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“Let me not lose my senses, God”

March 9, 2012

It’s a prejudice of mine that nineteenth-century translations of nineteenth-century originals have something that can’t be duplicated. Even a much better modern translator is stuck sounding anachronistic, or simulating archaic language, or trying to avoid any word or construction that’s changed in the last century or two. The old translator has such a nice old sound. Even if, as below, it’s a contemporary of Chekhov translating Pushkin, so that there’s two or three generations’ worth of language change anyway – and for all I know, the 1891 translator was simulating 1833 language instead of giving us an authentic 1891.

Translators today do wonderful work, of course, and there are plenty of older works that haven’t been translated at all or whose translations can be improved upon.

There are quite a few translations of poems in the public domain that I don’t think are very well known or easy to find, and I’m going to post some of them here, starting with:

English translation of “Не дай мне бог сойти с ума” (Russian text)

Original poem: Pushkin, 1833

Translation: John Pollen, 1891 (click on the English text for the source)

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