“I have raised myself a monument”

This poem is itself a translation by Pushkin from Horace’s Odes, which makes translating it both more exciting and justified. The translator of a translation, as opposed to a wholly original poem, is hardly a mere impostor. I first translated this two years ago but was partly faithful to the metre and only kept half of the rhyming scheme.

The metre here is difficult: 13 – 12 – 13 – 8. You go from the seemingly endlessly long first three lines to the abruptly short fourth one. Translating Russian poetry never seems to reach a happy medium: either the original is pithy and the nearest English equivalent demands long words or, as in this case, the Russian words are longer than their nearest English translations. This is one of the many Russian poems that contain the word ‘heaven’ and there is only a limited amount of times the translator can pull the stunt I have here with its rhyme… But nonetheless, here you are:

I’ve raised myself a lasting monument unfashioned
The people’s path to it shall ever beaten be.
It towers higher than the columns tsars impassioned
Have had put up for all to see.

Not all of me will die – my soul lives in my lyric
Which will outlive my dust, outrun my putrid reek
And I shall live on earth in victory unPyrrhic
If will one poet rhymings seek.

My fame shall cover all of Russia’s vast expanses
And set astir the many tongues of all who speak:
The Finn, the wild for now Tungus, the Slav who dances
And the friend of the steppes, Kalmyk.

And long shall I be loved by both the fools and sages
In having strummed my lyre to put them at their ease;
In singing Freedom’s cause in my most cruel of ages
In making for the fallen pleas.

Oh my dear muse, entrust yourself to will of heaven
Do not fear insults or let laurels be your rule.
Take fourteen drams of praise, of calumny, twice seven,
And do not quarrel with a fool.

***

Я памятник себе воздвиг нерукотворный,
К нему не зарастет народная тропа,
Вознесся выше он главою непокорной
Александрийского столпа.

Нет, весь я не умру — душа в заветной лире
Мой прах переживет и тленья убежит —
И славен буду я, доколь в подлунном мире
Жив будет хоть один пиит.

Слух обо мне пройдет по всей Руси великой,
И назовет меня всяк сущий в ней язык,
И гордый внук славян, и финн, и ныне дикой
Тунгуз, и друг степей калмык.

И долго буду тем любезен я народу,
Что чувства добрые я лирой пробуждал,
Что в мой жестокой век восславил я Свободу
И милость к падшим призывал.

Веленью божию, о муза, будь послушна,
Обиды не страшась, не требуя венца,
Хвалу и клевету приемли равнодушно,
И не оспоривай глупца.

(1836. Орфография по серии “Библиотека всемирной литературы” изд-ва “Эксмо” 2011 г. издания.)

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