The Translator Translated: Zukovskij's "Svetlana" and Bowring's "Catherine" (1)
Ober, Kenneth H., Ober, Warren U., Germano-Slavica
One of the finest of the many European translations, imitations, or adaptations of Gottfried August Bfirger's ballad "Lenore" (1773) (2) is "Svetlana" (1808-12), by Vasilij Andreevic Zukovskij (1783-1852), who has been described as "the most original translator in world literature." (3) In "Svetlana," the second of his three versions of Burger's ballad, Zukovskij's "efforts to give poetic form to a national Russian theme met with their greatest Success." (4)
In 1823 Zukovskij's "Svetlana" was expertly translated into English as "Catherine" by (Sir) John Bowring (1792-1872), who changed the name, as he explained to his English readers, because the word "Svaetlana does not easily accommodate itself to our organs of sense." (5) Bowring, all but ignored today, perhaps came as close as any nineteenth-century Englishman to being a complete Renaissance man. At various times he translated works from Russian, Gennan, Spanish, Serbian, Hungarian, Polish, Czech, and other languages, wrote a number of hymns including the enduring "In the cross of Christ I glory," edited the Westminster Review, was Jeremy Bentham's intimate friend and executor, contributed to various leading journals, was in demand as a lecturer, acted as "secretary to the commission for inspecting the accounts of the United Kingdom," served as a Member of Parliament, was Britain's "plenipotentiary to China, and governor, commander-in-chief, and vice-admiral of Hong Kong and its dependencies, as well as chief superintendent of trade in China." (6) Bowring notes in his autobiography that in his translations of Russian poetry he gave "the first specimens ever presented in English to the public." (7) With pardonable pride he presented to the Tsar the second of his two volumes of Specimens of the Russian Poets, and Alexander in appreciation sent Bowring "a large amethyst ring surrounded with diamonds." (8)
It will be our purpose here to consider Zukovskij's "Svetlana" in the context of its importance to Russian literature, to juxtapose Bowring's "Catherine" with "Svetlana," and to compare the English translation with the "original" Russian translation.
By the time Bowring published his translation of Zukovskij's "Svetlana," the English public, having long enjoyed the folk-ballad "Sweet William's Ghost," (9) was also thoroughly familiar with Burger's "Lenore." William Taylor's translation of "Lenore," with its striking refrain, "Tramp, tramp, across the land they speed; / Splash, splash, across the sea," had appeared in March 1796 in the Monthly Magazine and established itself as the finest of several versions of "Lenore" in English appearing at about the same time. (10) (One of the other translations was that of Walter Scott, who apologized to Taylor for pre-empting Taylor's refrain for his own version, entitled "William and Helen," and yet another was that of J. T. Stanley, which contained illustrations designed by William Blake.) (11)
In Burger's ballad the heroine, afflicted by disturbing dreams, waits in vain for the return of her beloved Wilhelm from the wars. It seems that all the soldiers, old and young, have returned to their homes and loved ones--all, that is, except Wilhelm. In her despair Lenore, to the horror of her mother fluttering helplessly at her side, laments the loss of Wilhelm and the mercilessness of God ("Bei Gott ist kein Erbarmen."). Her mother then attempts to shield her from her blasphemy:
"Hilt, Gott, hilf! Geh' nicht in's Gericht Mit deinem armen Kinde! Sie weiss nicht, was die Zunge spricht. Behalt' ihr nicht die Sunde! Ach, Kind, vergiss dein irdisch Leid, Und denk' an Gotl und Seligkeit! So wird doch deiner Seelen Der Brautigam nicht fehlen."-- "O Mutter! Was ist Seligkeit? O Mutter! Was ist Holle? Bei ihm, bei ihm ist Seligkeit, Und ohne Wilhelm Holle!-Lisch aus, mein Licht, auf ewig aus! Stirb hin! stirb hin in Nacht und Graus! Ohn' ihn mag ich auf Erden, Mag don nicht selig werden."-- (12)
To Lenore's unspeakable joy, Wilhelm soon arrives at her door, sweeps her onto his steed, and promises to take her to their bridal bed. After an interminable ride, they arrive at their destination, but the tombstones shining in the moonlight tell Lenore that the bridal bed in which she will be forever united with Wilhelm--who is now revealed as a skeleton is their grave. A literal-minded and legalistic Providence has overheard Lenore's bitter outcries and has granted her wish to be reunited with Wilhelm. As the poem ends, Lenore struggles between life and death, and ghosts dance and howl:
Lenorens Herz, mit Beben, Rang zwischen Tod und Leben. Nun tanzten wohl bei Mondenglanz, Rund um herum im Kreise, Die Geisler einen Kettentanz, Und heulten diese Weise: "Geduld! Geduld! Wenn's Herz auch bricht! Mil Gott im Himmel hadre nicht! Des Leibes bist du ledig; Gott sei der Seele gnadig!" (13)
Zukovskij, like his fellow Romantics in England, was fascinated by Burger's poem and in 1808 reworked it as a Russian ballad, retaining "the subject and general sense" of "Lenore" but naming his heroine "Ljudmila" and placing the action in a Russian setting. Although seemingly uncomfortable with Burger's brutal denouement, Zukovskij goes beyond Burger in depicting directly the death of his heroine:
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (14)
