Eugene Dubnov, Beyond the Boundaries, translated from the Russian by Anne Stevenson, with the author (Shoestring Press, 2016)
‘Poetry,’ said Walter Raleigh, is ‘an inspired soliloquy… giving pleasure to an audience only as the mountain spring may chance to assuage the thirst of a passing traveller… its affinity is with the wind among the trees and the stream among the rocks; it is the cry of the heart, as simple as the breath we draw.’ Raleigh’s words seem appropriate to this translation of Beyond the Boundaries.
Mikhail Lermontov once said that he felt it to be a stroke of good fortune that their language was Russian, as he believed no other to be its equal. But the very features of Russian that make it such a wonderful medium for poetry are those which make it difficult to translate. It is a rich language, beautiful when spoken, yet at the same time capable of great succinctness. Much is left unsaid, or just faintly adumbrated, leaving the imagination free to roam. The declensions give flexibility to syntax, there are no articles, verbs are often omitted if implied, and participles let you say in two words what might need six in English. The limited number of noun and verb endings also make it easy to rhyme.
A faithful translation of rhyming verse may be made if no attempt is made to reproduce the rhyme, but to maintain the rhyming pattern a free translation is necessary. It is not possible to match rhyme without destroying ...
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