And Could You? A Poem by Majakowskij

How many poems, narratives, and works of art are lost in translation during our daily reading? How many pieces of the soul of a poet are dispersed during the translation from one language to another? How many words are misunderstood, breaded in cultural habits, and then fried in  oily misunderstandings?

Today,  I was re-reading a poem by Majakowskij – a poet who I loved in the past and who, even after so many years, still fascinates me. I was reading the poem And Could You? in  Italian, savoring the words as if they were jelly candy. Soft words made of liquid letters that touch the heart of the reader and melt in his /her soul. Harsh and angular words shaped as a bittersweet chocolate bar.

I would  like to know the Russian language. I would like to know the original words in the poem. I would like to know if the poem was lost in translation in his journey from the Russian language to the English language; from the Russian language to the Italian language.

I wonder if the translations might have changed the meaning of the poem … as a guitar that continues to be wrongly tuned by different musicians. I wonder if a translator might be able to play the strings of the soul, as the poet does in his /her native language.

English version of the poem

I suddenly smeared the weekday map
splashing paint from a glass;
On a plate of aspic
I revealed
the ocean’s slanted cheek.
On the scales of a tin fish
I read the summons of new lips.
And you
could you perform
a nocturne on a drainpipe flute?

Italian version of the poem

Ma Voi Potreste?

Imbrattai di colpo la carta dei giorni triti,

Spruzzandovi colore di un bicchiere;

Su un piatto di gelatina mostrai

Gli zigomi sghembi dell’oceano.

Sulla squama d’un pesce di latta

Lessi gli invite di nuove labbra.

Ma voi


Suonare un notturno

Su un flauto di grondaie?

Russian version of the poem

Я сразу смазал карту будня,
плеснувши краску из стакана;
я показал на блюде студня
косые скулы океана.
На чешуе жестяной рыбы
прочел я зовы новых губ.
А вы
ноктюрн сыграть
могли бы
на флейте водосточных труб?


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