Zukovskij, says Irina Semenko, "departs from his original in his conception of the character of his heroine, whom he transforms from a hardy, rather stern peasant girl into a tender, gentle maiden.... Lyudmila's despair and fidelity are so ennobled that the moralistic 'retribution' to which she is subjected appears unjust.... In 'Lyudmila' (to a higher degree than in Burger's 'Lenore') we find the impulse which leads to the idealized interpretation of virtually the same subject in the ballad 'Svetlana."' (15)
Having rewritten Burger's ballad twice, Zukovskij, as it were in penance, returns to it in 1831 to produce a relatively exact translation. We quote here, for purposes of comparison with Burger's poem, the concluding lines of Zukovskij's 1831 version, "Lenora":
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (16)
"Svetlana," on which Zukovskij worked from 1808 to 1812 and which he presented as a wedding gift to his niece Aleksandra Andreevna Protasova--thereafter known as "Svetlana"--(17) is indeed an idealized interpretation of the same subject, but at the same time its denouement is a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek variant of the hackneyed horror-story climax in which the central figure awakes to find that the horrors in which he is enmeshed are only a bad dream.
As Zukovskij's poem opens, it is Epiphany Eve, and a group of girls are engaged in various fortune-telling rituals. But Svetlana refuses to join in the fun:
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (18)
Finally, however, Svetlana's friends prevail upon her to take part in their ceremonies:
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (19)
Upon performing the prescribed rites, Svetlana hears her door-lock rattle, sees the reflection of blazing eyes in the mirror, and hears her lover whisper:
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (20)
Her bridegroom takes her into his sled, and the eager horses carry them away over the steppes to the church where the wedding party supposedly awaits their arrival for the marriage ceremony to begin. But inexplicably Svetlana's lover becomes "pale and gloomy" as they dash by a church containing a black coffin surrounded by mourners, encounter a harbinger of sorrow in the shape of a raven, and finally arrive at an isolated hut in the midst of a snowstorm. Svetlana's bridegroom, with his sled and horses, disappears and leaves her to enter the hut alone. Inside she finds a coffin, at the foot of which is an icon of Jesus Christ. Her first action in the hut is to kneel before the image and to pray to the Saviour. Then, in the deathly silence, she perceives a snow-white dove, which circles over her, settles on her breast, and gently embraces her with its wings. The dove thus appears, in association with the icon of Christ, shortly after the manifestation of the raven. Zukovskij's handling of the images of the raven and the dove is especially effective: it is clear from the sequence that the raven of sorrow is to be expelled from Svetlana's world by the dove of peace--and of the Holy Ghost.
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (21)
Svetlana then once again finds herself in front of the mirror, where she fell asleep after beginning the ritual. She fears that the dream portends sorrow for her. But in the distance she hears sleigh bells, and the light of dawn reveals a horse-drawn sled approaching in a cloud of snow. It is Svetlana's beloved, alive and faithful through the long separation, arriving to make her his own. The poet then enters in propria persona to address (both) Svetlana(s):
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (22)
To an expectant reading public conditioned by the gruesome climax of Burger's "Lenore," Zukovskij's conclusion may seem something of a cheat or at least an anti-climax. Upon recovering from the momentary resentment at being tricked, however, the reader realizes that at bottom the poet is sincere. While perhaps relishing, at the reader's expense, the joke of the dream-cliche, Zukovskij in this graceful offering to his niece on the occasion of her marriage is seriously proposing an alternative to the bitter and resentful heroine and the petty and vengeful Deity of Burger's poem. Svetlana's prayer before the image of Christ is answered when the dove, now emblematic of the Holy Spirit, shields her from the "undead" corpse of her lover and saves her from Lenore's fate. "In 'Svetlana,'" as Semenko has observed, "the author's attitude toward his subject is not a simple one. He is simultaneously the detached onlooker, the sympathizer, and the sage in whose voice there is a trace of a scarcely perceptible amusement at the excessive naivete of his sentimental heroine," Zukovskij, however, remains the consciously nationalistic poet who portrays "his heroine as a characteristic type of national Russian girl, in whom the qualities he highlights are, above all, gentleness, fidelity, and resignation...." The poem is, moreover, characterized by a strain of unabashed and robust sentimentalism. (23)
While finally giving his essentially serious treatment of the theme of the revenant and the innocent lover a light-hearted overlay, Zukovskij in "Svetlana" is at the same time "striving to embody in poetry the national Russian theme [and] the search for folk character." (24) The compendium of Russian Epiphany Eve rituals, customs, and games provided in the opening stanzas, for example, is wholly authentic. (25) In addition, as Semenko has pointed out in her analysis of "Svetlana,"
