by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Dawsonville, GA, USA
Dr. Natalia Kaloh Vid is our guest writer today.
This is her second contribution to the pages of Robert Burns Lives!
and it is hard to believe that it’s been nearly two years (February 2011)
since her first article appeared on our web site. It seems like yesterday!
Her first was entitled “Ideological Adaptations of Robert Burns in the
Soviet Union”, and you can find it on the index page under Chapter 107.
Since 2011 three great events have happened in
her life. First, she published a book on the subject of the above mentioned
article, and I was pleased to write a blurb for the back of the publication.
Then she successfully defended her second Ph.D. thesis on Modern Russian
Literature. Third and most importantly, she gave birth to a beautiful
daughter named Zhenia which, Natalia tells me, is a shorter version of the
Russian name Evgenia. Yes, it has been a busy time for Dr. Vid, and I am
grateful she is allowing another of her articles to grace these pages. To do
so, she sought and received permission for the article to be shared with our
readers from the Scottish Literary Review (see Spring/Summer 2011, Vol. 3,
No. 1, Str. 1 – 20 where the article first appeared). Thanks are also
extended to the Association for Scottish Literary Studies which publishes
Even though she is busy being mother to Zhenia,
she has lots of help from husband Dejan and her grannies. It is good to
learn that Natalia is back at work three days a week. Her book on Mikhail
Bulgakov's was published this year with the title The Role of Revelation in
Mikhail Bulgakov's Fiction. Unless you read or speak Russian you are out of
luck as it is published in Russian. It really is a treat to have
Dr. Vid share her thoughts and research in the article below, and I feel
confident you will find it of interest. (FRS: 12.5.12)
Burns’s “The Twa Dogs”: ideological aspects of translation into Russian
By Natalia Kaloh Vid
Unfortunately, ideological dominance was one of
the main criteria that defined translation process in the former Soviet
Union where the totalitarian regime was established shortly after the
October Revolution of 1917. The Soviet state was characterised by
centralised state control over all aspects of private and public life,
including economy, politics and arts. Literary production, including
translations, was also subordinated to the state, occupying a formal place
in the official culture of the Soviet era. Its propagandistic role was to
educate people in the goals and meaning of communism[v].
Any criticism of the current regime was subjected to Soviet censorship,
which remained the longest lasting and the most
comprehensive state censorship in the twentieth century. Generally
speaking, everything that did not fall under the officially accepted
programme of socialist realism – a style of realistic art adapted by the
Soviet state in 1934 as a standard – was forbidden. For decades, nearly
every Soviet publication bore a code number referring to an individual
censor who represented the major state censorship department[vi].
It should be noted that the whole translation
process in the Soviet Union differed greatly from that in democratic
societies, as it was inevitably influenced by an institution of censorship
and strict centralisation. All participants in the translation process
(translators, censors, publishers) existed as one united group that had
strongly determined aims. Henceforth, literature and the arts lost some of
their public identification with civil society and gained a formal place in
the official culture of the Soviet era. Censors who dealt with foreign
publications were obliged to protect the minds of the Soviet people from the
harmful influence and infection of the West and to offer the public
well-selected information concerning foreign cultures.
As a result, any literary text
translated in the Soviet Union underwent a series of transformations or
distortions, depending on ideological demands, and translations of the
poetry of Robert Burns were no exceptions. The main aim of Soviet
translators was not to introduce new ideologies or challenge existing ones
through their translational decisions but to justify the existing ideology.
This paper therefore explores intentional
incorporation of ideological elements in poetic translations of Robert Burns
made by Soviet translators. The analysis considers two of the most prominent
translators of Robert Burns’s poetry in the Soviet Union, Tat’iana
Shchepkina-Kupernik and Samuel Marshak. Their translations do not stand in
opposition to each other with respect to the ideological dimension. Both
translators followed official ideological guidelines by exposing the problem
of social class distinctions, criticising monarchy and religion,
intensifying the sentiments of freedom and citizenship and promoting
democratic issues and sympathy towards common people[vii].
However, Shchepkina-Kupernik’s translations were made in the 1930s when
ideological influence on literature was not as severe as it later became.
Her translations do not contain as many ideologically influenced elements as
the translations of Marshak, made in the 1940s when the official ideological
propaganda became the chief criteria in defining translation process in the
Soviet Union. In both translations, analysis of ideological dimensions at a
micro-stylistic level shows that they were influenced both by lexical
choices (deliberate selection or avoidance of certain words) and by
grammatical choices (substituting defining generic nouns for less specific
pronouns, avoidance of agency by using passive structures, etc.).
