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  #1  
Unread 09-11-2020, 01:51 AM
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Kevin Rainbow Kevin Rainbow is offline
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Default "Russian Maidens" by G. R. Derzhavin

"Russian Maidens" by G. R. Derzhavin


Teian singer! Hast thou ever
Seen how in the lea Spring-gowned,
Russian maidens dance the Bychok
To the shepherd's svirel's sound?
How with bending heads they glide,
Knock their shoes in harmony,
Calmly hands and gazes guide,
Shoulder-gesturing, charmingly?
How with golden bands the girls'
Milkwhite foreheads bear a glare,
Underneath expensive pearls
Tender breasts breathe lively air?
How through azure veinlets flows
Rosy blood in streams impassioned,
On their cheeks how fiery glows
Every dimple love has fashioned?
Sable eyebrows, falconlike
Glances ever full of sparks,
And sly grins so apt to strike
Lions' souls and eagles' hearts?
If thou saw these beauties thus,
Grecian gals thou'dst no more heed,
And thine Eros, winged by lust,
Would be fast pinned down indeed.


Note:

Teian singer = Anacreon
Bychok - a type of Eastern Slavic folk dance: https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%91... %D0%B5%D1%86)


Edits:

L10 "whitesome" to "milkwhite"
L10 "Foreheads bear a milkwhite glare" to "Milkwhite foreheads bear a glare"
L17 "Brows of sable, falconlike" to "Sable eyebrows, falconlike"
L23 "Thine Eros, on wings of lust," to "And thine Eros, winged by lust "
L3 "Steer" to "Bychok"

Literal prose translation:

Hast thou seen, Teian singer! how in the spring in the meadow the Russian maidens dance the Steer to the svirel of the shepherd? How bending their heads they go, knock with their shoes in harmony, quietly hands and glance guide, and with shoulders speak? How with their golden ribbons white foreheads gleam, under precious pearls tender breasts breathe? How through light blue veinlets flows rosy blood, on cheeks love has cut in fiery little holes? How their eyebrows are sable, a falcon-glance full of sparks, their grins strike lions' souls and eagles' hearts? If thou saw these beautiful lasses, thou wouldst fully forget the Greek gals, and on sensual wings thine Eros would be pinned down.


Original:

Русские девушки

Г.Р. Державин

Зрел ли ты, певец Тииский!
Как в лугу весной бычка
Пляшут девушки российски
Под свирелью пастушка?
Как, склонясь главами, ходят,
Башмаками в лад стучат,
Тихо руки, взор поводят
И плечами говорят?
Как их лентами златыми
Челы белые блестят,
Под жемчугами драгими
Груди нежные дыша́т?
Как сквозь жилки голубые
Льется розовая кровь,
На ланитах огневые
Ямки врезала любовь?
Как их брови соболины,
Полный искр соколий взгляд,
Их усмешка души львины
И орлов сердца разят?
Коль бы видел дев сих красных,
Ты б гречанок позабыл
И на крыльях сладострастных
Твой Эрот прикован был.

.

Last edited by Kevin Rainbow; 09-30-2020 at 01:57 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 09-11-2020, 07:37 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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I'll need more time to formulate any comments or thoughts I may develop down the road, but let me mention a small thing off the bat. I'm not very good at archaic usage, but shouldn't "thou saw" be "thou sawest" for consistency in your chosen diction? Googling shows me, for example, that it's the form used in the King James Bible: "The beast that thou sawest was, and is not" (Revelation 17:8)
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Unread 09-11-2020, 11:42 AM
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Kevin Rainbow Kevin Rainbow is offline
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Quote:
shouldn't "thou saw" be "thou sawest" for consistency in your chosen diction

It depends on what tradition you go by. Originally "-est" wasn't used in the subjunctive, nor in the indicative past tense of strong verbs (Old English: u siehst, u sawe) and you can find many examples of it not being used.