The distinguishing features of Russian national couleur locale were brought together in Zhukovsky's work. He was the first to offer a sort of anthology of these features, stylized, perhaps, but nevertheless expressive: winter, snow, horsedrawn sleighs with their bright harness and jingling bells (the famous image of the troika, though here as yet unnamed); fortune-telling, icons, peasant huts; then snow again, the winter road, the bells, the sleigh, and a hint at a "Russian wedding." (26)
Moreover, the opening formula, "Once on Epiphany Eve," is typical of the Russian folktale, and (says Semenko) "the episode in the hut, when the heroine finds herself alone with the threatening corpse, was evidently suggested by a Russian folktale from the North, in which a girl in a similar situation is helped by a cock...." (27) The conversion of the cock into the dove of the Holy Ghost is, of course, Zukovskij's own inspiration. Not merely in his characterization of his heroine, his use of folk customs, superstitions, and rituals, and his emphasis on local colour, but also in his conscious modelling of his ballad on the Russian popular folktale, then, Zukovskij reveals in "Svetlana" his awareness that he is shaping for his national literature a new genre: the art ballad, based on the ballad of Western literature and on native Russian folk elements and style.
During 1819-20 John Bowring travelled extensively on the Continent, visiting Spain, France, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, and Russia. Immediately after his return in 1820 from his travels in Russia he published his first volume of Specimens of the Russian Poets. Then, in 1822, intercepted in Calais on his way home from a visit in France, Bowring was imprisoned for six weeks at Boulogne by the French authorities, who suspected him of association with the anti-Bourbon liberals. On the urgent demand of Canning, the British foreign minister, that he be either tried or set free, Bowring was finally released. Upon his return to England he published the second part of his Specimens Of the Russian Poets, which he had written in prison. (28)
Reviewers on both sides of the Atlantic--in the North American Review and the Edinburgh Review--enthusiastically received Bowring's translations from the Russian poets and his translations of Dutch, Spanish, Polish, Serbian, and Hungarian poetry that soon followed.
In a survey of the various volumes of Bowring's translations the Edinburgh Review applauds his efforts to bridge cultures:
The translator is to poetry what the adventurous merchant is to commerce. He circulates the produce of thought, varies our intellectual banquets, teaches us that some accession to our stores may be derived even from those quarters which we had regarded as the most sterile and unpromising, and thus adds another link to the chain of social and kindly feelings which should bind man to his fellows. In this commerce of mind few have laboured more assiduously than Dr Bowring ... The interest of Dr Bowring's earliest work his Specimens of the Russian Poets was in a great measure that arising from surprise from discovering that, in the country which, until the days of Peter the Great, had never made its voice heard among the dynasties of Europe, there had grown up, almost with the suddenness of an exhalation, a poetical literature betraying no marks of its barbaric origin; possessing, in fact, the very qualities which are most commonly found associated with a long-established literature,--light, graceful, equable, rather than startling, either by its beauties or its faults; moral, didactic, tender, or satirical, rather than narrative, martial, or mystical: in short, so little hyperborean in its general aspect, that but for some occasional traits of nationality which give it a certain distinctive and original character, we had great difficulty in believing that any thing so trim and so polished could have been imported from the rough shores of the Don and the Wolga.
The Edinburgh, indeed, laments the fact "that Russia, in borrowing from other countries, did not labour to impart to the materials she imported, a stronger air of nationality--to efface more completely the former die from the coin, and to stamp on it her own image and superscription; and that more use was not made on the whole of her national traditions and historical annals...." From Bowring's Specimens of the Russian Poets the Edinburgh singles out "Catherine," Bowring's translation of Zukovskij's "Svetlana," as an example of what Russian national poetry should be: "The ballad of 'Catherine,' in particular...." says the Edinburgh, "wild and spectral like Burger's 'Lenore,' but national in all its pictures and allusions, scarcely loses by a comparison with its Teutonic prototype...." (29)
In America also Bowring's translations received a favourable response. In a review of his Servian Popular Poetry, the North American Review notes that Bowring's "Russian Anthology," "well received in England," has been republished in the United States. (30) In a felicitous quotation from Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" the North American reviewer underlines the tact that a truly accomplished translator, in addition to being a perceiver, is a creator in his own right. Bowring, according to the reviewer, "everywhere shows himself
'A lover of the meadows and the woods And mountains; and of all that we behold From this green earth; of all the mighty world Of eye and ear, both what they half create And what perceive.'"
