Boris Pasternak


The Wedding Party

The party of guests
Crossed the yard in a throng,
And came to the bride’s house
To feast all night long.

But behind heavy doors in the inn,
As the hours pass by,
Chatting voices one by one
Grow quiet and die.

Then at dawn, when the
People could have slept on and on,
As it left, the accordion
Struck up a new song.

The player again
Cast pictures around –
The flash of a necklace,
The clapping of hands,
The noise and the clamour -
All painted in sound.

And over and over, the noise
Of the party, of dance and of song, kept
Invading the rooms
Of the people who slept.

Then a girl, white like snow,
Amid whistles and hubbub and din,
Sailed out like a peacock,
And swaying her hips,
Her right hand so slender,
And nodding her head,
She swept down the road,
A peacock in all of its splendour.

Then all of a sudden, the racket
And fun of the night,
The tramping of feet in the dance,
Fell silent
And vanished from sight.

The bustling courtyard sprang back into life,
The echoes of business deals
Mixed with the chatter of voices
And laughter in peals.

Then off and up again from their nests
A flock of doves flew high
In a blizzard of blue-grey flecks,
Climbing the boundless sky,
As if some waking, sleepy someone
Had sent them to carry
To the husband and wife
Their very best wishes
For a long, happy life.

For life is just a moment,
Just the dissolving
Of ourselves in everyone else,
As if a gift to them.
Just a wedding, bursting up
From the street through the windows above,
Just a song, just a dream,
Just a blue-grey dove.

(after Boris Pasternak; translated by Pete Saunders, University of Roehampton)

The Wedding Party” is the eleventh of the twenty-five “Poems of Iurii Zhivago”, which form (the final) “Part Seventeen” of Pasternak’s novel, Doctor Zhivago.