Notice, the below grammar includes both "if thou saw" and "if thou sawest"

https://books.google.ca/books?id=hWc...est%22&f=false

.

Last edited by Kevin Rainbow; 09-11-2020 at 11:44 AM.
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Unread 09-11-2020, 11:47 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Kevin, I don't know why you chose archaic diction for this, but even if Derzhavin wrote in it (and I don't know whether he did, because I don't read Russian), you might want to reconsider it for the sake of your readers, who tend to find it off-putting. If I were doing this, I would probably choose a more neutral diction. Likewise, "gals" stands out as more modern slang, which seems jarring in the context. "Girls" would fit the meter fine. I see that you are writing in anacreontics, which fits the subject and seems suitable for describing a dance. But in the next to last line, "Eros" in English is pronounced with the stress on the first syllable, which throws your meter off. I did not think "whitesome glare" sounded accurate or appealing.

Susan
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Unread 09-11-2020, 02:18 PM
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Kevin Rainbow Kevin Rainbow is offline
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Thanks for your thoughts, Susan.

Quote:
Kevin, I don't know why you chose archaic diction for this, but even if Derzhavin wrote in it (and I don't know whether he did, because I don't read Russian), you might want to reconsider it for the sake of your readers, who tend to find it off-putting.
I don't think only modern diction would be appropriate, considering the time, style and some of the word-forms used in this.

I think if people experience some "archaic" diction more and learn to appreciate it, they will have less negative bias and/or discomfort when encountering it. After all "archaic" encompasses a massive subsection of the language, especially the native germanic subsection. What is the point of boycotting a major part of our own language? It only results in less of a "tongue" to speak with.


Quote:
Likewise, "gals" stands out as more modern slang, which seems jarring in the context. "Girls" would fit the meter fine.
I agree, but I didn't want to repeat the word "girls" after using it only a few seconds earlier. There aren't many other appropriate one-syllable words. I may change it to "maids" or "fairs" (i.e members of the fair sex).


Quote:
But in the next to last line, "Eros" in English is pronounced with the stress on the first syllable, which throws your meter off. I did not think "whitesome glare" sounded accurate or appealing.
Yes, I couldn't find a better way to handle the wording. An exception to the meter seemed the less of the evils. Unfortunately in a meter like this an exception is more noticeable, but I think it is the only exception in the meter.

As far as "whitesome", this is to avoid using a word like "snowy" or "milky" . It seems English doesn't have a two syllable word for simply saying "white". "Whitesome" was the best I could come up with.
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Unread 09-11-2020, 03:59 PM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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I'm not sure what your objection to "milky" or "snowy" is, which both strike me as at least better than "whitesome," but maybe try "frosty" or "off-white" or "ivory" (eliding the middle syllable) or "pallid"? A shame that you use "pearls" immediately after, since "pearly" would be nice.
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Unread 09-11-2020, 05:23 PM
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Kevin Rainbow Kevin Rainbow is offline
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The problem with words like that is that they inject metaphors that are not in the original. Snowy, frosty, ivory, milky inevitably of course bring to mind snow, frost (not very appropriate for Spring), ivory or milk, as well as sometimes connotations that come along with those, instead of just indicating whiteness and gleam/glare. But if they are better than the nonce word "whitesome", I will probably go for "milkwhite" which is not as metaphoric because the second word limits it more specifically to the shade/hue.

.

Last edited by Kevin Rainbow; 09-11-2020 at 05:47 PM.
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Unread 09-11-2020, 05:51 PM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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I'm not sure I agree that calling it "milky" would invoke a milk metaphor, but I do see your point.

