Guest poem submitted by Nick Grundy:
(Poem #760) The Name
What is my name to you? 'T will die: a wave that has but rolled to reach with a lone splash a distant beach; or in the timbered night a cry ... 'T will leave a lifeless trace among names on your tablets: the design of an entangled gravestone line in an unfathomable tongue. What is it then? A long-dead past, lost in the rush of madder dreams, upon your soul it will not cast Mnemosyne's pure tender beams. But if some sorrow comes to you, utter my name with sighs, and tell the silence: "Memory is true - there beats a heart wherein I dwell."
Translation by Vladimir Nabokov. --------------- Infuriatingly, I can't find any online resources which carry parts of Nabokov's translation of "Eugene Onegin" - but "The Name" is at least a translation of Pushkin... The obvious advantage those translating from their native tongue have is that they can retain the feel of the original - there's something peculiarly Russian about this, and "timbered night" is a lovely phrase. You can almost smell them, or hear them rustling! Nabokov is, predictably, amusingly nasty about people whose methods of translation he disagrees with. I've appended (an abbreviated) part of a longer essay which you can read at [broken link] http://magazines.enews.com/classic/nabokov080441.html - always assuming you aren't irritated by his style - it's worth it, though, as some of the examples he uses are worryingly believable, and when he describes reading a translation of Gogol's short story "Overcoat" as leaving him "with the impression that I am witnessing a murder and can do nothing to prevent it", you rather know what he means. Then, of course, you remember that another translator of Pushkin - Walter Arndt - called Nabokov's version of "Onegin": "...the sad ritual murder performed for the purposes of an ever more insatiable lexical necrophilia." Perhaps you start to think that it's a strange business, translation. There's also a poem called "On Translation) which he wrote in tetrameter sonnets (like those in Eugene Onegin) to defend his decision to translate the work in free verse. It's at http://www.tetrameter.com/nabokov.htm Nick. [Nabokov on Translation] Three grades of evil can be discerned in the queer world of verbal transmigration. The first, and lesser one, comprises obvious errors due to ignorance or misguided knowledge. This is mere human frailty and thus excusable. The next step to Hell is taken by the translator who intentionally skips words or passages that he does not bother to understand or that might seem obscure or obscene to vaguely imagined readers; he accepts the blank look that his dictionary gives him without any qualms; or subjects scholarship to primness: he is as ready to know less than the author as he is to think he knows better. The third, and worst, degree of turpitude is reached when a masterpiece is planished and patted into such a shape, vilely beautified in such a fashion as to conform to the notions and prejudices of a given public. This is a crime, to be punished by the stocks as plagiarists were in the shoebuckle days. The second, and much more serious, sin of leaving out tricky passages is still excusable when the translator is baffled by them himself; but how contemptible is the smug person who, although quite understanding the sense, fears it might stump a dunce or debauch a dauphin! Instead of nestling in the arms of the great writer, he keeps worrying about the little reader playing in a corner with something dangerous or unclean. Perhaps the most charming example of Victorian modesty that has ever come my way was in an early English translation of "Anna Karenina." Vronsky had asked Anna what was the matter with her. "I am beremenna" (the translator's italics), replied Anna, making the foreign reader wonder what strange and awful Oriental disease that was; all because the translator thought that "I am pregnant" might shock some pure soul, and that a good idea would be to leave the Russian just as it stood. But masking and toning down seem petty sins in comparison with those of the third category; for here he comes strutting and shooting out his bejeweled cuffs, the slick translator who arranges Scheherazade's boudoir according to his own taste and with professional elegance tries to improve the looks of his victims. -- [broken link] http://magazines.enews.com/classic/nabokov080441.html