Dark Eyes (song)

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This article is about the Russian song. For other works with similar titles, see Dark Eye.

"Dark Eyes" (Russian: Очи чёрные, Ochi chyornye; English translation: Black Eyes; French translation: Les yeux noirs) is probably the most famous Russian romance.

The lyrics of the song were written by the Ukrainian poet and writer Yevhen Hrebinka in Ukrainian. The first publication of the poem was in Hrebinka's own Russian translation in Literaturnaya gazeta on 17 January 1843.

The words were subsequently set to Florian Hermann's Valse Hommage[1] (in an arrangement by S. Gerdel') and published on 7 March 1884.

Although often characterised as a Russian-Romani song, the words and music were written respectively by a Ukrainian poet Evheniy Grebenka (Евге́ний Па́влович Гребёнка) and a composer Florian Hermann. Feodor Chaliapin popularised the song abroad in a version in his own adaptation.

Poem (original version by Hrebinka)[edit]

Russian Transliteration Translation
Очи чёрные, очи страстные,
Очи жгучие и прекрасные!
Как люблю я вас, как боюсь я вас!
Знать, увидел вас я в недобрый час!
Ох, недаром вы глубины темней!
Вижу траур в вас по душе моей,
Вижу пламя в вас я победное:
Сожжено на нём сердце бедное.
Но не грустен я, не печален я,
Утешительна мне судьба моя:
Всё, что лучшего в жизни Бог дал нам,
В жертву отдал я огневым глазам!
Ochi chornyye, ochi strastnyye,
Ochi zhguchiye i prekrasnyye!
Kak lyublyu ya vas, kak boyus' ya vas!
Znat' uvidel vas ya v nedobryi chas!
Okh nedarom vy glubiny temnei!
Vizhu traur v vas po dushe moyei,
Vizhu plamya v vas ya pobednoye:
Sozhzheno na nyom serdtse bednoye.
No ne grusten ya, ne pechalen ya,
Uteshitel'na mne sud'ba moya:
Vsyo chto luchshevo v zhizni Bog dal nam,
V zhertvu otdal ya ognevym glazam!:
Black eyes, passionate eyes,
Burning and beautiful eyes!
How I love you, how I fear you,
It seems I met you in an unlucky hour!
Oh, not for nothing are you darker than the deep!
I see mourning for my soul in you,
I see a triumphant flame in you:
A poor heart immolated in it.
But I am not sad, I am not sorrowful,
My fate is soothing to me:
All that is best in life that God gave us,
In sacrifice I returned to the fiery eyes!

The following is a metrical translation (i.e. one that can be sung to the melody).

Oh, these gorgeous eyes, dark and glorious eyes,
Burn-with-passion eyes, how you hypnotise!
How I_ adore you so, how I fear you though,
Since I saw you glow! Now my spirit’s low!

Darkness yours conceal mighty fires real;
They my fate will seal: burn my soul with zeal!
But my love for you, when the time is due,
Will refresh anew like the morning dew!

No, not sad am I, nor so mad am I;
All my comforts lie in my destiny.
Just to realise my life’s worthiest prize
Did I sacrifice for those ardent eyes!.

Translation by [1] Peter Farnbank]

Lyrics (Chaliapin version)[edit]

from Chaliapin version
Russian (Cyrillic alphabet) Transliteration (Latin alphabet) English translation

Очи чёрные, очи жгучие,
Очи страстные и прекрасные,
Как люблю я вас, как боюсь я вас,
Знать увидел вас я не в добрый час.

Очи чёрные, очи пламенны
И мaнят они в страны дальные,
Где царит любовь, где царит покой,
Где страданья нет, где вражды запрет.

Очи чёрные, очи жгучие,
Очи страстные и прекрасные,
Как люблю я вас, как боюсь я вас,
Знать увидел вас я не в добрый час.

Не встречал бы вас, не страдал бы так,
Я бы прожил жизнь улыбаючись,
Вы сгубили меня очи чёрные
Унесли на век моё счастье.

Очи чёрные, очи жгучие,
Очи страстные и прекрасные,
Как люблю я вас, как боюсь я вас,
Знать увидел вас я не в добрый час.

