The geese bid farewell to the tundra
with heavy-hearted cries.
For them it will be very difficult,
no, it is not for them to bask under an African sky,
it is for them to dream of the North
with its snow and May showers,
with the caress of endless swamps,
with the noise of mountain rivulets.
The North, extreme though it may be,
teaches the soul to be proud.
Here are the lifelong moorings
of everyone who is familiar with the waves.
It is here that the birds’ lives begin,
where the Saami reside!
October morning, fresh and light,
the sun crumbled into sparkles,
the birch nuzzles up to the dawn with its cheek,
having sensed autumn close by.
She thought of something, she looks with longing
at the spruces, at the proud pines,
but Autumn, with a rude and ruthless hand,
plucks out the yellow leaves.
I pity you, it’s too bad it came to this,
following autumn — hazy winter.
And anyway you threw off your scanty clothes:
you could not stand to wear them in the frost!
The snows come through and cover everything,
like a fur coat on a young girl’s shoulders,
and the frost will be a loyal friend to you,
a gallant prince!
In the polar night you can hear the voice
of worlds yet unknown!
In the December forest there gloriously breathes
the frost, the ozone — and I am living well!
Translations from the Russian
By Naomi Caffee
Editorial note: These translations were first published alongside their Russian originals in the bilingual collection Stikhi i poemy o saamskom krae (Verses and poems on the Saami land), ed. Michael Riessler & Elisabeth Scheller, with an essay by Johanna Domokos (Berlin: Kleine Saamische Schriften, 2009). Reprinted by permission of the translator.
The photo of Bazhanov is from the Finno-Ugric Cultural Center of the Russian Federation (www.finnougoria.ru).