"The republic of letters is under lasting obligation to Mr Bowring....." says the reviewer.
He is himself a genuine poet; and when to this highest gilt of genius we add an aptitude for acquiring languages, a knowledge of various European dialects, a quick perception of the poetical images and associations of different countries, and, above all, a remarkable facility in catching the spirit of a foreign author, and making it live and breathe in his own idiom with all its original force and peculiarity, we then have a rare assemblage of qualities, which solve at once the enigma of the translator's success. (31)
In view of Zukovskij's own interpretations and transformations of the English poets--Pope, Dryden, Gray, Goldsmith, Southey, Campbell, Scott, and Byron, for example--it is particularly fascinating to see how he himself fares at the hands of Bowring, a contemporary man of letters undertaking to translate one of Zukovskij's most successful poems into the language in which several of Zukovskij's own most significant works had their origin.
Zukovskij-as-translator could justly say, "Almost everything I have is someone else's, and yet everything is my own." He asserted, moreover, that "A poet-translator can be an original author, even though he has written nothing of his own. A translator in prose is a slave; a translator in verse is a rival." (32) On the basis of Bowring's "Catherine" it seems lair to say that his conception of the role and responsibilities of the translator of poetry is not so elevated as Zukovskij's. Bowring generally submerges his own English identity in his translation; he conceives that his function is to serve his original author rather than to stand as his peer. In Bowring's translation there is little of Zukovskij's habitual importation of concrete images and removal of cliches, abstractions, and poetic diction. There is instead an earnest, conscientious, self-effacing, and, on the whole, successful attempt to convey in English the essence and feel of the original, with an occasional happy enhancement of imagery as well as an occasional disappointing lapse into commonplace or cliche.
In "Svetlana" Zukovskij utilizes trochaic tetrameter and trochaic trimeter. Bowring follows his original in this line by line, as he does in stanza division (20 stanzas of 14 lines each) and in rhyme scheme (ababcdcdeefggf).
Juxtaposition of the three stanzas in which Svetlana/Catherine, in response to the pleas of her friends, sits before the mirror and evokes her lover will serve to illustrate the quality of Bowring's performance as a translator in the poem:
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] Cath'rine sat before the glass-- All 'alone was she, Watching all the shades that pass, Shuddering inwardly. But the glass is dark and drear, Still as death the room; Scarce a fading taper there Flitted midst the gloom. O how fear her bosom shook! Backwards then she dared not look! Dread had dimm'd her sight: And the dying tapers' noise, And the cricket's chirping voice, Cried--'tis middle-night! Breathless terror chill'd her o'er, And she shades her brow:-- List! a knock is at the door, And it opens now: To the mirror then she turn'd, Stupefied with fear; Their (33) two brilliant eyeballs burn'd, Ever bent on her. Horror heaved her breast, when 1o! Gentle accents, sweet and slow, Glided on her ear: 'All thy wishes are fulfill'd-- All thy spirit's sighs be still'd-- 'Tis thy lover, dear!' Cath'rine look'd--her lover's arms Were around her thrown: 'Maiden! banish all alarms, We are ever one! Come! the priest is waiting now, Life with life to blend; Torches in the chapel glow, Bridal songs ascend.' Cath'rine smiled--her lover led-- O'er the snow-clad court they sped, And the portals gain; There a ready sledge they found-C Two fleet coursers stamp the ground, Straggling with the rein. (34)
The first of Bowring's three stanzas is an extraordinarily faithful and uniformly sound rendition of Zukovskij's. If anything, it is superior to its original 1) because of the simple fact that Bowring names the heroine instead of translating Zukovskij's rather impersonal "the beauty" and 2) because of the marvellously resonant image "watching all the shades that pass" in the mirror-shades: both ghosts and shadows. Bowring possibly derived this image, which contributes so strongly to the delicious eeriness of the passage, from Percy Shelley's line in "Mont Blanc": "Seeking among the shadows that pass by / Ghosts of all things that are, some shade of thee, / Some phantom, some faint image...." (35)
Bowring's second and third stanzas are faithful, workmanlike, and wholly respectable translations but, unlike the first, perhaps inferior to Zukovskij's. Zukovskij's lines "There ... very lightly with the lock / Someone rattled, she hears" are more concrete and evocative ("Someone ... rattled") than Bowring's "List! A knock is at the door, / And it opens now." "Someone's" "blazing eyes" in Zukovskij are, likewise, more effective than Bowring's "burning" "eyeballs," which, though the words certainly convey a concrete image, present the misleading one of disembodied--perhaps gouged out--eyeballs. In addition to containing what seems to be a gross typographical error ("their" for "there"), Bowring's second stanza suffers from his failure to capitalize on Zukovskij's "The heavens have submitted," the "spirit"--lover's subtle assertion of Providence's supposed helplessness in the face of the powerful sorcery practiced by Svetlana on Epiphany Eve.