Ochi chyornye, ochi zhguchie
Ochi strastnye i prekrasnye
Kak lyublyu ya vas, kak boyus' ya vas
Znat' uvidel vas ya ne v dobryi chas

Ochi chyornye, ochi plamenny
I manyat oni v strany dal'nye
Gde tsarit lyubov', gde tsarit pokoi
Gde stradan'ya nyet, gde vrazhdy zapryet

Ochi chyornye, ochi zhguchie
Ochi strastnye i prekrasnye
Kak lyublyu ya vas, kak boyus' ya vas
Znat' uvidel vas ya ne v dobryi chas

Ne vstrechal by vas, ne stradal by tak
Ya by prozhil zhizn' ulybayuchis'
Vy zgubili menya ochi chyornye
Unesli na vek moyo schast'ye

Ochi chyornye, ochi zhguchie
Ochi strastnye i prekrasnye
Kak lyublyu ya vas, kak boyus' ya vas
Znat' uvidel vas ya ne v dobryi chas

Dark eyes, burning eyes
Passionate and splendid eyes
How I love you, How I fear you
Verily, I saw you at a sinister hour

Dark eyes, flaming eyes
They implore me into faraway lands
Where love reigns, where peace reigns
Where there is no suffering, where war is forbidden

Dark eyes, burning eyes
Passionate and splendid eyes
I love you so, I fear you so
Verily, I saw you at a sinister hour

If I hadn't met you, I wouldn't be suffering so
I would have lived my life smiling
You have ruined me, dark eyes
You have taken my happiness away forever

Dark eyes, burning eyes
Passionate and splendid eyes
I love you so, I fear you so
Verily, I saw you at a sinister hour

Translation by Katya from russmus.net ([2])

Popular culture[edit]

Dark Eyes has become a jazz standard.