Tat’iana Shchepkina-Kupernik (1874-1952), an
outstanding translator of Byron, Shakespeare and Lope de Vega, was the first
of Robert Burns into Russian, who adapted her translating principles to
newly established demands of Soviet ideology. Her first collection,
published in 1936, was the largest anthology of Robert Burns’s translations
into Russian to have been made by one author up to that time, and included
translations of seventy-four poems, among them ‘The Twa Dogs’, ‘The Cotter’s
Saturday Night’, ‘A Red, Red Rose’, ‘Fair Eliza’, ‘Yestreen I Had a Pint o’
Wine’, ‘To a Mountain Daisy’, ‘O’ Whistle and I Will Come to Ye, My Lad’,
‘I Hae a Wife o’ my Ain’ and others. There are two principal observations
that should be made concerning Shchepkina-Kupernik’s translations of Burns’s
poetry. Firstly, her translations remain close to the colloquial tone and
spirit of the original. Shchepkina-Kupernik attempted to reproduce the
original artistic images and style so that the reader of the translation
could be inspired, moved and aesthetically entertained in the same manner as
the native reader was by the original. Generally speaking,
Shchepkina-Kupernik succeeded in transferring the democratic, cheerful and
folk style of Burns’s lyrics. However, Shchepkina-Kupernik intentionally
russified themes, settings and vernacular out of consideration for a Russian
audience and substituted ideologically questionable issues to satisfy Soviet
One would expect that as the first Soviet
translator of Burns’s poetry, Tat’iana Shchepkina-Kupernik would also be the
most famous. However, Robert Burns achieved an astonishing cultural
dominance in the Soviet Union thanks to another translator whose name is
well-known to anyone interested in Burns studies, Samuel Marshak
(1887-1964). A dramatist, successful poet, political satirist and state
propagandist, magazine editor and author of children’s books, Marshak was
one of the few Soviet translators educated abroad, at the University of
London. The key to the success of his translations lies primarily in his
feeling for languages – Russian, English and Scottish dialects – which
Marshak possessed to a high degree. After his return to Russia in 1914,
Marshak devoted himself to translation. Apart from Burns, he translated
Gianni Rodari, William Blake, Rudyard Kipling and William Shakespeare[ix].
first collection of Marshak’s translations of Burns, published in 1947,
love poems such as ‘For the Sake o’ Somebody’, ‘A Red, Red Rose’, ‘Oh Wert
Thou in the Cauld Blast’ (which became a popular song in Russia);
nature lyrics, ‘Birks of Aberfeldey’, ‘Yon Wild Mossy Mountains’, ‘Afton
songs with humorous content ‘What Can a Young Lassie, What Shall a Young
Lassie’, ‘Ye Hae Lien Wrang, Lassie’, ‘Wha is That at My Bower-Door?’,
‘Thou Has Left Me Ever, Jamie’, ‘O Ken Ye What Meg o’ the Mill Has Gotten’,
songs in which a girl refused to marry a rich man and preferred a poor one
‘My Collier Laddie’, ‘Dusty Miller’, ‘The Ploughman’;
poems as ‘Tibbie I Hae Seen the Day’, ‘The Ronalds of the Bennals’, ‘Green
Grow the Rashes O’’, ‘Auld Lang Syne’, ‘My Tochers the Jewel’, ‘Comin Thro’
the Rye, Poor Body’, ‘Country Lassie’ and many others.
Between 1947 and 1959,
five editions of Burns’s poems in Marshak’s translations were
published in the Soviet Union. The edition of 1959 was published in
seventy-five thousand copies and sold out in several days. In the first
anthology of Burns translations, Marshak translated mostly love songs and
ballads, in which rural life and Scottish customs were described, and poems
with ‘national’ content in which nationality, patriotism and poor people’s
sufferings were particularly stressed. Altogether, Marshak translated two
hundred and fifteen poems by Burns[x],
which has remained the most extensive collection of Burns translations made
in the Russian language until the present time. Marshak’s translations still
remain canonical, as he stamped his image of Burns on Russian readers for
more than half a century.
Obviously, ideological canonisation was taken
into consideration by Marshak from the beginning. As one of the most
prominent Soviet translators, Marshak had to follow the official guidelines
as closely as possible if he wanted to see his works published. Thus,
Marshak rarely translated those poems which contained religious motifs (if
they were not satirically coloured) or poems with frivolous content (which
was usually softened). Sexual material as well as any erotic connotations,
presented one of the greatest taboos in
proletarian literature, which was not a place for demonstration of sexuality
of any kind. Marshak therefore softened Burns’s eroticism in love
lyrics, substituting comradely handshakes for passionate embraces. Religion
was strongly criticised in the Soviet state and any references to biblical
texts were scrupulously deleted in Marshak’s translations. Finally, ‘Soviet’
Burns could not maintain any connection with the upper classes. For that
reason, Marshak did not translate poems addressed to the poet’s friends,
acquaintances and patrons if they belonged to aristocratic circles. In poems
devoted to the current political and social situation, Scotland and England
were often replaced by ‘Russia’, ‘homeland’, ‘country’, and other
ideologically coloured equivalents, as it was important to present Burns as
an international struggler for revolution and human rights. It should be
noticed that this decision is one of the most contentious because Marshak’s
omission of anything Scottish, including Scottish towns, rivers, mountains
and even historic personalities and traditions, destroys the idea of Burns
as the national Scottish (specifically Scottish) poet. Love and care for the
motherland, most important images in Burns’s poetry, are missing in
Marshak’s translations. Burns was no more merely a Scottish but a ‘world’
poet. The main reason for this translation decision is hard to understand.