Interestingly, Julie's translation of the Sor Juana sonnet also involved praising a woman for having a white forehead. I'm tempted to think that whiteness wasn't really the turn-on, but it just was a stand-in for loveliness when it comes to foreheads (by the standard of the day and culture the poet operated in ). So you might venture to substitute any complimentary adjective one might apply to a woman's forehead, even if it doesn't involve whiteness per se. Is the idea of whiteness really crucial here to convey the thought/emotion that the line is all about?
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Unread 09-12-2020, 11:59 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Kevin, I was also implying that "glare" is the wrong word for the context. It has negative overtones that I feel sure you don't wish to convey. Also, is it the foreheads that are gleaming or the golden ribbons on the foreheads? You could do something like

How with golden bands the girls'
Milk-white foreheads glisten bright,
Underneath expensive pearls
Tender breasts breathe air and light?

A simple solution for the problem of "Eros" would be something like this:

Then your Eros, winged by lust,


Susan
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Unread 09-12-2020, 12:39 PM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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I'm supposed to be working on something else right now. Need a break, though, so here I am.

Hey, Kevin!

The archaisms didn't bother me too much, since the apostrophe to Anacreon by a highfalutin oblique reference already sets a non-colloquial tone. It does definitely put a distance between the modern reader and the immediacy of the action being described, though.

Putting a stanza break after each quatrain would help this to feel more dancelike.

I wanted to see the dance, so I searched for "бычок youtube" and came up with a bunch of children's cartoons about a cow or bull or steer or calf or heifer. I had thought your "steer" had something to do with steering a vehicle of some sort, but I guess not. It seems odd for a woman's dance to be named for a castrated young male bovine. And it's hard for a non-Russian speaker to Google. Maybe include the transliterated name of the dance in a note.

"Knock" in English has both a connotation of percussive sound (as when one knocks on a door) and of things colliding against each other. So I was picturing women in wooden shoes knocking their own against the other dancers'. Which is possible, I guess. But the author might simply mean that this lively dance involves foot-stamping, as many folk-dances do, or maybe he's referring to the hypnotic sound of many people doing the same steps on the beat of the music. (I also wonder whether something percussive can be done "in harmony," which suggests different tones making a chord--more like "in synchrony," I should think. But maybe that's too technical.)

Something to consider. And perhaps reject. But I thought I'd bring it up.

I also wonder what's up with the breathing breasts. Are they bare-breasted? That seems unlikely. Maybe the reference to breathing breasts is simply meant to show that the dancers are panting with exertion, and that this draws attention to the physical attributes of their chests. (I'm pretty sure that the mouth-like, gasping nipples I'm picturing are not the visual I'm supposed to have.)

At first I thought "brows" meant "foreheads," and I was surprised to hear these described as "sable" after the description of the blue veinlets and rosy blood showing through the cheeks' white skin; only the crib clarified that these are eyebrows. So I would suggest rewording

Quote:
Brows of sable, falconlike
Glances ever full of sparks,
as

Quote:
Sable eyebrows, falcon-like
Glances ever full of sparks,
By the way, I can't quite figure out the structure of that question, or of the question that comes before it.

Good use of "dimple"!

There are a few lines that use an unaccented syllable in the first position, which is fine, I think, and I would recommend doing that in the Eros line to help the reader stay on the beat.

[Cross-posted with Susan--her suggestion about the Eros line is better than mine. I also like her comments on "glare."]

General musings on white foreheads:

Roger, was actually the Garcilaso and Gngora sonnets, not Sor Juana's, that followed the stereotypical start-at-the-top checklist for describing a beautiful woman. (Golden hair? Check. White forehead? Check. Rosy cheeks and lips? Check. Slender, white neck? Check. Yep, she's purty.) Sor Juana follows that poetic recipe in at least two other poems, but not in this sonnet.

I strongly suspect that the white forehead references in such stylized literary portraits are not due to some sort of forehead fetish, but are mostly just convenient metonymy to connote "she has white skin" as soon as possible.

(However, I also note that if someone's forehead is white, she probably doesn't have an acne problem. Or syphilis. Although the poetic recipe predates syphilis in Europe.)

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 09-12-2020 at 12:42 PM.
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