by Lev Aleksandrovich Mey (1822 - 1862)
Translation © by Laura Prichard

Language: Russian (Русский) 
Available translation(s): ENG FRE
Говорит султанша канарейке:
«Птичка! лучше в тереме высоком
Шебетать и песни петь Зюлейке,
Чем порхать на Западе далеком?
Спой же, спой же мне про за-море, певичка,
Спой же, спой же мне про Запад, непоседка!
Есть ли там такое небо, птичка,
Есть ли там такой гарем и клетка?
У кого там столько роз бывало?
У кого из шахов есть Зюлейка -
И поднять ли так ей покрывало?»

Ей в ответ щебечет канарейка:
«Не проси с меня заморских песен,
Не буди тоски моей без нужды:
Твой гарем но нашим песням тесен,
И слова их одалискам чужды...
Ты в ленивой дрёме расцветала,
Как и вся кругом тебя природа,
И не знаешь -- даже не слыхала,
Что у песни есть сестра -- свобода.»

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Note on Transliterations


Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • ENG English (Laura Prichard) , "Canary", copyright © 2016, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , "Le canari", copyright © 2016, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 20
Word count: 117

Language: English  after the Russian (Русский) 
So the Sultan’s wife says to the canary:
"Birdie! Is it better to be in a tall tower
Chirping and singing songs to Zuleika,
Than to flit away to the far West?
Sing well, sing to me of lands beyond the sea, canary,
Sing well, sing to me about the West, little fidget!
Is there a heaven up there, little bird,
Are there the same harems and cages?
Who there has so many roses as I?
Who among the Shahs has a Zuleika -
And if so, would dare to raise her veil?"

In reply, the canary chirps:
“Don’t ask me to sing songs of lands beyond the sea,
Don’t wake my anguish needlessly:
Your harem is too small for our songs,
And our lyrics are foreign to the odalisques…
You blossomed in a lazy slumber,
Like the rest of all nature around you,
And you don’t know — you haven’t even heard,
That our songs have a sister -- freedom."

Translator's note for line 2-5: "odalisques" are female slaves, esp. in an Ottoman seraglio or harem.


  • Translation from Russian (Русский) to English copyright © 2016 by Laura Prichard, (re)printed on this website with kind permission. To reprint and distribute this author's work for concert programs, CD booklets, etc., you may ask the copyright-holder(s) directly or ask us; we are authorized to grant permission on their behalf. Please provide the translator's name when contacting us.

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This text was added to the website: 2016-10-23
Line count: 20
Word count: 160