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  • Thanks! I'll check Johnston out of the library, and one day I might read Nab's version too.

    April 3, 2009

  • Thanks, seanahan! If there's one thing I know, it's how to ramble on.

    April 3, 2009

  • Rolig, you are a great example of the Wordie spirit. Anywhere else on the internet, your last post would have stopped after the fifth word. Instead, you send me scurrying to Amazon to update my wishlist with new translations.

    April 3, 2009

  • I haven't compared Onegin translations in a long time, but the last time I did (back in the '80s), Johnston's was by far the best in capturing the spirit of the text. Nabokov's translation is scrupulously accurate as to the concrete meaning of the text, but it is often very idiosyncratic in its word choice and at times rather flat. Nabokov smugly eschews any attempt to convey the original's rhyme scheme or even its meter; I think he secretly wanted to keep the "real" Pushkin to himself. But his two-volume commentary to the text is fascinating and indispensable for any serious Pushkin-lover. I'd recommend Johnston (whose translation came out after Nabokov's and so was spared the Nabokovian disdain he decanted on Walter Arndt, Babette Deutsch, and other predecessors).

    April 2, 2009

  • Duh. Thanks rolig. I missed the pun because I was looking at those two lines in isolation.

    I've been meaning to ask you which verse translation(s) of Eugene Onegin you like the most. Johnston's? I've looked over a few in bookstores over the years and just never got that warm glow, I'm not sure why. What I'm looking for is something that does (insofar as possible) with English what Pushkin does with Russian; it's the spirit of original I look for in translations, bearing in mind the natural limitations and advantages of the rendering language. Perhaps I'm asking for the impossible. My brother is learning Russian and it does seem like a particularly capricious tongue for an English speaker.

    April 1, 2009

  • I imagine Ferry felt it was important to preserve Horace's pun, which an English reader with a little knowledge of Latin roots (i.e. ped- = "foot") would easily get (helped along, as in my case, by the semantic and formal resemblance to obsequious). In the following line, of course, "following foot for foot one foot at a time" refers to metrical (iambs, trochees, dactyls, etc.) not anatomical feet. Horace is recommending that poets choose a noble if familiar subject, such as the Trojan War, and then make their own mark on it by doing new things with the poetic form. I wonder if he is talking especially about those Latin poets who were producing more or less free translations from Greek poetry and yet were trying to render the Greek meters as closely possible. Sort of like the many translations of Pushkin I've seen that make this incredible poet sound like some jingle-writer because the translator is applying all sorts of silly tricks to preserve the rhyme scheme and the meter. (Charles Johnston's 1977 translation of Eugene Onegin is a felicitous exception.)

    But I (typically) digress. Given the rough tertiary meter of Ferry's verse (and this particular line is a standard amphibrachic in Latin, short-long-short, or in English, unstressed-stressed-unstressed tetrameter), I would expect pedissequous to be pronounced with the stress on the second syllable, with a short i as in disc, roughly /pɛ'dɪsəkwəs/.

    April 1, 2009

  • How would you pronounce it? This is the pronunciation of pedissequo.

    April 1, 2009

  • Cool. I do think that rather than just inventing an English equivalent to the Latin, the translator ought to work a bit harder here. Would be interesting to see what other translators have done. That line and the following one (ha) seem rather a waste of words in Ferry's version. One would hardly be following two feet at a time, unless it was some kind of sack race.

    April 1, 2009

  • Pedissequus (Italian: pedissequo), "following one's feet" (= slavish). This is how I found it, just googling the English (supposed) equivalent.

    March 31, 2009

  • Seems like a nonce word - what is the Latin I wonder?

    March 31, 2009

  • It's better to make your poem from matter of Troy
    Than try for utter originality,
    for if you don't just lazily saunter about
    On the easy paths of the public domain you'll earn
    your rightful ownership of part of it,
    so long as you're not a pedissequous slave
    following foot for foot one foot at a time
    into the trap of timorous hyper-correctness.


    (The epistles of Horace, By Horace, translated by David Ferry)

    March 31, 2009