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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 offline
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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 offline
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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 offline
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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 offline
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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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Old 09-21-2018, 03:46 PM
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AZ Foreman AZ Foreman is offline
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I don't particularly have a problem with the use of the traditional English poetic register, and I actually find the modern distaste for it to be somewhat peculiar. If you tell a reader that a polished Elizabethan sonnet they like was actually written last week, quite often they suddenly like it less and for no reason having to do with the actual language of the poem so much as their prejudices about what kind of language is to be expected from one's own contemporaries. Lines like "I will not come anear / Thy dismal jaws for many a splendid year" were good enough for Edna St. Vincent Millay writing in 1939, and they don't stop being good just because it's taboo to write that way now. That kind of language now calls a lot of attention to itself, sure. But I see no reason why you can't call attention to yourself and at the same time undermine the judgments that motivate that attention.

Not for nothing, but I would be deeply shocked to learn that Pushkin himself ever used forms like хладный or розою anywhere outside of a poem anymore than Millay would have used "thou" when ordering travel tickets. Forms like these were (and had been for some time) restricted to poetic and liturgical diction when Pushkin wrote this poem (although розою also was found in non-standard dialects, as it occasionally still is. Ditto for "thou" in English.) This kind of thing was normal in Russian poetry in Pushkin's time. (If холодный were used in this context, it might have felt almost shockingly plainspoken in a way that even Pushkin wouldn't have tried in a lyric like this). It is also common in our time to a degree, since in modern Russian, the traditional poetic register has not been subjected to a kneejerk taboo like in Modern English.

Pushkin's linguistic sensibilities were not that of a modern English-speaker, and I see no reason why translators should necessarily be required to pretend otherwise. No reason to say you can't or shouldn't do it in modern English, as a way of bringing over some of the common linguistic attitudes held by Pushkin and many of his contemporaries.

But you should be prepared to work uphill for a positive response.

Use of what is now labeled archaic diction in 21st century English is a failure to be fashionable and normative. So don't be surprised if you get a cold reception from people who want their poetry to (in this one respect at least) conform to fashion and norm. Every successful work of art requires productive engagement with audience expectations. Your audience is a modern Anglophone one. Whatever you (or I) may think of the common linguistic prejudices and language ideologies of modern literate English speakers, I do not think that these prejudices are best dealt with by simply acting as if they didn't exist.

All that said, I still don't think this translation succeeds very well even on its own terms. That is for two reasons. The first is that the use of the traditional English poetic register is a bit awkwardly handled. It feels like overkill, like you're trying very hard to use the most salient features of the poetic register without really being at home with them. Ne'er and o'er and the like don't bother me a bit. But shant at the end really feels like it's being used as a sort of clumsy substitute for won't simply because the former is less current in speech. I would think that "A poet's presence she'll not feel" or "A poet's presence she feels not" would do the same job just fine. (And since чувствует is an imperfective verb, any future form there is probably unnecessary anyway and doesn't seem to be doing much worth your while.) Pushkin's diction is not *quite* so poeticizing as your translation seems to want to imply. The final "взываешь — нет ответа" is really quite direct and plainspoken. "Нет ответа" is the kind of thing I'd imagine Pushkin really saying when nobody comes to answer the door when he knocks.

If you're going to bring the traditional poetic register into your toolkit, do that. I encourage it. But be savvy about it. See what you can do with it.

Pushkin is noteworthy (though hardly unique) for how he liked to blend the "high" and "low" in ways that for a poet of Derzhavin's, let alone Lomonosov's, generation would have seemed downright screwy. So why not bring that over into English? Why not use "won't" and "can't" and "come on" alongside things like "hark" and "thou." Switch around among registers, synthesize them. Use the translation of Pushkin to show what the poetic register can still be made to do when married to the patterns of 21st century educated English speech. It'd be very out of keeping with modern Anglophone sensibilities, and very reminiscent of what Russian poets have often excelled at. Pushkin's accomplishment in the context of his time was in contributing to the elevation of the language of contemporary (aristocratic, and highly refined/gallicized) speech into poetic possibility. But I see no reason why a translation of him can't be made to do the opposite, using a marriage of "living speech" and the old poetic register to show the possibilities of the latter in an age when the possibilities of the former are (unlike in Pushkin's time and place) already taken for granted.

The other problem I have is that the translation is just extremely inflated by comparison with the Russian. The final three lines of your English really seem like you could do a lot better. The addition of "stirring passions' fire" is a commonplace that don't seem to me to be doing anything except filling out an inexplicably long metrical line, and also forcing the light implicit metaphor of Pushkin's хладная красота into heavily explicit banality. Why would the Rose be "uncertain" in the dark when she hasn't any consciousness or sensibility at all, certain or otherwise? The sway of uncertainty is very different from the kind of swaying the rose is supposed to be doing. (And I don't think that дремлет is well-served by "lazes." "Dozes" or "slumbers" would do much better.)

You have some fine phrases here: "Art thou not singing to cold beauty" is good and does actually sound a bit like Pushkin. "Hark" is perfectly fine given the tone of внемлет. But I would suggest tightening this stuff up a lot more.

Last edited by AZ Foreman; 09-22-2018 at 02:10 AM.
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Old 09-24-2018, 02:17 PM
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Kevin Rainbow Kevin Rainbow is offline
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Thanks for your comments. It is refreshing to hear you don't have a problem with the diction in and of itself. You make some excellent points.

Right away I can agree with you about "lazes"; indeed, "dozes" or "drowses" would be better.



Quote:
Why would the Rose be "uncertain" in the dark when she hasn't any consciousness or sensibility at all, certain or otherwise? The sway of uncertainty is very different from the kind of swaying the rose is supposed to be doing.
I'm not sure I agree with you here. "Uncertain" is not limited to the context of consciousness or sensibility; it can refer to other aspects, as when we say the weather is "uncertain" or the status of something is "uncertain". To me the second couplet has somewhat of a contrast between the certainty of the rose not feeling, with the uncertainty of some of its nature. The tone is definite/certain that the rose doesn't feel or hear (hence "shant" seems more appropriate). There is a certainty that the rose doesn't feel/hear, but there is some uncertainty in terms of why it is dozing and swaying in the hymn despite not feeling or hearing anything of it.

Quote:
Pushkin's diction is not *quite* so poeticizing as your translation seems to want to imply.
But my style of translation is not trying say Pushkin's style is as poeticizing; it is simply using one style that works better in English and English poetry to translate a poem in a (different) style that works better in Russian and Russian poetry. When you have meter and rhyme to deal with too, it is a completely different game. I can't fill the English meter by using Russian conciseness that would result in using too few words/syllables in the translation. Yea, ideally the poem could end with "(there's) no answer" for "Нет ответа". But the bigger picture of the poem needing to accomplish its meter and rhyme rule that out. It can be done in a literal prose translation , but it is virtually impossible to do it effectively in English poetic form.

Last edited by Kevin Rainbow; 09-24-2018 at 02:30 PM.
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