The Silver Age of Russian Poetry

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Nikolai Gumilev

The Giraffegiraffe icon

Today I see that your look is particularly sad,
And your hands are particularly fragile, clasped over your knees.
Just listen: far, far away, on Lake Chad
Roams a proud giraffe.

He has been blessed with gracefulness and bliss,
His hide is decorated with a magical pattern,
That only the moon would dare to compete with,
Glistenting and bouncing on the wetness of the wide lake.

From a distance he looks like the coloured sail of a ship,
And when running he glides, like the flight of a gleeful bird.
I know that there are a lot of miraculous things to see in

the world,
When at sunset he hides himself in a marble grotto.1

I know the merry fairy tales of mysterious lands
About a dark maiden, about the fear of a youthful chief,
But you have breathed in the heavy fog for too long,
You don't want to believe in anything but the rain.

And when I tell you about a tropical garden,
About straight-standing palms, about the unbelievable

scent of the grasses...
You're crying? Just listen... far away, on Lake Chad
Roams a proud giraffe.

1I do not know if Gumilev would like my translation, or if he used the Russian word grot to mean grotto, or its other meaning, mainsail. This interpretation would continue the comparison of the movement of the giraffe to that of a gliding boat, and give the line: When at sunset he disguises himself as a marble sail.

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The Silver Age of Russian Poetry
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last modified: August 8th, 1999