Probably, as a European country and a part of Great Britain, Scotland was
also considered a capitalist country, strongly criticised in Soviet
discourse. The fact that Burns, interpreted by Soviet critics as one of the
most ‘proletarian’ poets, was born in a capitalist country should not be
On the whole, Marshak
succeeds in preserving the ironic, colloquial speech and spirit of Burns’s
poetry. However, his main task was to avoid conflict with censors by
stressing ideologically favourable elements in Burns’s texts, while
eliminating problematic issues. The originals did not undergo direct
ideologisation but many intentional changes are obvious in a careful
reading. Marshak also completely cleaned his translations of dialect.
If there was any understanding of the role of Scottish
dialect in Burns’s poetry, there was no trace of it in the translations. In
many cases, the edge of Burns’s wit, his strong rhythms and rhymes, gave way
in Russian to artificial poetical embellishment.
Having emphasised the difficulties faced by
Soviet translators, however, it must be admitted that thanks to Tat’iana
Shchepkina-Kupernik and especially to Samuel Marshak the history of Soviet
translations of Burns into Russian represents a success story. While
allowing for obvious ideological deviations from the original, the
translators achieved an astonishing assimilation of Burns into Russian
Shchepkina-Kupernik’s and Marshak’s translations
of the poem ‘The Twa Dogs’ particularly exemplify intentional ideological
adaptations. In general, the fundamental idea of the poem is that virtue
does not depend on wealth, as well as criticism of human inequality and
social injustice of enforced class division which perfectly corresponded to
the newly established Soviet ideological scheme. For that reason, no
significant changes in the content were made. The differences, instead,
occur in intentional intensifying of ideologically favourable elements such
as social differences, while de-emphasising ideologically questionable parts
such as references to religious context.
It is clear from close analysis of the texts
that the tendency in both translations, especially in Marshak’s, is to
intensify class inequality and class struggle by presenting the members of
the upper class as exploiters and the peasantry as victims. This decision is
not surprising, as throughout Soviet history one
of the ideological means of unifying the people was the creation of the
image of the enemy personified by the members of the upper class who
encompassed all the negative qualities of capitalism: individualism, greed,
conceit and contempt for other people. Exposing a negative image of the
upper class was one of the main official ideological demands and could not
be avoided even in poetic translations. Although faithful to the meaning of
the original poem, both of the versions include lexical changes which
brought the poem closer to the ideologically glorified principles of
equality by degrading the potential ‘enemies’ represented by royalty and
nobles, while at the same time exposing the priorities of the ‘friends’ to
whom common workers and peasants belonged. In what follows I will present
the most obvious examples of intentional ideological changes made in the
original. Word-to-word translations of Russian verses are provided to make
the examples comprehensible to non-Russian speakers[xi].
The first adaptation occurs in the eighth line
of the poem which describes Caesar’s position in the Lord’s house, stating
that he ‘Was
keepet for his Honor’s pleasure’[xii].
In the Soviet discourse, members of the uppers class were supposed to be
presented as exploiters. For that reason Marshak decided to ascribe Caesar a
serious occupation. He was not kept merely for pleasure but for performing a
service in the lord’s house, ‘В
усадьбе лорда службу нёс’[xiii]
lord’s house, he performed a service.
Kupernik does not go that far, translating the line literally and even
signifying that Caesar lived with the Lord carefree, ‘беспечно
жил при знатном лорде’[xiv]
/ he lived with an honorable
lord without any worries.
Due to ideological propaganda it was especially
important to stress that in capitalist Scottish society, the lower class
represented by Luath was exploited by upper class members who epitomised
ruthless capitalism and whose actions and morals were totally subordinated
to material interests. Following the idea of intensifying class differences,
Shchepkina-Kupernik and Marshak both render Caesar’s question upon the
conditions of Luath’s master’s life stated at the beginning of their
conversation differently than in the original.
Asking Luath about the conditions of his
master’s life, Caesar uses the expressions ‘poor dogs’ (B, l.48) and ‘poor
bodies’ (B, l.50). Shchepkina-Kupernik translates ‘poor dogs’ literally as
бедные псы. There is a slight difference
between the words used in the original and in the translation, as the
Russian word пёс (a dog, a hound) used by Shchepkina-Kupernik is
old-fashioned and has a slight negative connotation. It may occur in a
colloquial comparison to a dishonest or cruel person. However, it could have
been chosen for the sake of the rhyme.
