Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Russian toast (with mathematics)

Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting the Washington Museum of Poetry and Music -- a collection in Rockville, MD gathered and maintained in the home of Uli Zislin who has lived in the US since 1996. (Among other treasures, the musuem has recordings of poets Anna Akhmatova, Boris Pasternak, Osip Mandelstam, and Anastasia Tsvetaeva.)    At the time of my visit, Zislin presented me with one of his own poems that includes a bit of mathematics.  The original Russian version of Zislin's poem is at the bottom of this post.  Prior to that I offer a translation into English by Arlington poet, teacher, and award-winning Russian translator, Katherine Young.  Thank you, Katherine.

        A Pedagogical Toast     by Uli Zislin

                 translated by Katherine E. Young

       Friends and colleagues, pedagogues!
       We’re not philosophers, not gods.
       We’re simply people, soldiers of God,
       destined to suffer and to love.  

       Our students –- they are people, too.
       Their interests sometimes lie elsewhere –-
       and what they choose to learn, o Lord,
       blends good and bad in equal measure.

       Of course, the highest calling of all --
       the point of the game, the thing we seek --
       is setting their souls afire so they’ll
       desire to know both good and peace.

       In this hard work, it’s probably true,
       we’ll see some things we’d rather not see.
       But now let’s drink a toast, recall
       that zero’s the limit of delta t.                           1978

 And here is Zislin's original poem in Russian:


Друзья, коллеги, педагоги!
Мы - ни макаренки, ни Боги.
Мы - просто люди, Божья рать,
Любить дано нам и страдать.

Студенты наши - люди тоже.
Их интересы где-то там  ---->
И учатся они, о Боже,
С грехом, конечно, пополам.

Но наше высшее призванье -
К тому идти должна игра -
Зажечь в душе у них желанье
К познанью мира и добра.

Наверно, в этом трудном деле
Нас не смутит и декольте.
Давайте ж выпьем. Ведь в пределе
К нулю стремится дельта ТЭ.*

__________                                            1978 
* Δt → 0

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