The last of Bowring's three stanzas quoted here suffers, like the second, from Bowring's consciously "poetic" diction. Bowring obviously feels that "List!" (instead of "There"), "Maiden" (instead of the spirit-lover's more spontaneous and natural "Happiness, the light of my eyes"), and "fleet coursers" (for "horses") are somehow more truly poetic than direct, unadorned translations would have been--and, needless to say, he was wrong. Finally, Bowring tones down Zukovskij's richly detailed account of the Russian wedding that is about to be performed. Zukovskij's expansive enumeration of the priest, deacon, readers, choir, and blazing candles becomes in Bowring's English translation a rather weak listing of priest, glowing torches, and bridal songs. Presumably Bowring felt that his English audience would not respond to the unfamiliar details of a Russian wedding ceremony and hence hastened over them.
Though Bowring is not often guilty of trivializing imagery into pallid diction, he does so occasionally elsewhere in the poem as well as in the stanzas quoted. Zukovskij's workaday "chicken" and "rooster" are, for example, both translated as "Chanticleer." Moreover, Bowring repeatedly uses, sometimes in tandem, the "poetic" fillers "List!" and "Lo!," which are, when used at all, simply "listen" and "there" in the less self-conscious poetry of Zukovskij.
For reasons that we have been unable to discover, Bowring shifts the time in which the action of the poem takes place. As we have seen, Zukovskij's choice of Epiphany Eve (January 5), with its special rituals, games, and superstitions, is appropriate and authentic in every way. But instead of retaining Zukovskij's date or changing it to, say, St. Agnes's Eve (January 20), the night when English girls believed they might catch sight of their future husbands in a mirror or dream about them, (36) Bowring has his version take place during "St. Silvester's evening hour," December 31, a holiday with its own unique rituals, customs, and superstitions quite different from those described in Zukovskij's (and Bowring's) poem. (37)
If this change is inexplicable, Bowring makes one other interesting alteration that is wholly understandable. Svetlana/Catherine, after waking from her nightmare, has seated herself at her window. We quote here the relevant parallel passages:
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] List! I hear the bells below, And the horses too. Lo! they come--the sledge is near-- NOW the Isvoshchik's voice I hear-- They have pass'd the grove:-- Fling the gates wide open--fling-- Who's the guest the coursers bring? Who?--'Tis thou, my love! (38)
Aside from the omnipresent "Lo!" and "List!" and the comfortably English "grove," Bowring's most remarkable change in the passage is to import "the Isvoshchik's voice." "Isvoshchik" is usually translated as "coachman," "carrier," "cabman," or "waggoner," but here it refers, obviously, to the driver of the sleigh. It seems that Bowring, ordinarily so careful, conservative, and self-effacing as a translator, did not here resist the temptation to bring in an untranslated Russian term with which his audience would be familiar and which would add an authentic touch of Russian couleur locale. Two decades before the appearance of Bowring's "Catherine," a passage reprinted in the New Annual Register made it clear that "isvoshchik" was not unfamiliar to the English reading public: The writer observes, "... it is frequently impossible to express particular Russian denominations with the same accuracy in a foreign language, without being misunderstood or falling into a ridiculous pedantry.... Who, for instance, would ever think of putting into English or German the terms: isvoschtschick [sic], podriadschik, droshka, artel, &c.?" (39) "Isvoshchik," then, is a term that would authenticate for the general public of cultivated readers in early nineteenth-century England a translation of a Russian poem, and hence Bowring uses it.
Considering the short time Bowring spent learning the language--he says that during the winter of 1819-20 "at St. Petersburg I acquired a knowledge of the Russian language sufficient to enable me to give the first specimens ever presented in English to the public" (40)--Bowring's mastery of Russian is genuinely impressive. He does, however, slip once or twice. Zukovskij's lines "On the moon is a misty circle; / Scarcely gleam the clearings" are translated by Bowring as "Mist-wreaths dimm'd the pale moon's light, / Plains were drench'd in dew." Bowring's image of snow-covered steppes being covered in dew in the dead of winter is questionable, to say the least. Zukovskij's "The snow sparkles in the sun, / The thin vapor reddens" becomes in Bowring's version "In the sunbeams shines the snow;"/Leaps the frozen dew." Again, Bowring's image of "frozen dew" "leaping" is puzzling.