Instead of the expression ‘poor bodies’,
Shchepkina-Kupernik invents the word нищета which in the Russian
language means ‘destitution’, ‘extreme poverty’. By using this word, the
translator intentionally intensifies the poor living conditions of the
peasantry. The difference might appear as insignificant but in poetic
translations it is often possible to shift the meaning by displacing merely
one word. In the original, the entire section focuses on Caesar’s satirical
depiction of his lord’s life, yet there is no indication of him being well
informed about the conditions of peasant life. That is why he is interested
in Luath’s answer. In contrast, Shchepkina-Kupernik’s translation of the
first four lines presumes that Caesar is well informed about the situation
of his friend. The translator even attaches some kind of scorning on
Caesar’s part. It is clear that Caesar is interested in what it is like to
live in destitution, whereas in the original he merely expresses his
curiosity, as the expression ‘poor bodies’ does not necessarily
correspond to poor living conditions, at least not as intensely as in
Instead of the original address of ‘honest
Luath’, Shchepkina-Kupernik uses an archaic Russian word
почтенный, which means ‘respected’, while Marshak decided to
translate this address literally. By using old-fashioned vocabulary,
Shchepkina-Kupernik renders the conversation between the dogs away from that
of colloquial speech and emphasises the seriousness of the statement.
In what follows, Shchepkina-Kupernik also
ignores the fact that in the original Luath is more respectful and
naïve in his manner than Caesar, stressing
instead the equality of the interlocutors.
Shchepkina-Kupernik does not translate
the reference to the ‘gentry’s life’ mentioned in the original, presumably
not to disturb the main idea of focusing on the life of ‘poor bodies’.
I've often wonder'd, honest Luath,
What sort o’ life poor dogs like you
An’ when the gentry’s life I saw,
What way poor bodies liv’d ava (B,
Люаф почтеный я не раз
Respected Luath, I have often
что за жизнь у вас
Wondered what kind of life, you,
У бедных псов таких как ты
Poor hounds like you have
И как живут средь нищеты?
(SK, ll.49-52) And how you can live in destitution?
In general, Marshak’s translation is even less
accurate than Shchepkina-Kupernik’s, as he renders Burns’s original more
freely, replacing numerous expressions and words with his own. Thus,
translating ‘poor dogs’ in the same stanza, Marshak chooses the word
бедняжки (poor things) instead, also attaching
some sort of pitiful scorn on the part of Caesar. It is interesting that
both translators make an attempt to attach negative connotations to Caesar’s
speech, transforming his curiosity into scorn. This might be the result of
the overall tendency to criticise the upper classes, even when personified
by a dog. Obviously, Marshak did not consider
the expression ‘poor bodies’ powerful enough to express the subordinated
position of the lower class and replaced it by жильцы лачуг which
means ‘inhabitants of poor hovels’. The primary meaning of the word
лачуга is ‘shanty’, ‘a small wretched hovel’. Marshak uses the same word
on three further occasions, ignoring other Russian equivalents, and exposing
a negative picture of the living conditions of the peasantry far more
intensely than in the original.
Мой честный Люат! Верно тяжкий
My honest Luath! I believe you, poor things
Удел достался вам бедняжки.
Don't have an easy life,
Я знаю только высший
круг I know only the high society
Которому жильцы лачуг…(M,
ll.61-64) To whom the inhabitants of
In what follows, Caesar
satirically criticises the privileged life of his owners, ‘He rises
when he likes himsel;/His flunkies answer at the bell’
(B, ll.53-54). Marshak continues the negative
intensification of the life of the upper classes by substituting satirical
tones with obvious disdain. The verb ‘to answer’ is replaced by the verb ‘to
run’, while the noun ‘flunky’ is modified. Thus, in Marshak’s translation,
the flunky does not simply answer the bell but runs, bending his neck.
This additional humiliation of a servant is not exposed in the
Открыв глаза звонит лакею When he opens his eyes, he rings the flunky
И тот бежит, сгибая шею (M, ll.69-70). Who is running, bending the neck.
Shchepkina-Kupernik translated these lines in a similar manner but her version is less modified than Marshak’s.
Встаёт когда он сам захочет. He gets up when he wishes.
Чуть позвонит, лакей подскочит. (SK, ll.69-70) He just calls and the flunky runs up.
It is interesting
that both translators decided in favour of the word лакей to
translate ‘flunky’, even though there is an equivalent in the Russian
language, the word слуга which literally means servant. A short
history of the term лакей may explain this translation choice. The
term was used to describe a male employed as a high-ranking servant
responsible for running various errands in upper class households. However,
in the new, post-revolutionary context, it acquired a humiliating meaning, a
‘lick-spittle’, someone who served aristocrats before the revolution. Thus,
with reference to ‘lakei’ Shchepkina-Kupernik and Marshak use a more
insulting term than in the original.
translators on occasion use a more familiar word when faced with specific
lexical or cultural items. The strategy of
domestication may be observed in the rendering of the term ‘Cot-folk’ (B,
l.69), mentioned at the end of the eighth stanza and translated by
Shchepkina-Kupernik as мужик,
‘Но чем мужик набьет желудок,/Не
постигает мой рассудок!’
