Saturday, December 09, 2006

Advice from Pushkin

From Eugene Onegin, Translated by Charles Johnston

Whom then to credit? Whom to treasure?
On whom alone can we depend?
Who is there who will truly measure
his acts and words to suit our end?
Who'll sow no calumnies around us?
Whose fond attentions will astound us?
Who'll never fault our vices, or
Whom shall we never find a bore?
Don't let a ghost be your bear-leader,
don't waste your efforts on the air.
Just let yourself be your whole care,
your loved one, honourable reader!
Deserving object: there can be
nothing more lovable than he.

Though the Johnston translation is more famous, I liked this translation more. It is by James Falen (published in the Oxford Classics series). It is so disappointing and disheartening in a way when you read two translations side by side and see how different the two are. And that is when you don't know the original language. Even the meaning is different at a few places. Eugene Onegin is one of the most widely discussed texts when it comes to the theory of translation, mainly because of Nabokov's highly idiosyncratic translation and scholarly notes on the poem... Anyway here is the passage.
But whom to love? To trust and treasure?
Who won't betray us in the end?
And who'll be kind enough to measure
Our words and deeds as we intend?
Who won't sow slander all about us?
Who'll coddle us and never doubt us?
To whom all our faults be few?
Who'll never bore us through and through?
You futile, searching phantom-breeder,
Why spend all your efforts all in vain;
Just love yourself and ease the pain,
My most esteemed and honest reader!
A worthy object! Never mind,
A truer love you will never find.

2 comments:

jyothsnay said...

Alok,
I liked the second rendition more.It's that agile perspective makes all the difference. While the former (*strictly my POV) is a bit more probing in its tendency and almost philosophizing things. The latter trembles, it is vulenrable, gentle yet poised enough to pat one's slender shoulders to face the life in its truest hues...how true!A truer love you will never find.,...
wonder, why this reminded me of CARS-DRIVE..
Who's gonna tell you when, It's too late, Who's gonna tell you things, Aren't so great.
You cant go on, thinkin', Nothings'
wrong, but bye, Who's gonna drive you home, tonight.? ...
Who's gonna pay attention, To your
dreams?....
Who's gonna hold you down, When you
shake? Who's gonna come around,when you break....

Alok said...

Yeah, I liked the second one more too. What is this song, this sounds very good!!