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Lot's Wife Anna Akhmatova

Posted: Thu Jun 12, 2014 10:21 pm
by cynwulf
Лотова Жена

И праведник шел за посланнком Бога,
Огромный и светлый, по черной горе.
Но громко жене говорила тревога;
Не поздно, мы можешъ еще посмотретъ,

На красные башин роднова Содома,
На площадъ, где пела, на двор, где пряла,
На окна пустые выского дома,
Где милому мужу детей родила.

взглянула, и скованы смертною ьолъю,
Глаза её болъше смотретъ не могли;
И сделалосъ тело прозначною,
И быстрые ноги к земле прирослию.

Кто женщину эту оплакиватъ будет?
Не менъшей ли мнится она из утрат?
Лишъ сердце мое никогда не забудет.
Отдавшую жизнъ за единственный взгдядю.

Lot's Wife
The good man trudged behind the shining giant,
Envoy of God, scaling the blackened height.
But heartache nagged his wife, loud and defiant;
Look back, you can still look back, it's not too late,

Look at the red towers of your native town,
The square you sang in, the courtyard where you spun,
The empty windows of your lofty house,
There you bore your children and loved your man.

She glanced back, and deadly pain, a jolt,
She could no longer see for briny ice,
Her body froze into transparent salt,
Her nimble feet fast in a stony vice.

Who would mourn this woman, who was thought
To be the least of losses, hardly worth a breath?
Yet I will always hold her in my heart,
Who for a single glance accepted death.

Re: Lot's Wife Anna Akhmatova

Posted: Sat Jun 14, 2014 8:05 pm
by Antcliff
Reads well, C. I have no Russian, so can only judge what emerges...which seems a success. Nicely worked end-rhymes. Bravo.

I had not known that there was a giant, or is that an invention of the poet's?


Re: Lot's Wife Anna Akhmatova

Posted: Sat Jun 14, 2014 11:50 pm
by cynwulf
thank you for your comments, Seth. Genesis 18-19 doesn't say anything of the size of the angelic visitors. Literal translation of the end of l1 and beginning of l2 of Akhmatova's poem is...'envoy of God, huge and shining ' (in Russian transliterated ' poslannikom Boga, ogromniy i svetliy'), so the appearance of the angel is an invention of the poet. Wilbur (New and Collected Poems, Faber and Faber, 1989 p.167) gives the translation-
' The just man followed then his angel guide
Where he strode on the black highway, hulking and bright;'
so he is closer to the original with his adjectives for the angel, but departs in other ways, his 'black highway' is literally in Akhmatova 'chernoy gore'
ie. 'black mountain'.
Akhmatova is a pleasure for a novice like me to translate as she usually writes so clearly.


Re: Lot's Wife Anna Akhmatova

Posted: Mon Jun 16, 2014 11:13 am
by Antcliff
I have just now read that Wilbur translation you mentioned C . I see you have "hearthache" where he has "wild grief".


Re: Lot's Wife Anna Akhmatova

Posted: Tue Jun 17, 2014 9:33 am
by cynwulf
'Morning Seth,

the Russsian word covers a haze including alarm, anxiety, uneasiness, worry. I looked up 'grief' and 'heartache' in Chambers Dictionary and it gives 'sorrow' as one of the main definitions for both, along with distress for 'grief' and 'anguish' for heartache; so I think W and I are using the same concept. Hemschmeyer, considered by many as the best translator of Akhmatova gives
but anguish spoke hardly to his wife (which seems poor English to me)
Kunitz gives
a restless voice kept harrying this woman
DM Thomas
uneasiness shadowed his wife and spoke to her. Thomas has an interesting version of the first 2 lines of s4
who mourns one woman in a holocaust
holocaust not mentioned in the poem, but a reference (apart fm the obvious) I suppose to the thousands obliterated in S and G by YWHW, who sez poetry's what gets lost in translation?
Regards, C.

Re: Lot's Wife Anna Akhmatova

Posted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 6:33 am
by k-j
I also don't know Russian, but the English reads very well. I think "giant" is an excellent rendering of the angel, really provocative, makes you think about how angels are portrayed and what they are supposed to be. I love the voice of Lot's wife, too. "Lofty" is another great choice of word with its resonance with Lot.

Re: Lot's Wife Anna Akhmatova

Posted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 6:35 am
by k-j
I had a volume of Akhmatova which was lost (through my own negligence) along with a load of other books and records when I got divorced. So quite a while ago, but I remember liking her a lot. Must get reacquainted sometime.

Re: Lot's Wife Anna Akhmatova

Posted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 8:09 am
by cynwulf
Thank you very much, k-j, for your comments, very much appreciated. In connection with this incident Rublev's icon of Abraham's visitors is relevant, he depicts the 3 angels in an entirely orthodox way as humanoids with wings. I don't much like CS Lewis's writings, but his description of the eldil Oyarsa in his sf trilogy seems a better realisation of what an angel might be like (if such entities were to exist).

I hope I'm not breaking any board rule in recommending a website, but if you wish to re-acquaint with Akhmatova you may find Dworski Books in Presteigne of interest; they have recently received a collection of her material from a retired academic expert on the poet, on line- .

Re: Lot's Wife Anna Akhmatova

Posted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 11:55 pm
by oggiesnr
Very nice.

Two thoughts.

Line 1, I would prefer "righteous" to "good".

V4, l1. From the original should this be a question?


Re: Lot's Wife Anna Akhmatova

Posted: Mon Nov 10, 2014 11:57 am
by cynwulf
Thanks for your comment Steve. You're right about l1-good is too bland a translation, I avoided righteous as it seemed to spoil the rhythm of the line. Both Wilbur and Kunitz translate pravyednik as the just man, this is probably best here as it is more accurate and preserves the rhythm-I will edit accordingly.

v4 yes 2 questions-roughly 'who would mourn this woman?' and 'does she not seem the least of losses?'

Regards, C.