(SK, ll.85-86) / But what will muzhik put in his stomach/ Is
incomprehensible to me. In
this case, the word мужик,
with a degree of typical Russian colloquialism attached,
contains the reference to a male with
particular emphasis on a low social level.
The reader would instinctively associate
мужик with extremely poor living conditions. It
also attaches more disrespect on the part of Caesar, something which is not
present in the original. Marshak goes even
further, using the same expression as before,
shanties), thus constantly reminding readers about the conditions of
А что едят
the inhabitants of shanties eat -
I can't imagine,
Я не имею
ll.88-90) Even though I have rich imagination
In what follows,
Luath answers Caesar’s question about the conditions of his master’s life,
explaining the difficulties, poverty and starvation they must face but
concluding with an optimistic statement: ‘An’ buirdly chiels, an’ clever
hizzies,/ Are bred in sic a way as this is’ (B, ll.85-86). Marshak again
allows more translation freedom, adding the word лачуга (shanty), not
mentioned in the original. This time, he uses the diminutive лачужка.
Almost complete absence of dialects is another typical feature of Marshak’s
style. It is also interesting that Marshak decided to use the adjective
‘pretty’ instead of ‘clever’. Translating the word ‘hizzies’, Marshak used
the Russian word ‘подружка’,
a diminutive of a ‘female friend’. In my opinion this was done for the sake
of the rhyme: lachushka/podrushka. Instead of ‘chiels’ Marshak used a
slightly archaic word молодец,
which can be translated as ‘lad’.
молодцов Many stout lads
И прехорошеньких подружек And very pretty
Выходит из таких
(M, ll.110-112) . Come from such shanties.
translates the lines as literally as possible, using the Russian verb растят
instead of ‘to breed’. Translating ‘hizzies’, Shchepkina-Kupernik used an
archaic Russian word девица
(girl, young woman).
растят себе исправно,
And so they raise as they should,
(SK, ll.87-88) Beautiful girls and pleasant lads.
Marshak continues to
intensify the negative image of the upper class in the stanza, in which
Caesar wonders how peasants can patiently suffer all their difficulties.
But then, to see how ye're negleket,
How huff'd, an’ cuff'd, an’ disrespeket!
L_ _d man, our gentry care as little
For delvers, ditchers, an’ sic cattle;
They gang as saucy by poor folk,
As I wad by a stinkan brock (B, ll.87-92).
The strategy of
domestication may be observed in the translation of the word ‘delvers’,
translated by both Marshak and Shchepkina-Kupernik as холоп, an
old-fashioned Russian expression, referring to different categories
of dependent people. In modern Russian, the word has acquired a humiliating
meaning and is used to describe someone who does not have any opinion and
does not resist humiliation and disdain.
In the same stanza,
Burns uses the term ‘our gentry’, referring to Caesar’s masters.
Shchepkina-Kupernik decided to domesticate this term as well, using the word
дворянство, a typical Russian expression to describe nobility. In
fact, Shchepkina-Kupernik’s choice is more positive than ‘gentry’ which
referrers mainly to minor nobility, while дворянство describes the
highest aristocratic class, ‘Дворянство
видит скот в холопах,
(SK, l.91) / Nobility treats
холопов, delvers and ditchers as
On the contrary,
Marshak goes for a more negative substitution, modifying it with an
adjective. In his translation, ‘gentry’ becomes чопорная знать which
means ‘prissy/stiff nobility’. Marshak also eliminates the comparison to
‘cattle’, probably for the sake of the rhyme:
Однако, Лю́ат, вы живете
В обиде, в нищете, в заботе.
In insult, destitution and troubles.
А ваши беды замечать And your
miseries are neglected
Не хочет чопорная знать By stiff
Все эти лорды на
All these lords treat холопов
Чернорабочих, землякопов- Delvers and
Глядет с презреньем, свысока- With
disrespect, and look down at them
Как мы с тобой на барсука!
ll.113-118) As you and I look
at the brock!
‘Stinkan brock’ was
modified in Marshak’s translation as this comparison was too offensive to be
translated literally. Thus, Marshak eliminates the adjective ‘stinkan’,
while Shchepkina-Kupernik translates the expression literally. Another
slight change in Marshak’s translation is also the use of pronouns ‘you and
I’ in the last line instead of ‘I’. In this way, Marshak unifies the
experience of both dogs, stressing again their equality.
Marshak often added
his own lines to the original when he thought it was necessary. Thus, when
Luath bitterly describes the fear of his master in front of the lord,
Marshak decided to add two lines of his own in which two words absent from
the original are used, мошенник (swindler) and тунеядец (a
parasite, someone who does not want to work).
The original lines, ‘While they maun
stand, wi’ aspect humble, /
An’ hear it a’, an’ fear an’ tremble!’ (B,
ll.99-100) were modified by adding two additional nouns:
А бедный терпет и
молчит And The poor man stands quietly.
