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Unread 12-29-2019, 10:30 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
Join Date: May 2007
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 4,365
Default Akhmatova, De Profundis

De Profundis

De profundis…My generation
has licked no honey. There are just
winds howling through a desolation
and thoughts of those who now are dust.

What we would do was not yet done.
Our hours of toil, as planned, had failed
before the watershed was won,
before the mountain had been scaled,

before our fiery flower grew.
We just had time to take a breath,
and then the World Wars, One and Two,
lit our abominable path.

. . . . .

Translation for comparison

De profundis… My generation
Had been fed without honey. Aft that
Just a wind sings in gloomy recession,
And remembrance of them who is dead.

Our business have never been finished,
Our time had been marked by the end;
‘Till the watershed of our wishing,
‘Till the spring’s top, that might be so grand,

‘Till the blooming with fiery passion –
There was distance in only one breath…
By two wars, my generation,
Had been lighted your awful path.

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver

. . . . .


De profundis... Мое поколение
Мало меду вкусило. И вот
Только ветер гудит в отдаленье,
Только память о мертвых поет.

Наше было не кончено дело,
Наши были часы сочтены,
До желанного водораздела,
До вершины великой весны

До неистового цветенья
Оставалось лишь раз вздохнуть...
Две войны, мое поколенье,
Освещали твой страшный путь.
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Unread 01-23-2020, 06:02 PM
Kevin Rainbow's Avatar
Kevin Rainbow Kevin Rainbow is offline
Join Date: Jan 2014
Location: Regina, SK; Canada
Posts: 144

Interesting translation.

I feel like you have definitely taken too many liberties here. The most obvious examples for me are -

вкусило - "(has) tasted" not "licked" - a big difference in terms of depth of meaning and idiom.

Мало means "little" or "not enough", not "none (of)".

"отдаленье" has to do with distance/remoteness, not really "desolation". The indefinite article before desolation doesn't make sense to me, and doesn't sound idiomatically correct. When do English speakers ever usually say "a desolation"?

"What we would do was not yet done"

I don't think "would" works here because it suggests the thing that was being done is hypothetical, instead of just unfinished (не кончено).

"Our hours of toil, as planned, had failed"

The text simply says "Our hours were numbered". I don't see how you think this comes very close to that. "Of toil" creates a specification, and thereby an exclusion of other meanings which "hours" can have or imply. "As planned, had failed" - they planned to fail? You are injecting too much additional and subjective information.

before the mountain had been scaled
До вершины великой весны

вершинa means "peak", "top", of a mountain or anything. I am not sure why you omitted (in meaning/translation) "великой весны". In the context of those words, I don't think "mountain" as an accurate translation. "The peak/top/height of a great spring".

It is nice to have the meter and rhyme working, but the meanings of the text need to remain intact too. It is a difficult task.


Last edited by Kevin Rainbow; 01-23-2020 at 06:05 PM.
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