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I would translate Не позволишь жизнь скомкати as "you will not allow life to get muffed up". I realize this is not a very poetic translation. It is taken from the following quatrain:

Если беден я, как пес, один, И в дому моем шаром кати - Ведь поможешь ты мне, господи! Не позволишь жизнь скомкати...

Also, I am not sure about the grammatical role of the word скомкати. Is it in the imperative?

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No, it is not an imperative. It is an infinitive, "скомкать". The form you found is archaic (or, in this case it would be the same, used as a Church Slavonic word). The modern Russian infinitive ending -ть is derived from the old one -ти.

Here it used for some poetic reason, or maybe just for a better rhyme. Hence it is (lyric enough) poetry, "muffed up" probably is not the best translation. The direct "to crumple" would be the best, I guess.

The imperative would be "скомкай", "скомкайте" for plural.

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  • So, is "кати" of this same archaic Church Slavonic form? – JMP Mar 18 '16 at 20:59
  • No, now that one IS an imperative :) - of "катить". – Giedrius Mar 19 '16 at 0:14
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-ти, -ть, -чь are variations of the same infinitive suffix in complementary distribution: -ть is used when unstressed (да́ть, бра́ть), -ти when stressed (мести́, нести́), and -чь when the stem ending is a velar stop (к or г): печь (пеку), стричь (стригу) etc.

However, in poetic speech -ть and -ти (as well as -чь and now extinct -чи) are in free variation, dictated by rhythm, rhyme and meter:

Но ка́к / проне́сть / мне э́/тот во́/рох
Призна́/ний че́/рез ва́ш / поро́г?

Here, the iamb (two-syllable foot with the stress on the last syllable) requires пронесть to be a two-syllable oxytone (a word with the stress on the last syllable).

Дай к тебе́ нам, / по тебе́ нам, / мать, ступа́ти
В час вече́рний, / на моско́вском, / на Арба́те.

And here, the third paean (four-syllable foot with the stress on the third syllable) requires ступати to be a three-syllable paroxytone (a word with the stress on the penultimate syllable).

So, answering your question, ско́мкати is a poetic variation of the infinitive ско́мкать.

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"you will not allow life to get muffed up"

I would add that it's more specifically "won't let me mess up my life" (don't know if that's obvious from the other explanations).

The less formal meaning of комкать is to do something carelessly, or in a sloppy way, and can also mean to abridge/shorten. So, "throw away" may be a reasonable translation, but that's taking a lot of liberties, of course.

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I would translate Не позволишь жизнь скомкати as "you will not allow life to get muffed up".

You are right.

"Скомкати" is a Church Slavonic form of verb "скомкать", "crumple". Church Slavonic language is used in prayers.

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