By far the most troublesome passage in Bowring's "Catherine," however, is his translation of Zukovskij's persona's concluding comment, for the benefit of the real-life Svetlana, his niece, Aleksandra Andreevna Protasova, on the significance and meaning of his poem. The parallel passages follow:
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] Thou dost smile, sweet maid! but deem, Deem it worth a thought; For that memorable dream Stores of wisdom brought. Thou dost smile again--but know, It had lessons holy: Fame, it told thee, was but--show; Worldly wisdom--folly. This my song was meant to say, Hope and trust, should guide our way-- Maid! there's no mistaking: This the genuine moral seems, Miseries--are only dreams, Joy--is the awaking. (41)
His ballad, Zukovskij tells "Svetlana," is addressed to the imagination--"in it are great wonders"--and not to the discursive reason--"very little reason." Our teachers, he reminds her, have justly stressed that "glory is smoke" and "the world a sly judge." His reward as poet, then, is her enjoyment of his ballad and not the world's applause. His poem, even though it is not susceptible to rational analysis and should not be read with undue solemnity, does, he suggests, finally make a serious point: we are in the hands of God, and so long as we believe in Him and trust in His protection we will awake from the horrors of our nightmares here on earth into the morning sunshine of celestial happiness.
Bowring reverses Zukovskij's disclaimer of intellectual pretensions for his ballad into an assertion that Svetlana/Catherine's dream has "stores of wisdom brought." For, whereas Zukovskij simply observes that "we have been taught" (presumably by those wiser than ourselves) that "glory is smoke" and "the world a sly judge," Bowring as persona somewhat illogically maintains that the dream itself, which is hardly concerned with fame and wisdom, has taught that "fame" is "show" and "worldly wisdom" "folly." Finally Bowring ignores Zukovskij's careful qualification that it is through the protection of Providence that we awake from the deceitful dream of misfortune into happiness, omits any reference to Providence, and concludes with the black-and-white nursery-rhyme moral: "Miseries--are only dreams, / Joy--is the awaking."
As translators, then, both Bowring and Zukovskij had thoroughly mastered their medium; both had a sincere understanding and appreciation of their originals, and both were gifted translators who succeeded in imparting to their respective readerships the essential spirit of their originals. But they differ in that Bowring usually goes no farther--his translation is admirably faithful but not often creative--while Zukovskij is as much creator as translator. In "Ljudmila," his first version of Burger's ballad, he had been intent on reshaping the foreign material to form a new Russian genre; in "Svetlana," his second version, he succeeded in fusing it with a national Russian theme; and, having accomplished this, he returned to close, almost literal, translation in his final version, "Lenora." The contrast between Bowring and Zukovskij, while in no way minimizing Bowring's achievement, brings into relief precisely that quality of Zukovskij's work that sets him apart from almost all other great translators in world literature.
KENNETH H. OBER
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
WARREN U. OBER
University of Waterloo
(1) This article is reprinted with the kind permission of the editors of Modern Language Studies, where it first appeared in Modern Language Studies, 12 (1982): 77-93.
(2) Burger's dates are 1747-1794.
(3) A. Bruckner, Geschichte der russischen Litteratur (Leipzig: Amelangs Verlag, 1905), p. 165.
(4) Irina M. Semenko, Vasily Zhukovsky (Boston: Twayne, 1976), p. 92. "Ljudmila," the first of the three poems by Zukovskij based on Burger's "Lenore, "was completed in April 1808 and published in Vestnik Evropy, 1808, No. 9. After the great popular success of "Ljudmila," which, though thoroughly Russianized, remains essentially a translation of Burger's original, Zukovskij treated Burger's theme quite independently in "Svetlana," which he worked on during the years 1808-12 and published, also in Vestnik Evropy, in 1813, Nos. 1 and 2. Like "Ljudmila," "Svetlana'" proved to be hugely popular with the reading public. Years later Zukovskij turned once again to Burger's poem and translated it as "Lenora" in March 1831. This version was first published in Ballady i povesti V. A. Zukovskogo, SPb., 1831. As the title indicates, "Lenora" is a much more nearly exact translation than either of the earlier versions. All three poems appear in V. A. Zukovskij, Sobranie socinenij v cetyrex tomax (Moscow and Leningrad: GIXL, 1959-60). See Vol. II, pp. 7-13, 18-25, 183-90, 451-53, 469, for texts and notes. All references to Zukovskij's poems are to this edition.
