On translated poetry and the power of internet

I am not into poetry. This could be easily explained by the fact that we had to learn by heart very long, very boring poems about hapless peasants in the Russian literature class.

But there was one short piece of poetry that I really liked. It was a translation by Marshak, who was often said to produce a better translation than the original was.

I did not remember who it was translated from, just the poem itself:


  • Он целовал вас, кажется?

  • Боюсь, что это так!

  • Но как же вы позволили?

  • Ах, он такой чудак!

Он думал, что уснула я

И все во сне стерплю,

Иль думал, что я думала,

Что думал он: я сплю!

I have tried to find the original several times, but never without success. It was not helped that I thought this work to be by Robert Burns, the famous Scottish poet. But all roads lead to the internet and it finally showed up. It turned out to be a much shorter verse by the english poet Coventry Patmore:

“I saw you take his kiss!” “‘Tis true.”

“O, modesty!” “‘Twas strictly kept:

“He thought me asleep; at least, I knew

“He thought I thought he thought I slept.”

I should be able to relax now, but I cannot. For - to me - the translation does sound much better than the original and I wish I could translate it preserved back into English to read to other people.