  • 1933 Krazy Kat and his girlfriend sing the song in the cartoon Russian Dressing.
  • 1936 Ismail Marzuki wrote Sundanese lyrics for the song, under the title "Panon Hideung".
  • 1934 Al Jolson sings in Russian for the film Wonder Bar.
  • 1936 In the film My Man Godfrey, Carlo (the artist-protégé of Mrs. Bullock) often began this song before being interrupted in his artistic pursuit.
  • 1937 The Ritz Brothers performed a parody of the song in the film On the Avenue.
  • 1937 In the finale of the film Shall We Dance, Fred Astaire dances with a group of female dancers all wearing Ginger Rogers masks, with the real Ginger hiding among them. When she blurts out the words "oci ciornie", he picks her out from among the group and begins dancing with her.
  • 1938 Maxine Sullivan recorded a swing version in Russian and English, accompanied by Claude Thornhill and members of John Kirby's sextet
  • 1940 Django Reinhardt recorded three instrumental versions under the French translation "Les yeux noirs".
  • 1940 It is mentioned frequently in the movie The Shop Around the Corner with Jimmy Stewart. The song itself is heard in the background during the cafe scene.
  • 1941 In W.C. Fields' film Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, Gloria Jean sang this song in a scene where she finally finds her Uncle Bill (played by W.C. Fields) in Russia after he jumped out of the airplane that they were taking to retrieve his bottle of alcohol.
  • 1942 In the novel The High Window by Raymond Chandler, the hero Philip Marlowe hears the song sung in a night club.
  • 1942 Spike Jones recorded a parody of this song called "Hotcha Cornya (Dark Eyes)".
  • 1943 The Warner Bros. cartoon Falling Hare used this song in a scene where Bugs Bunny unsuccessfully tries to break down an airplane door (while the airplane was in the air and running) in order to find the Gremlin who has been continuously taunting him.
  • 1944 In the Universal Pictures cartoon Ski for two, Woody Woodpecker is singing the refrain of the song while ice-skating.
  • 1945 Danny Kaye sings a comical version of the song in the film Wonder Man with lyrics modified by Sylvia Fine.
  • 1945 Mischa Auer, who played the song over and over again as Carlo in My Man Godfrey, appears as Prince Nikita Starloff, who dies after playing the first measures of the song in Rene Clair's "And Then There Were None."
  • 1947 Wingy Manone, trumpeter, and Edmond Hall, both from New Orleans, recorded a version of Dark Eyes. Edmond Hall's clarinet-solo is a classic and Wingy Manone sang a humorous nonsense-vocal.
  • 1951 A Finnish version sung by Tauno Palo was used in the movie Ylijäämänainen
  • 1954 Louis Armstrong did a version called "Otchi-Tchor-Ni-Ya", which in his unique New Orleans Creole patois sounded like "Oh Cha Chunya". The words were quite different from the proper translation of the song from Russian to English.
  • 1955 Disney's Lady and the Tramp Boris (Borzoi) calls Lady "little Otchi Tchernye".
  • 1957 David Seville aka Ross Bagdasarian arranges an instrumental version before his Chipmunks fame. Heard here: Pretty Dark Eyes
  • 1958 Jazz organist Jimmy Smith performs the song as an instrumental on the live album Cool Blues.
  • 1958 Wynton Kelly performs the song as an instrumental with Kenny Burrell, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones on Piano.
  • 1959 The song is mentioned in Kay Thompson's book Eloise in Moscow, as Eloise sings it in the bath, which "Nanny loves but I had to stop because it hurt Weenie's ears".
  • 1959 The song is referenced in Robert Heinlein's novel Starship Troopers.
  • 1966 This song is featured in the movie "Batman" during Bruce Wayne and Catwoman's date. Catwoman was disguised as the Russian journalist Kitka.
  • 1969 "Ja lubljú tebjá (Ich liebe dich)" sung by Alexandra on the album Sehnsucht - Ein Portrait In Musik is a version of this song.
  • 1970 Violetta Villas recorded the song which later became her signature hit in Poland. Villas recording is considered the best vocal interpretation ever of this song.
  • 1973 Sara Montiel recorded a pop-rock version in Spanish titled "Ojos Negros."
  • 1982 "Nostalgie (Nathalie)" sung by Julio Iglesias uses this song as a refrain.
  • 1987 The song gives its name to Nikita Mikhalkov's film Dark Eyes.
  • 1990 The song is performed on the best-selling classical music album of all time, The Three Tenors in Concert.
  • 1991 The song is performed by Elya Baskin in War and Peace, a Season 2 episode of Northern Exposure
  • 1994 The song featured in The Leningrad Cowboys' Total Balalaika Show, featuring the full 160-member Alexandrov Ensemble.
  • 1996 Red Elvises feature this music with different lyrics entitled "Scorchi Chorniye" on their debut album Grooving to the Moscow Beat.
  • 1999 Sabine Azéma sings this song in the French film La Bûche.
  • 2000 A version of this song was recorded by the American band Devotchka. It is featured on their debut album SuperMelodrama.
  • 2000 Rachel Portman used this melody in the film Chocolat. It is titled "Chocolate Sauce" on the soundtrack.
  • 2002 The computer adventure game Syberia featured the chorus of the song in the last part of the game and being whistled by a lonesome janitor. The whole song is also in the game. It is sung by the NPC Helena in the Epilogue.
  • 2004 The song was used as the main theme for the TV mini-series, "The Mystery of Natalie Wood", a biopic about the actress Natalie Wood.
  • 2004 The song is performed by the jazz vocalist Sophie Milman on her album "Milman".
  • 2006 A recording by Judy Morris features in the animated film Happy Feet.
  • 2006 American figure skater Sasha Cohen used this song for her short program at the Winter Olympics.
  • 2006 Swedish duo The Knife release the single Marble House, the vocal melody of which is reminiscent of Dark Eyes (though possibly unintentionally so).
  • 2007 The song is performed in a scene of the David Cronenberg film Eastern Promises by a singer and accordion player Igor Outkine.
  • 2008 Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir used the song as their original dance music.
  • 2008 Russian-born American gymnast Nastia Liukin used the version from the Well-Tempered Productions CD called Gypsy as arranged by Ilan Rechtman, (who is also the pianist on the recording with violinist Lara St. John) as her floor exercise music at the Summer Olympics where she won a gold medal in the Women's All-Around Final.
  • Folk metal band Turisas frequently incorporate a unique interpretation of this song as a finale for their song "In the Court of Jarislief" during live performances.
  • 2009–present American National gymnast Rebecca Bross uses a remix of the song as her floor music. She shares the same coach as Nastia Liukin, Valeri Liukin at WOGA (who is also Nastia's father).
  • 2009 - a Japanese version was used in the Hime Uta 2 character CD for Strike Witches.
  • 2010 Used in the glassandahalffull productions Spots vs. Stripes advert for Cadbury's dairy milk
  • 2010 - Russian singer Vitas covered this song on his album Masterpieces of Three Centuries.
  • 2010 movie "Brestskaya krepost", Fortress of War, by Aleksandr Kott.
  • 2010 - Israeli artist Yoni Eilat recorded a Yiddish cover of this song for his album "Tzigayner Neshume".
  • 2011 - Performed by actor Benoît Poelvoorde in the restaurant scene in the French Movie Les Émotifs anonymes
  • 2012–present - Russian figure skater Elizaveta Tuktamysheva uses the piece for her free skate/long program
  • 2012 - Leuven (Belgium) based band Awesomesauce covered the song at one of their concerts.

See also[edit]

  • Dark Eyes, a Russian music compilation album that includes Dark Eyes
  • The Red Army Choir, compilation album that includes Dark Eyes


  1. ^ James J. Fuld. The book of world-famous music: classical, popular, and folk - Courier Dover Publications, 2000. - P. 417 (see also notes at p. 684).

External links[edit]