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Old 08-06-2018, 08:40 PM
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Kevin Rainbow Kevin Rainbow is offline
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Default Pushkin's The Nightingale and the Rose


The Nightingale and the Rose

In silent gardens in the Spring the eastern Nightingale oft goes
In hovering mists of night to sing such precious praises o'er the rose.
But be she ne'er so elegant, the rose such notes shant feel nor hark;
She lazes in the amorous hymn and sways uncertain in the dark.
Art thou not singing to cold beauty from all thy stirring passions' fire?
Wake up, O Poet, is this truly that unto which thou wouldst aspire?
She is not harking anydeal. While she is blooming, thou'rt adoring.
A poet's presence she shant feel. While thou art calling, she's ignoring.


Original:

СОЛОВЕЙ И РОЗА

В безмолвии садов, весной, во мгле ночей,
Поет над розою восточный соловей.
Но роза милая не чувствует, не внемлет,
И под влюбленный гимн колеблется и дремлет.
Не так ли ты поешь для хладной красоты?
Опомнись, о поэт, к чему стремишься ты?
Она не слушает, не чувствует поэта;
Глядишь она цветет; взываешь нет ответа.



Literal Prose Translation:

In the silence of the gardens, in Spring, in the haze of night, the eastern Nightingale sings over the rose. But the pleasant rose doesn't feel, doesn't listen, and under the amorous hymn sways and dozes. Is it not so, that you sing for cold beauty? Come to your senses, O poet, towards what are you aspiring? She doesn't hear, doesn't feel a poet; you look - she blooms; you call - there's no answer.
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Old 08-06-2018, 09:23 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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Hi Kevin,

As far as I can tell, your prose crib is pretty accurate. It looks like Pushkin is writing rhymed thirteen-syllable couplets here, so I can understand your desire to go for long rhymed lines. But your verses seem to have a lot of padding in them. I think you might do better to see how thirteen-syllable lines sound in English, keep your rhymes if you like and remove some of the padding. I'd also prefer less archaic diction in the English.

Cheers,
John
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Old 08-06-2018, 09:33 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is online now
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Hi Kevin,

I'm very happy to see Puskhin here: an early favorite of mine from undergraduate. Though I took 2 years of Russian, it's all gone now, so I can't make much of the original besides your crib. And the more people posting translations, the better.

I have to say, as it stands I enjoy the language of your crib much more than the poem. First, I think your choice of octameters over (what in my poor reading of the original I take to be) alexandrines gives you too much wiggle room and loses some of the condensed force that Russian has (as an inflected language).

For instance, Pushkin's wonderful final line:
Глядишь она цветет; взываешь нет ответа.
Your crib takes it as:
you look - she blooms; you call - there's no answer.
I think you could even lose the "there's" (though I know Russian often elides the copulative where English would use it)

I think that crib is forceful, and what a wonderful ending.

What you have as the last line:
A poet's presence she shant feel. While thou art calling, she's ignoring.
First, it's pulling in from the previous line the first half, so it lacks the concision, and it puts the "looking/blooming" in a different order, which I don't like.

Then the equivalent of the last line has "ignoring," which I think is problematic. I'm only going off of your crib, but Pushkin says "the pleasant rose doesn't feel, doesn't listen," and I guess I'm taking that as a critique of our desire to impute feelings to a rose. It merely doesn't feel. The poet "cries out" and "no answer" offers no agency. Even "she's blooming" is just the natural order; it takes no agency.

So, I think the first thing to do is to try to cut these octameters down to at least hexameters.

But really, the problem for me is that the poem isn't attempting to be a contemporary translation. Which is fine if you are trying to make a museum piece. But the poetic diction of "oft" "o'er" "ne'er" "shant" and, most deadly to a contemporary poem (unless you're really channelling KJB) "thou." Again, you can take this or leave this. But this really makes dates the piece as Georgian at best.

EDIT: John's saying they are 13-syllable lines instead of Alexandrines. I'd suggest trying to get down to Alexandrines, though. I don't think many good English poems go past hex. Ideally, I'd even suggest you try to do pentameter, though I imagine that'd be very hard. But Sarah Ruden did it for the Aenied and Emily Wilson for the Odyssey, and those were dactylic hexameters, so I think you can.
In the silence of the gardens, in Spring, in the haze
of night, the eastern Nightingale sings over
the rose. But the pleasant rose doesn't feel,
doesn't listen, and under the amorous hymn
sways and dozes. Is it not so, that you sing
for cold beauty? Come to your senses, O poet,
towards what are you aspiring? She doesn't hear,
doesn't feel a poet; you look - she blooms;
you call - there's no answer.
In fact...your crib isn't over by many at all, lineated with roughly 5 beats per line.

