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If you do not immediately singe
the whiskers of a slain leopard,
its spirit will pursue the hunter.
A popular Abyssinian belief

The leopard I slew is doing
Sorcery and telling fortunes
In the lonely silent night
Of my rented room.

People come in and go out,
The last to leave is she
For whom the golden darkness
Wanders in my veins.

It’s late. The mice have squeaked,
The lonely house has groaned,
And purring on the bed
Is the leopard that I slew.

— A gray fog floats over**
The Dobrobran gorge,***
The sun, red like a wound,
Strikes the Dobrobran with light.

— The wind drives the aromas
Of honey and verbena east
While the hyenas howl and howl
Burying their noses in sand.

— My brother, my brother, can you
Hear the howl, sense the smell,
See the fog? Why do you still
Breathe the humid air?

— No my murderer,
You must not die in my land
So I can be born again
Into the family of leopards. —

Really now, till dawn comes
Must I hear his sly summons?
Ah, I did not heed the advice,
I did not singe his whiskers.

It’s too late! The enemy force
Has won and now is here:
It’s squeezing the nape of my neck
With the strength of a bronze hand...

Palms... a terrible blaze from the sky
Burns the oasis in the sand.
A Danakil warrior has fallen****
On the rock with a flaming spear.

He neither knows nor asks
Why my soul is proud,
He just casts this soul away
Not knowing where it goes.

And I cannot fight against his force,
I am content, I stand up.
I will end my life beside
The spring where giraffes drink.
* McKane’s note explains that in his Tsarskoe Selo study, Gumilev kept a leopard skin that he brought from Abyssinia. He’d probably shot it himself in 1910. He late said “I felt that all the beasts in Africa had lain down around me, and were awaiting their moment to kill me, painfully and shamefully” (qtd. by McKane in Gumilev, Pillar, 239).
** No in italics in the original, I do so to show this is the imagined words of the leopard.
*** I have not been able to confirm this place presumably in Ethiopia.
**** Known as the most inhospitable place on earth, the Danakil Desert with a number of active volcanoes spreads between north-east Ethiopia, south of Eritrea and much of Djibouti. It is the home of the Afar people (also known as the Danakil) who have learned to survive there for hundreds of years.

Другие переводы:

  • Английский
    Руперт Мортон
    The Leopard
  • Ричард Маккейн
    The Leopard
  • Испанский
    Ксения Дьяконова, Хосе Матео
    El leopardo
  • Украинский
    Ганна Яновская

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