с малых лет привык бояться
From his early years,
he used to
и тунеядца (M, ll.98-100)
Be afraid of a swindler and a parasite.
The Russian word
‘тунеядец’ is particularly significant as it was often used in
communist propaganda to describe former landowners.
In translating the
same lines, Shchepkina-Kupernik uses the expression ‘грозится снять
последний крест’ (SK, l.100), which literally means that ‘a factor’s snash’
threatens to take away the last cross. This is an intertextual reference to
a Russian orthodox tradition to wear a cross on the neck. As the most sacred
symbol given to a person after baptism, the cross was the last thing that
could be taken away. The threat to take away the last cross means that a
person does not have anything else to give. Marshak also decided in favour
of domestication, using a phraseological expression ‘раздеть до нитки’ (M,
l.126). The expression means ‘to strip somebody bare’, to take everything,
including the last thread[xv].
It should be noted that Marshak was more rigorous in omitting anything
connected to religion. For that reason references to the cross could not
appear in his version.
In some examples,
Marshak’s translation has more pathos that is found in Burns or
Shchepkina-Kupernik. The problem was also a complete absence of dialect in
Marhsak’s translations. Thus, the concluding lines of the twelfth stanza, ‘I
see how folk live that hae riches;/But surely poor folk maun be wretches’
(B, ll.101-102), are substituted by a pathetic statement in Marshak’s
translation. Again, in the original Caesar does not know precisely what kind
of life his friend has, stating merely that they must be wretches, but
Marshak’s translation signifies that Caesar is well aware of Luath’s life
conditions. He states that poor people do not know happiness, must live in
poverty and work hard.
Не знает счастья нищий люд.
Poor people do not know happiness
— нужда и труд!
(M, ll.131-132) Their destiny is poverty and hard work!
is more accurate in translating these lines.
I know the life of the rich.
(SK, ll.103-104) But
poor people must be in a bad position.
Shchepkina-Kupernik often uses old-fashioned vocabulary. Thus in the lines
‘In favor wi’ some gentle master’ (B, l.145), ‘gentle master’ is translated
помещик (pomeshchik), another archaic
Russian word, describing holder of land on service tenure. The noun
was supposed to evoke negative feelings. After the October revolution, the
equipment, the livestock and property of
confiscated by the state
and the word acquired a negative meaning,
someone who exploited people before the revolution.
In this case,
Marshak uses a more appropriate equivalent ‘знатный
лорд’ (M, l.145),
Another precision problem results from the use
of religious references in Burns’s poetry. As one of the official
ideological objectives in the Soviet Union was elimination of religious
context, both Marshak and Shchepkina-Kupernik[xvi]
omitted biblical allusions whenever possible. Thus, Shchepkina-Kupernik
substitutes the expression ‘lords o’ the creation’ (SK, l.46) with ‘венец
творенья’ (garland of creation).
An’ there began a lang
About the lords o’ the creation (B, ll.45-46)
И тут пустились в рассужденья
And so they began
По поводу венца творенья
(SK, ll.46-47) The garland of
The substitution is not successful because ‘венец
творенья’ is a common epithet in
Russian poetry and sounds out of place in the prologue to the satirically
coloured friendly conversation. Marshak uses
the same strategy in this line, substituting ‘lords of creation’ with
– цари земли,
people – the tsars of the earth.
И разговор они вели
They were talking about
- о царях земли
The tsars of the earth.
In Marshak’s translation, ideological context is
more obvious. The place and importance of common people in the official
ideology was overly emphasized.
The strategy of deletion as well as the
strategy of substitution may be observed in the translation of the word
‘Lord’, also in the meaning of the word ‘God’ which both of the dogs use to
express their astonishment or disbelief. Thus, ‘L_ _d knows how lang’ (B,
l.28) was deleted, even though it is translatable and would have the same
meaning in Russian. When Caesar addresses Luath with
‘L_ _d, man’ (B, l.189), Shchepkina-Kupernik
uses the expression ‘ох, брат’ (SK, l.187) (oh, brother), erasing the ironic
response on behalf of Caesar, which is obvious in the original. In this
case, the translator’s intention was also to stress the equality of
both interlocutors. It should be noted that Marshak is more successful in
translation of this line as he preserves the original colloquial tone with
the word ‘братец’ (M, l.245), diminutive of the word ‘brother’, ascribing
more simplicity and directness to Cesar’s statement. However, Marshak also
deletes the word ‘Lord’ from the address. Both translators delete the
expression ‘L_ _d man’ used to illustrate Caesar’s astonishment in the
lines, ‘L_ _d man, our gentry care as little /For delvers, ditchers, an' sic
cattle’ (B, ll.116-117).
