultural diversity, and cosmopolitan lifestyle in 1912. There he met Maxim Gorky who was instrumental with his initial steps and introductions. Mayakovsky wrote and directed his first play, a tragedy titled 'Vladimir Mayakovsky', that premiered at a St. Petersburg theatre in 1913. At that time, on a dacha in the Levashovo suburb of St. Petersburg, Mayakovsky met Lilya Brik, the woman who changed his life forever, and became his Muse, lover, and most trusted companion, while her husband, Osip Brik eventually became the publisher of Mayakovsky's most important works. In St. Petersburg Mayakovsky published his passionate poems: 'Cloud in the Trousers' (1915) and 'The Backbone Flute' (1916).
    In the popular literary club "Brodyachaya Sobaka" (“ Wandering Dog”) Mayakovsky met the aspiring poet Anna Akhmatova, her husband Nikolai Gumilev, and other important figures of the flourishing St. Petersburg cultural scene. Kornei Chukovsky, one of the leading writers in St. Petersburg, proclaimed Mayakovsky a genius, and promoted his poetry. 

  • Balticness

    The poem is a brief landscape sketch of Saint Petersburg, formed in several expressive pre-futuristic metaphors. One of them describes the Neva river as a Bactrian camel on its way through the isles to the sea’s (the Baltic) shiny salver.

    Polina Lisovskaya

  • Bibliographic information

    First published untitled in anthology “The Three’s Mass Book” ("Требник троих", М. 1913), which included also poems by brothers Nikolay and David Burlyuk and Velimir Khlebnikov, as well as illustrations by D. and N. Burlyuks, V. Mayakovsky and V. Tatlin. The edition was sponsored by patrons of the arts Georgy Kuzmin, who was a pilot, and Sergey Dolinsky, who was a musician.

  • Translations
    Language Year Translator
    English 2008 Andrey Kneller 
    English 2009 Vyacheslav Tretyakov
    German 1973 Hugo Huppert
  • Year of first publication
    1913
  • Place of first publication
    Moscow