(5) John Bowring, trans., Specimens of the Russian Poets, "'Part the Second" (London: G. and W.B. Whittaker, 1823), p. 92.
(6) Dictionary of National Biography, II, 984-88; John Bowring, Autobiographical Recollections, with a memoir by Lewin B. Bowring (London: King, 1877), p. 14.
(7) Bowring, Autobiographical Recollections, p. 123.
(8) Bowring, Autobiographical Recollections, p. 123.
(9) "Das Handlungschema in Sweet William's Ghost ist schnell skizziert: in seinen wesentlichen Punkten gleicht es dem der Lenore: Margarets Verlobter ist in der Ferne gestorben. AIs Geist erscheint er ihr nachts und fordert von ihr die Zurucknahme ihres Verlobungsversprechens, um im Grabe seine Ruhe zu finden. Stattdessen folgt Margaret ihrem William nach, um mit ihm das Grab zu teilen.'" Evelyn B. Jolles, G. A. Burgers Ballade Lenore in England (Regensburg: Verlag Hans Carl, 1974), p. 38.
(10) William Taylor, "Lenora," Monthly Magazine, 1 (March 1796), 135-37.
(11) See Stanley J. Kunitz and Vineta Colby, European Authors 1000-1900 (New York: Wilson, 1967), pp. 133-35; Jolles, Lenore in England. pp. 61-147; J.W. Robberds, A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich (London: John Murray, 1843), 1, 92-95; Walter Scott, Poetical Works, ed. J. Logic Robertson (London: Oxford University Press, 1904), pp. 630-34; G.E. Bentley, Jr., Blake Books (Oxford: Clarendon, 1977), p. 538.
(12) G.A. Burger, Sammtliche Schriften, ed. Karl Reinhard (Vienna: Verlag von Ignaz Klang, 1844), I, 73. "Lenore" appears on pp. 70-80.
(13) Burger, Sammtliche Schriften, 1, 80.
(14) Zukovskij, Sobranie socinenij, 11, 13. Our translation follows:
What about Ljudmila? ... She is petrified, Her eyes grow dim, her blood grows cold, She fell dead into the dust.. Moaning and wails in the clouds, Screeching and gnashing [of teeth] under the earth; Suddenly the dead in a throng Came slowly from the graves; The silent, frightful chorus began to screech: "The grumbling of mortals is foolhardy; The Most High King is just; The Creator heard your moan; Your hour has struck, the end has come."
(15) Semenko, Zhukovsky, p. 92.
(16) Zukovskij, Sobranie socinenij, II, 189-90. Our translation follows:
Lenore lies in terror Half dead in the dust. And in the brilliance of the moon's rays, Hand in hand, flies, Hovering over her, a throng of shades Sings softly to her thus: "Endure, endure, though sick at heart; To the Creator in misfortunes be submissive; May your corpse go down into the grave! And may God have mercy on your soul!"
(17) Zukovskij, Sobranie socinenij, II, 453.
(18) Zukovskij, Sobranie socinenij, II, 19. Our translation follows:
"How can I, dear friends, sing? My beloved is far away; It is my fate to die In solitary sadness. A year has sped by there is no word; He does not write to me.... "
(19) Zukovskij, Sobranie socinenij, 11, 19. Our translation follows:
"Foretell, Svetlana; In the clear glass of the mirror At midnight, without deception You will learn your fate: At the door your sweetheart will knock With a light hand; From the doors will fall the lock; He will sit down at his place setting To dine with you."
(20) Zukovskij Sobranie sokinenij, 11, 20. Our translation follows:
"I'm with you, my beautiful one; The heavens have submitted: Your murmur has been heard!
(21) Zukovskij, Sohranie socinenij, II, 23. Our translation follows:
Everything again became silent all around ... Now it seems to Svetlana, That under the white sheet The corpse is stirring ... The shroud fell away; the corpse (Its lace darker than night) Is completely visible on its forehead a wreath, Its eyes closed. Suddenly ... from the closed lips a moan; He tries to spread His cold areas ... And the girl? ... She trembles ... Death is near ... but not asleep Is the white dove. It shook its wings, spread Its light wings; To the corpse's breast it flew ... Deprived of all strength, Moaning, he ground Terribly his teeth And at the maiden blazed His menacing eyes ... Again pallor on his lips; In his rolling eyes Death was pictured ... Look, Svetlana ... O Creator! Her beloved is the corpse! Ach! ... and she awoke.
