Saturday, September 23, 2017


Local Food

Gavrila Derzhavin (1743–1816), "To Eugene: Life at Zvanka," stanzas 25-26, tr. Alexander Levitsky:
The crimson ham, green sorrel soup with yolks of gold,
the rose-gold pie, the cheese that's white, the crayfish scarlet,
the caviar, deep amber, black, the pike's stripes bold,
    its feather blue — delight the eyesight.

Delight the eye and joy to every sense impart;
though not with glut or spices brought from foreign harbours,
but with their pure and wholesome Russian heart:
    provisions native, fresh and healthful.
A pike is a fish, and fish don't have feathers, so "its feather blue" puzzled me. I don't know Russian, but I think that перо (the word used here, cognate with Greek πτερόν) can mean either feather or fin. Some suppose that English fin is cognate with Latin penna/pinna (= wing, feather).

The original, for those who do know Russian:
Багряна ветчина, зелены щи с желтком,
Румяно-желт пирог, сыр белый, раки красны,
Что смоль, янтарь — икра, и с голубым пером
Там щука пестрая: прекрасны!

Прекрасны потому, что взор манят мой, вкус;
Но не обилием иль чуждых стран приправой,
А что опрятно всё и представляет Русь:
Припас домашний, свежий, здравый.

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