The same thing happens to Caesar’s phrase ‘guid
faith’ (B, l.150) which in Shchepkina-Kupernik’s translation is substituted
with the rather unceremonious, colloquial expression ‘ей, брось’ (SK, l.152)
(hey, no way). In Marshak’s translation, this
expression is simply deleted. Marshak also decided to intensify the original
subordination of Luath and once again add scornful intonations to Caesar’s
address by using the words
дворняжка (mongrel), and
(poor thing), instead of the original
addressing ‘Haith, lad’ (B, l.149). If in the original, Caesar is
more educated than Luath and merely corrects his friend’s naïve perspective
of the life of the rich, in Marshak’s translation Caesar appears scornful
Haith lad, ye little ken about it:
For Britain's guid! guid faith! I doubt it (B, ll.149-150)
To serve the country? Oh, you, mongrel!
Ты мало знаешь свет,
(M,ll.185-186) You know little about the world, poor thing.
To intensify the equality of the
dogs, Marshak and Shchepkina-Kupernik erased the address ‘Master
Caesar’ in the line ‘But will you tell me, Master Caesar’ (B, l.185).
One of the most problematic issues in the
translation of the poem was provided by the stanza at the end of the poem in
which Caesar describes his lord’s travels around the world during which he
denies himself no pleasure. The phrase ‘Wh_re-hunting amang groves o’
myrtles’ (B, l.164) could not be
translated directly, considering the fact that Soviet critics were overly
sensitive regarding any issues connected to sexual behaviour or eroticism.
However, it should be noted that Burns’s original also shows the influence
of censoring, in this case self-censoring. Burns shortened the words ‘whore’
(wh_re), ‘whoring’ (wh_ring) and ‘lord’ (l_ _ d), discussed above, as
religious structures at his time would not have allowed him to write in
full. Similarly, in the Soviet Union, direct translations of the words
‘whore’ and ‘whoring’ would be censored for the sake of immorality, while
the word ‘lord’ was omitted for a different reason, an overall tendency of
erasing religious context from the Soviet discourse. Hence, Soviet
translators did not follow the strategy of shortening used in the original
but substituted these problematic words by more suitable.
Marshak softens the original by using a
more poetic epithet instead, смуглыe девы
(dark ladies). His translation results in ‘ловить от будет
смуглых дев’ (M, l.206) / he will be chasing dark ladies. The meaning
of the translation is obscure as it is not clear in what way the ladies are
dark. In what follows, Caesar also mentions an unpleasant consequence of
‘whore-hunting’, ‘An’ clear the consequential sorrows,/Love-gifts of
Carnival Signioras’ (B, ll.167-168). Marshak did his best to avoid
mentioning venerial disease but his translation is again unclear.
Да смыть нескромный след,
который And wash away the immodest trace
Оставлен смуглою синьорой (M, ll.211-212) Left by the dark signora.
Soviet readers would have to use all their
imagination to interpret these lines.
Shchepkina Kupernik used the old-fashioned
expression ‘девок непотребных’ (SK, l.167) instead of ‘whore-hunting’. The
expression literally means ‘prostitutes’ but is rather archaic and used only
in literature. In any case, Shchepkina-Kupernik's substitution is more
successful than Marshak's which avoids any hint at the real occupation of
the ‘dark ladies’. However, the strategy of softening is used in
Shchepkina-Kupernik’s translation of the last stanza, ‘Ae
night, they're mad wi' drink an' wh_ring’ (B, l.217) in which she uses the
word разврат (immorality) instead of ‘whoring’. In this case,
Marshak decided in favor of an expression ‘разнузданная гульба’ (M, l.216),
which can be translated as ‘unbridled bender’ and is, of course, more
bookish and polite than ‘whoring’,
In the last stanza of his speech, Luath
wonders whether the life of the upper class is as pleasurable as he
imagines, ‘Sure great folk's life's a life o’
pleasure?’ (B, l.186). Shchepkina-Kupernik makes the meaning of the
phrase slightly less emphatic by substituting the noun
‘pleasure’ with the adjective
which can be translated as
The adverb весьма
(quite) is also added,
богачей весьма приятна’ (SK, l.190) (The life of rich people is quite
‘great folk’ is translated as богачи,
an expression often used by Soviet authorities with a humiliating meaning
attached to describe wealthy people. Marshak goes even further, transforming
the phrase into a rhetorical moral question and erasing the lines ‘Nae cauld
nor hunger e’er can steer them;/The very thought o’t need na fear them’ (B,
ll.187-188) which completely changes the meaning. Marshak does not
translate but interprets the original in this case.
твой высший свет
Now tell me if your
счастлив или нет? (M,
ll.243-244) Is happy enough or not?
The strategy of generalisation is used by both
translators in the translation of the phrase ‘for Britain’s guide’ (B,
l.148) in which ‘Britain’ is replaced by ‘родина’ (SK, l.182) (homeland), in
Shchepkina-Kupernik’s translation and ‘страна’ (M,
l.182) (country), in Marshak’s translation. In both cases, the intention is
to accommodate Burns’s original to the situation in the Soviet Union,
promoting him not as an exclusively Scottish but as an international poet.
