Russian Language Blog

Spring Has Sprung Posted by on Mar 16, 2012 in Culture, language

This has been a harsh winter in Russia and it’s not quite over yet. The snow and cold are lingering well into March in many regions of the country. It’s a balmy 26 degrees F there today and snow is expected tomorrow. And weather reports include до боли знакомые строки (painfully familiar verses) by Feodor Tyutchev: «Зима недаром злится, прошла её пора. Весна в окно стучится и гонит со двора» (Winter’s spite is vain for its time has come at last. Knocking at the pains, spring has cast it out…) [The rest of the poem is #117 here].

Sure, winter is overstaying its welcome, but it gives us a wonderful opportunity to learn some spring time poems that Russians love to quote in news as well as in general conversations. But don’t worry you won’t have to work too hard. The thing is, all you really need to remember are just a couple of lines from each.

Having just a few lines memorized can do wonders! For example, as you watch yet another прогноз погоды (weather report) showing snow-covered streets, you can knowingly sigh and quote «ещё в полях белеет снег, а воды уж весной шумят» (snow is still white in the fields, but spring is in the waters’ voice) [translated poem #82 on the same site; the original Russian poem is here].

Your Russian friends will be impressed when next time as they quote «Люблю грозу в начале мая» [I love May’s early storms] you will quip in with «когда весенний первый гром, как бы резвяся и играя, грохочет в небе голубом» (when spring’s first thunder, as if frolicking and playing, rumbles in the blue sky) [the entire poem in Russian is here]

Of course, that one might have to wait until May or even June, the way this spring is unfolding. Ok, so let’s look for something more immediately useful. Do you remember a song from South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut – “the sun is shining, the grass is green, under the three feet of snow, I mean”? It always reminds me of the Russian poet’s Alexei Plesheev’s «Травка зеленеет, солнышко блестит, ласточка с весною в сени к нам летит» [lit: the grass is green, the sun is shining, the swallow is brining spring to our porch]. This is a verse all Russian children are familiar with, no doubt.

You might also like to use the phrase в окно повеяло весною (spring breezes through the window) in the same way you’d use “spring is in the air”. This phrase is from another poem by Alexei Plesheev.

You can find all these and more стихи про весну (poems about spring) here. Not all of them are разобраны на цитаты (lit: taken apart for quotations; used as sources of quotes). And the list is far from complete.

For example, my favorite spring time poem, by Alexander Blok, is not on it:

О, весна без конца и без краю –

Без конца и без краю мечта!

Узнаю тебя, жизнь! Принимаю!

И приветствую звоном щита!

(Oh, spring without end and without limit –

Without end and without limit a dream!

I discover you, life! I accept you!

And welcome you with a clang of the shield!)

Is it ok to learn just a few lines from a poem for the sole purpose of enlivening a conversation or showing off in front of friends? Let me just quote a classic on this one:

Мы все учились понемногу,

Чему нибудь и как нибудь,

Так воспитаньем, слава Богу,

У нас немудрено блеснуть.

(We all have studied, if a little,

Some blurry thing in some vague ways,

So thank the Lord, among our people,

He’s praised who somewhat lore displays)

If you haven’t read A. Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin by now, here’s a link to the English translation.

What other крылатые фразы (lit. winged phrases; popular quotations) about Spring can you think of?

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  1. David Roberts:

    Here’s one about icicles that I like, particularly the last 2 lines:

    О, как же хочет удержаться
    За крыши пальцами зима!


    Срезает солнышко сосульки
    Огнем игольчатых лучей.
    Их целый день в волнистой люльке
    Несет разбуженный ручей.

    Сосульки ночью вновь родятся.
    Свисают, словно бахрома.
    О, как же хочет удержаться
    За крыши пальцами зима!

    Г. Люшнин