(22) Zukovskij, Sobranie socinenij, II, 25. Our translation follows:
Here is the meaning of my ballad: "The best friend for us in this life Is belief in Providence. The law of the creator of blessings: Here misfortune is a deceitful dream; Happiness is the awakening."
(23) Semenko, Zhukovsky, pp. 94-96.
(24) Zukovskij, Sobranie socineno, II, 453.
(25) See Dorothy Gladys Spicer, The Book of Festivals (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1969), p. 288.
(26) Semenko, Zhukovsky, p. 93.
(27) Semenko, Zhukovsky, pp. 94-95.
(28) Dictionary of National Biography, II, 984; Bowring, Autobiographical Recollections, pp. 57, 123. See John Bowring, trans., Specimens of the Russian Poets, 2nd ed. (London: "Printed for the author," 1821), and Bowring, trans., Specimens, "Part the Second.'"
(29) "Dr Bowring's Poetical Translations," Edinburgh Review, 70 (1830-31), 322-25.
(30) John Bowring, trans., Specimens of the Russian Poets (Boston: Cummings and Hilliard, 1822).
(31) "Servian Popular Poetry," North American Review, 25 (1827), 355.
(32) F.M. Golovencenko and S. M. Petrov, eds., Istorija russkoj literatury XIX veka, I (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe ucebno-pedagogiceskoe izdatcl'stvo ministerstva prosvescenija RSFSR, 1960), 89.
(33) We assume "their" is a typographical error for "there."
(34) Zukovskij, Sobranie socinenij, II, 19-20; Bowring, trans., Specimens, II, 95-96. Our translation follows:
And now the beauty is alone; At the mirror she sits down; With secret fearfulness she Looks into the mirror; It is dark in the mirror; all around Is dead silence; The candle with a trembling light Hardly sheds a radiance ... Timidity in her agitates her breast, She is terrified to look behind her, Terror clouds her eyes ... With a crackling the light flared up, Plaintively the cricket cried, Herald of midnight. Leaning on her elbow, Svetlana hardly breathes... There ... very lightly with the lock Someone rattled, she hears; Fearfully into the mirror she glances; Behind her back Someone, it seems to her, is flashing His blazing eyes ... With terror her breath is taken away ... Suddenly in her ear flies A soft, light whisper: "I'm with you, my beautiful one; The heavens have submitted; Your murmur has been heard!" She glanced back ... her beloved to her Is extending his arms. "Happiness, the light of my eyes, For us there is no separation. Let's go! The priest in the church already waits With the deacon, the readers: The choir is singing the wedding song: The church is ablaze with candles." In answer there was a sweet glance; They go out to a wide courtyard, Through the plank portals; At the portals a sled awaits them; From impatience the horses tear at The silken reins.
(35) Shelley's Poetry and Prose, ed. Donald H. Reiman and Sharon B. Powers (New York; Norton, 1977), p. 90 (lines 45-47).
(36) See M. R. Ridley, Keats' Craftsmanship (Oxford: Clarendon, 1933), pp. 107-10.
(37) See Spicer, Book of Festivals, pp. 36, 49-50, 141-42, 176, 323, 347.
(38) Zukovskij Sobranie socinenij, 11, 24; Bowring, trans., Specimens, 11, 103. Our translation of Zukovskij's version follows:
Listen! ... in the empty distance is ringing A resonant bell; On the road is a cloud of snow; Dashing, as if on wings, With a sled are eager horses; Closer; now already at the gate; A stately guest approaches the entry ... Who is it? .. Svetlana's bridegroom.
(39) "State of Society in St. Petersburg. [From Storch's Pictures of Petersburg.], in "Manner of Nations," New Annual Register ... for the year 1801 (London: Robinson, 1802), p. 104.
(40) Bowring, Autobiographical Recollections, p. 123.
(41) Zukovskij, Sobranie socinenij, 11, 24-25: Bowring, trans., Specimens, II, 104. Our translation of Zukovskij's version follows:
Smile, my beauty, At my ballad; In it are great wonders, Very little reason. I am happy in your glance, I don't want glory also; Glory we have been taught--is smoke; The world--a sly judge. Here is the meaning of my ballad: "The best friend for us in this life Is belief in Providence. The law of the creator of blessings; Here misfortune is a deceitful dream: Happiness is the awakening.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: The Translator Translated: Zukovskij's "Svetlana" and Bowring's "Catherine" (1). Contributors: Ober, Kenneth H. - Author, Ober, Warren U. - Author. Journal title: Germano-Slavica. Volume: 15. Publication date: Annual 2005. Page number: 83+. © 2007 University of Waterloo - Dept. of Germanic and Slavic Language Literature. COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.