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  #1  
Unread 06-22-2022, 12:36 PM
Carl Copeland Carl Copeland is offline
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Default Akhmatova, “Verses in Tsarskoye Selo”

I’m posting the latest version of “Dear souls are all on stars …” along with the other member of a diptych entitled “Verses in Tsarskoye Selo.” The new poem, “Like the fifth act of a drama ...,” is an unrhymed falling trimeter. I’m still wondering, BTW, whether most agree with Susan that “many/sunny” is a better rhyme than “already/gently.” I still crave assonance in my slant rhymes, but my tastes are educable.


Verses in Tsarskoye Selo*

                    In memory of Nikolai Gumilev**

               1

Like the fifth act of a drama,
breezes of autumn blow;
each bed of flowers in the park
seems like a freshly dug grave.
The dead have been bitterly mourned.
With all of my enemies now
my soul is at peace.
The secret wake has been held,
and nothing more can be done.
Why do I linger as though
a miracle soon will occur?
So may a heavy vessel long
be held at the pier by even
a delicate hand for the parting
with one who remains on shore.

               2

Dear souls are all on stars. It’s such a blessing
there’s no one left to lose that I could cry.
This royal park has air that is refreshing
and made for singing songs beneath the sky.

Beside the shore, a silver willow touches
the bright September waters at its root.
My shade, arisen from the past, approaches
to meet me on the pathway, grave and mute.

The lyres that hang upon these boughs are many,
and yet it seems my own may find a place.
For me, these fleeting raindrops, sparse and sunny,
are blessed tidings and consoling grace.

Autumn 1921
Tsarskoye Selo



* Tsarskoye Selo literally means “the tsar’s village” and was the summer residence of the tsars 15 miles south of St. Petersburg, with parks, gardens, two palaces and an adjoining town. It was associated with Derzhavin, Pushkin, Zhukovsky, Tyutchev and Annensky. Akhmatova grew up there.

** Nikolai Gumilev, Akhmatova’s former husband and an important poet in his own right, was executed by the Bolsheviks within a few months before these poems were written.


Царскосельские строки

                    Памяти Н.С.Г.

               1

Пятым действием драмы                    – u | – u u | – u
Веет воздух осенний,                         – u | – u | u – u
Каждая клумба в парке                      – u u | – u | – u
Кажется свежей могилой.                   – u u | – u | u – u
Оплаканы мертвые горько.                 u – u u | – u u | – u
Со всеми врагами в мире                    u – u | u – u | – u
Душа моя ныне.                                 u – | u u – u
Тайная справлена тризна                   – u u | – u u | – u
И больше нечего делать.                    u – u | – u u | – u
Что же я медлю, словно                     – u u | – u | – u
Скоро случится чудо.                         – u | u – u | – u
Так тяжелую лодку долго                   u u – u u | – u | – u
У пристани слабой рукой                    u – u u | – u | u –
Удерживать можно, прощаясь             u – u u | – u | u – u
С тем, кто остался на суше.                 – u | u – u | u – u

               2

Все души милых на высоких звездах.
Как хорошо, что некого терять
И можно плакать. Царскосельский воздух
Был создан, чтобы песни повторять.

У берега серебряная ива
Касается сентябрьских ярких вод.
Из прошлого восставши, молчаливо
Ко мне навстречу тень моя идет.

Здесь столько лир повешено на ветки,
Но и моей как будто место есть.
А этот дождик, солнечный и редкий,
Мне утешенье и благая весть.

Осень 1921
Царское Село



Literal translation:

Tsarskoye Selo Verses

                    In memory of Nikolai Gumilev

               1

Like the fifth act of a drama,
autumn air blows;
each bed [of flowers] in the park
seems like a fresh grave.
The dead have been bitterly mourned.
With all enemies my soul
is at peace now.
The secret wake has been held,
and there’s nothing more to do.
Why do I linger as if
a miracle soon will occur.
Thus a heavy boat may long
be held at the pier
by a weak hand [in] parting
with one who remains on land.

               2

All souls of dear ones are on high stars.
It’s so good that there’s no one to lose
that I could cry. The air of Tsarskoye Selo
was created so that songs could be repeated.

By the bank, a silver willow
touches the bright September waters.
Rising from the past, without speaking,
my shade walks toward me.

Here so many lyres are hung on the branches,
but there seems to be a place for mine as well.
And this little rain, sunny and sparse,
is solace for me and good tidings.

Edits
1-L6 every enemy > all of my enemies
1-L8 kept > held
1-L11 were at hand > soon will occur
1-L14 final > parting
1-L15 parting with one left behind > with one who remains on shore

Last edited by Carl Copeland; 06-27-2022 at 02:49 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 06-23-2022, 01:36 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Carl,

I like the new trimeter a good deal, and i agree with Susan FWIW.

Cheers,
John
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  #3  
Unread 06-23-2022, 03:16 AM
Carl Copeland Carl Copeland is offline
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Thanks, John. Your vote for slant-rhyme consonance is registered. I’ve already started slanting in your direction.