The translations made in the Soviet Union by
Samuel Marshak and Tat’iana Shchepkina-Kupernik were entirely adapted to
ideological demands and had several important functions. First, they clearly
presented norms and value descriptions which included promotion of official
Soviet doctrines according to the newly established canons. Second,
translations offered a clear goal-description, emphasizing the main goals of
communist ideology, such as equality of rights, prominent position of
peasants and workers, promotion of world revolution and criticism of the
monarchy and the bourgeoisie. Third, both translators created a model
setting presenting Robert Burns as a model communist democratic poet whose
example should be followed by others. Selected biographies also contributed
to this goal. However, it should be noted in
conclusion that the undeniable
literary quality of translations made in the Soviet Union raises the
question of the potential to combine literary value with purely ideological
formations. In spite of obvious ideological
changes, the translations of Tat’iana Shchepkina-Kupernik are of high
literary value, and Marshak’s translations have become canonical and
have remained the best translations of Burns into Russian for almost half a
Material relating translations of Burns into Russian and Burns's
most famous Soviet translator, Samuil Marshak, appeared in several
Burns Chronicles. In 1960 Emrys Hughes published a short
article on his and Mr. Macmillian’s visit to Moscow. As special
correspondent of Tribune, Hughes met Samuil Marshak and gave
a speech at the Burns's celebration in Tchaikovsky Hall (Burns
Chronicles, 1960: 45-48). Hughes emphasized several times that
Marshak loved Burns as much as any Scot. He was also fascinated by a
glamorous celebration of Burns's 200th anniversary attended by
Soviet intelligentsia, writers, translators, critics and even the
Secretary of the Soviet Writers' Union, Alexei Surcov, one of the
most powerful figures in Soviet literary life of the 1960s. In
1965, a short bio note on Samuil Marshak appeared in Burns
Chronicles (1965: 80) and in 1978 Gabriel Feldman published an
article on pre-revolutionary and Soviet translators of Burns,
mentioning Burns’s first translators, Ivan Kozlov and Mikhail
Mikhailov, as well as the first Soviet translators, Eduard Bagricky
and Tat'iana Shechepkina-Kupernik. Feldman praised Marshak's
translations, stating that thanks to Marshak Burns became well-known
in all parts of the Soviet Union. Feldman also mentioned Burns's
biographies written in the Soviet Union as well as numerous musical
compositions inspired by Burns’s songs (Burns Chronicles,
The first translations of Robert Burns’s poetry in Russian were made
at the beginning of the nineteenth century, when following
mainstream Russian literary practices, translators adjusted his
poetry to the Romantic and Sentimental canons. Because of the
tsarist censorship of the time, Burns’s revolutionary and democratic
lyrics were mainly ignored and he was introduced to Russian readers
as a sentimental pastoral poet of idealistic Scottish landscapes.
Stephens. J. Language and
Ideology in Children’s Fiction. London/New York: Longman, 1992,
R. and Vidal, M. 1996. Translation Power Subversion.
Multilingual Methods Ltd: Clevedon/Philadelphia/Adelaide, 5.
Socialization through Children’s Literature. London:
Cambridge University Press, 1978, 115.
Ermolaev, H. 1997. Censorship in Soviet Literature 1917-1991.
Rowman&Littlefiled: USA, 82.
In the nineteenth century, most of Burns’s love and nature lyrics
were translated but his satires, democratic lyrics which contained
appeals to the sentiments of freedom and citizenship, patriotic
songs, and ironic epigrams remained unknown to Russian readers.
The first translator who
confronted the difficult task of adaptation of Burns’s poems was
Eduard Bagricky (1895-1934) who successfully translated “John
Barleycorn” and “The Jolly Beggars”, adding some general patriotic
and communist ideas. The main problem with Bagricky’s translations
was that he translated not the originals but the translations of
Mikhalov and Kozlov made in the nineteenth century.
In fact, Marshak translated all of Shakespeare’s sonnets.
Marshak continued to translate Burns’s poetry
until his death in 1964.
Prose translations are the author's own.
Burns, R. (ed. J. Kinsley) Burns: Poems and Songs. Oxfrod
University Press: Oxford, 1971: l.8.
Burns, R. [trans. Marshak, S]. Robert Burns. Stihi [Robert
Burns. Poems]. Hudozhestvenaia literature: Moskva, 1976: l.8.
Shchepkina-Kupernik, T.]. Izbrannaia Lirika [Chosen Lyrics].
Moscow: Molodaia Gvardiia, 1936: l.8.
Marshak often decided in favour of Russian proverbs to transfer the
lyrical folk tone of Burns’s poetry.
translation of ‘The Cotter’s Saturday Night’ may also serve as a
good example of ideological influence on the translation. Thus, in
Kupernik’s translation, the lines 127
to 144 (fifteenth and sixteenth stanzas), which describe a family’s
prayers and include the names of Jesus, Babylon, Eternal King,
Patmos, Christian, Creator, Heaven, and other allusions to the Bible
were completely deleted.