The video below lets you listen to perhaps the most famous Kazakh song, which I’ve caught myself humming recently as I’m doing the dishes, rather surprising my housemate. The song is called “Kozimnin Karasi,” which literally means “pupil of my eye.”

I believe the words and lyrics of this song were first composed by Abai, Kazakhstan’s most well-known cultural icon. Abai lived on the steppe in the second half of the 19th century, and reacted to great cultural upheaval and domination by the Russian Empire by advocating that his people take on European ways. That may not have been appreciated at the time, but his poetry and philosophical meditations (known as the Book of Words, or Қара сөздер) have come to represent the Kazakh soul.

I can’t find an English translation of Қөзімнің Қарасы, so I’ve attempted to translate it myself. I’m probably missing some of the nuances, but better than you reading the Kazakh directly, right??! I’d welcome corrections if you can make them. If you read Russian, see here and/or the comments for a rather poetic Russian translation, and find more on Abai in English here.

Kozimnin Karasi

Kozimnin karasi
Kon’limnin sanasi
(Bitpeidi ishtegi
Gashiktik zharasi) x2

O pupil of my eyes
My conscious desire
I am torn by passion
Without end inside

Kazaktin danasi
Jas y-ulken agasi
(‘Bar’ demes sendei bir
Adamnin balasi) x2

The wise Kazakh,
The youth’s elder brother
He cannot say “It is,”
For one of mankind’s children

Zhilayin, zhirlayin
Agihzip koz mayin
(Aytuga kelgende
Kalkama swoz dayin) x2

Let me cry and chant poetry
As oil drips from my eyes
I will prepare precious words
To say at your coming.

Jurekten kozgayin
Adepten ohzbayin
(Wozi de bilmeime
Kwop coilep sozbayin) x2

Let me move from the heart
Let me not cross these bounds
He also does not know
Let me not stretch words as these

“O pupil of my eyes”: translating the most famous Kazakh song
Tagged on:                                                 

One thought on ““O pupil of my eyes”: translating the most famous Kazakh song

  • December 20, 2012 at 5:31 pm
    Permalink

    Kazaktin danasi
    Jas ulken agasi
    (‘Bar’ demes sendei bir
    Adamnin balasi) x2

    The Kazakh’s fine elites,
    all the wise elders,
    none can say “there is”,
    a people’s fairy like you

    Reply

Leave a Reply