Carl
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  #4  
Unread 06-23-2022, 08:13 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Carl, the second poem reads better to me now. In the first two lines of it, I always have trouble realizing that "that I could cry" is supposed to link up to "blessing" and not to "lose." That was why I first suggested a rewrite of that line.

In the first poem, your trying to follow the metrical pattern of the original is interfering with my hearing the poem as pleasingly metrical in English. I would suggest that you try switching to accentual trimeter that does not exactly follow the original. L3 sounds like tetrameter to me because I give "flowers" two syllables. L7 sounds like dimeter, with just "soul" and "peace" being stressed. L12 also sounds like tetrameter. Auden's "As I Walked Out One Evening" is a good model for making accentual trimeter sing. Right now, yours doesn't sing for me.

Susan
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Unread 06-23-2022, 08:40 AM
Carl Copeland Carl Copeland is offline
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Susan, I was just about to close the book on this one, so I’m glad you showed up. I haven’t followed the meter of the first poem exactly, but I have tried—and tried too hard perhaps. I think I may do as you suggest, but I’ll be struggling constantly against the tendency to regularize Akhmatova’s very irregular meter. In the original, L7 actually is dimeter, and L12 is easy to read as tetrameter, though I don’t know whether that was intended. I usually give words like “flower,” “hour,” etc., either one syllable or two as needed—something I’ve seen in older English poetry, though it may not be common today. I appreciate your keeping an eye on this forum.

Carl

Last edited by Carl Copeland; 06-23-2022 at 11:43 AM.
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  #6  
Unread 06-23-2022, 09:30 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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"I still crave assonance in my slant rhymes, but my tastes are educable."

Carl, for what it's worth, here's what Alicia Stallings says in her "Presto Manifesto":
Quote:
Off rhymes founded on consonants are more literary than off rhymes founded on vowels (assonance). Vowels are shifty. Assonance is in the mouth, not the ear. It is performative.
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Unread 06-23-2022, 11:36 AM
Carl Copeland Carl Copeland is offline
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Thanks, Roger. I’m not quite sure what Stallings means about assonance being “in the mouth, not the ear.” For me, rhymes on vowels are “louder” and more sensual, like a strong beat, and I gravitate to poetry that doesn’t stray too far from song and dance. I am going to be more open to slant rhymes on consonants, but I have a feeling that for me “Manhattan” is always going to rhyme better with “gladden” than it does with “frighten.” I’m definitely going to read all these manifestos. Fascinating stuff.

Carl
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Unread 06-23-2022, 01:09 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Carl, I think Alicia meant that consonant rhymes are more literary because they are less dependent on the ear. Singers live in the vowels and can often fudge the endings. But poets can't, or at least not so much. You hear songs, but you mainly read poems. So you have to depend on readers to hear the rhyme the way you hear it. You can't say it for them.

By the way, one thing I have learned about meter is that just because meter works one way in one language, that does not mean that it will work the same way in a different language. It is less important to imitate the way the meter worked in the original language than it is to find an analogous meter that is successful in the target language. The more you know the source language thoroughly, the harder it can be to let go of the way the rhymes and meter worked in the original. That can be an obstacle to writing a translation that is equally delightful in English.

Susan
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Unread 06-23-2022, 06:41 PM
Carl Copeland Carl Copeland is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Susan McLean View Post
You hear songs, but you mainly read poems. So you have to depend on readers to hear the rhyme the way you hear it. You can’t say it for them.
Thanks for the clarification, Susan. My preference is for verse that the poet lets me hear and feel in a very physical way, so I guess it’s no wonder I crave assonance. I like poems that keep humming in my head after I shut the book.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Susan McLean View Post
It is less important to imitate the way the meter worked in the original language than it is to find an analogous meter that is successful in the target language.
In theory, I agree, but I don’t think I’ve ever found a Russian poem that I thought was better served by a different meter in English. English is a more compact language, so it’s tempting, say, to render a Russian alexandrine as IP in English. I tried that once, and the result was oddly unsatisfying, even though the content of the original was all there. I went back and added a foot to every line, probably resorting to some filler, and it made all the difference. The new version had a completely different feel—more stately and measured—which is what the poem wanted. That’s just anecdotal evidence, of course, and there are probably cases where a daring translator can do wonders with a different meter. I need to be open to all possibilities, so your advice is well taken.

Carl
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  #10  
Unread 06-23-2022, 06:47 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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I have a question. Is the first stanza metrical in Russian? You mentioned its irregular meter. I often write poems without thinking of meter and when I'm finished I'll often have many, sometimes very many, lines in meter, usually tet. It happens most often when I write fast. If she did not write the first stanza in intentional meter why would anyone want to translate it into a meter? She's a very skillful poet. If she didn't write it metrically I am sure it was a decision. I'm not being argumentative. I am genuinely curious.

Thanks
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