Last edited by Andrew Szilvasy; 08-06-2018 at 09:38 PM.
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Old 08-06-2018, 10:28 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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Hi Kevin,

Yes, like Andrew I prefer your crib to your final text. I'm thinking these are thirteen-syllable lines (if I'm counting correctly), but perhaps it's alexandrines with feminine endings throughout. A little odd, in French terms, but maybe less odd than thirteen-syllable lines per se. I also think Andrew's right that straight alexandrines or pentameter in English makes sense as the way to go - and I still like that it would remove a lot of your padding here.

Cheers,
John
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Old 08-08-2018, 02:48 AM
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Kevin Rainbow Kevin Rainbow is offline
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Thanks for your observations, John and Andrew.


Consider that this translation can be presented in shorter lines by dividing the lines -

In silent gardens in the Spring
the eastern Nightingale oft goes
In hovering mists of night to sing
such precious praises o'er the rose.


I did attempt shorter couplets at first, but without success. One of the main reasons is the first couplet. There is quite a lot to refer to in that one couplet - silence, gardens, spring, the mist/haze, the night, the eastern nightingale, its singing and the rose . It is almost impossible to cover all of that in a shorter-lined English couplet. When you shorten the couplet, it drastically reduces the ability to maintain a good sentence structure, good meter and rhyme that doesn't sound forced and awkward; and potentially pressures one to try to find a shortcut with the core language of the poem, which is something I don't like in translation. Generally I believe it is better to have more room than not enough to translate in. I would rather have some padding, than not enough room to fit the poem comfortably into the English.



Quote:
It looks like Pushkin is writing rhymed thirteen-syllable couplets here
I find thirteen syllables in the second couplet and the last couplet, but twelve in the other lines. The thirteenth syllables in the thirteen syllable lines I believe are extrametrical syllables.


Quote:
Then the equivalent of the last line has "ignoring," which I think is problematic. I'm only going off of your crib, but Pushkin says "the pleasant rose doesn't feel, doesn't listen," and I guess I'm taking that as a critique of our desire to impute feelings to a rose. It merely doesn't feel. The poet "cries out" and "no answer" offers no agency. Even "she's blooming" is just the natural order; it takes no agency.
I'm not sure I see it that way. After all the loving, serenading, and being called upon by the poet, the beloved gives no answer back - how can that not be a form ignoring on the rose's part? You may be sticking to the literal meaning too much, instead of considering how the rose represent a poet's - or the poet's - audience/beloved/lady.


Quote:
In fact...your crib isn't over by many at all, lineated with roughly 5 beats per line.

Of course, the crib is prose or free verse which can fit into almost anything. It is a completely different "game" when you need flexibility-room not just for good sentence-structure, but smoothflowing meter, and rhymes in order to prevent them from being awkward and forced.


.

Last edited by Kevin Rainbow; 08-08-2018 at 03:21 AM.
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Old 08-13-2018, 12:21 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Kevin, I have to concur with the others: both your archaic language and the length of the lines in this translation are not to my taste. If I were doing it, I would use contemporary language that would not call attention to itself, and I would shorten the lines to give them more impact. In English, very few metrical poems use extremely long lines. There's a good reason for that. The number of monosyllabic words in English allows the content of most other languages to be boiled down to fewer syllables, not more, and readers are not used to long lines, so those tend to feel tedious. There is no reason not to try a different version and see which you like better. You don't have to discard this version. But few journal editors are going to find the language to their taste, I would guess.

Susan
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Old 08-13-2018, 11:53 PM
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Kevin Rainbow Kevin Rainbow is offline
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I respect your point about "contemporary vs archaic", but can't help but feel it is somewhat too casually pattered by some folks.

Almost everything now a days is written in ultramodern English anyway, so the demand is being satisfied well enough by others. There always were and always will be some singers and writers whose literary dialect preserves and incorporates less common words as well. What I wish to do is use the most powerful words - not the most modern words - as powerfully as I possibly can.

Quote:
The number of monosyllabic words in English allows the content of most other languages to be boiled down to fewer syllables, not more, and readers are not used to long lines, so those tend to feel tedious. There is no reason not to try a different version and see which you like better.
Sometimes, but sometimes not. English generally has more pronoun-usage, more prepositions, more periphrasis, and plenty of borrowings to make sure we are not left only to our less-syllabled native English words. And we use articles, unlike Russian. So the syllables can definitely add up on the English side. A good example is the first couplet of this poem, which as I mentioned earlier, is one of the main reasons for not going with shorter lines.

В безмолвии садов, весной, во мгле ночей (12 syllables)
In the silence of the gardens, in Spring, in the haze of night (15 syllables)

Поет над розою восточный соловей. (12 syllables)
Sings over the rose the eastern nightingale (11 syllables)

To manage to get both of these lines into twelve or less syllables, with meter and rhyme, is virtually impossible without sacrificing good English, or sacrificing the core wording and meaning of the lines.

.

Last edited by Kevin Rainbow; 08-14-2018 at 12:20 AM.
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