NABOKV-L post 0018907, Thu, 3 Dec 2009 13:09:25 -0200

Subject
[NABOKOV-L] Holograph and copied text: To Pushkin (On Translating
Eugene Onegin)
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The poem below," On Translating Eugene Onegin", published in "Poems and Problems", copied from "Poèmes et problèmes" (Gallimard,1999), 220/223:

To Pushkin

1

What is translation? On a platter
A poet's pale and glaring head.
A parrot's screech, a monkey's chatter,
And profanation of the dead.
The parasites you were so hard on
Are pardoned if I have your pardon,
O, Pushkin, for my stratagem:
I travelled down your secret stem,
And reached the root, and fed upon it:
Then, in a language newly learned,
I grew another stalk and turned
Your stanza patterned on a sonnet,
Into my honest roadside prose -
All thorn, but cousin to your rose.

2

Reflected words can only shiver
Like elongated lights that twist
In the black mirror of a river
Between the city and the mist.
Elusive Pushkin! Persevering,
I still pick up Tatiana's earring,
Still travel with your sullen rake.
I find another man's mistake,
I analyze alliterations
That grace your feasts and haunt the great
Fourth stanza of your Canto Eight.
This is my task - a poet's patience
And scholiastic passion blent:
Dove-droppings on your monument.




A copy from the original manuscript:*

Dec. 1953, Ithaca, N.Y:
this is the rhyme-scheme of "Onegin"
for Dmitri

To Pushkin


What is translation? On a platter
a poet's pale - and glaring - head;
a fool's mistake; a monkey's chatter -
and profanation of the dead.
The parasites you were so hard on
are pardoned if I have your pardon,
O, Pushkin, for my stratagem:
I travelled down to your secret stem,
and reached the root, and fed upon it;
Then, in another tongue, I grew
another stalk away from you,
and turned your stanza from a sonnet
into a metaphrase in prose -
all thorn, but cousin to your rose



* Dmitri Nabokov [off-List to JM]: "I think it might interest people to see both the P&P version and the holograph, with my note. Incidentally, the poem will also appear in a poetry collection I am preparing for publication by Penguin (UK) in November of next year."

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