Translations

English Poems Owerset intae Scots Leid!

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Parris Joyce, Learning Officer fur the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, as pairt o Tracy Harvey’s recent Scots leid wirkshoaps, hus been owersettin some poetry intae Scots.

Owersettin is a gey gid way o engagin wae the leid an makin ye think haird aboot wit wirds wirk best. It’s a useful way o usin wirds ye already ken but micht o forgotten as weel as lairnin new yins tae.

Here is twa poems she owersit intae Scots. Enjoy!

The Walrus and the Carpenter by Lewis Carroll

(or The Muckle Flabby Selch an the Jiner)

The sin wis beekin oan the sey,

Beekin wae aw his micht!

He did his gey best tae mak

Tha billows sleekit an bricht –

An this wis unco, cause it wis

The middle o the nicht.

The muin wis beekin fungily,

Cause she thoucht tha sin

Hud goat nae business tae be thir

Efter tha day wis done –

‘It’s gey misbehadden o him’, she said,

‘Tae cum an tash the fun!’

The sey wis wet as wet cud be

The saunds were dry as dry.

Ye cuddnae see a clud, cause

Nae clud wis in the sky:

Nae burds wir fleein owerheid –

Thir wir nae burds tae fly.

The Muckle Flabby Selch an the Jiner

Wir daunerin nar at haun:

They gret lich ownyhing tae sei

Such quantities o saund:

‘If this wur only red oot’,

They said, ‘it wid be graund!’

If seeven lassies wae seeven besoms

Sweeped it fir hauf a year,

Dae ye reckin, the Muckle Flabby Selch spaikit,

‘Thit they cud git it red clear?’

‘I doot it’ said the Jiner,

An shed a wersh tear.

‘O Oysters, cum an dauner wae us!’

The Muckle Flabby Selch did fleetch.

‘A bonnie dauner, a braw blether,

Alang the briny beach:

We cannae dae wae mair thin fower,

Tae gee a haun tae each.’

The auldest Oyster luiked at hum,

But never a wird he said:

The auldest Oyster winked his ee,

And shoogled his heavy heid –

Meaning tae say he didnae choose

To leave the oyster-bed.

But fower wee Oysters scrambled up,

Aw buzzin fir the treat:

Their jaikets were brushed, their faces washed,

Their shoes were clean and neat –

And this wis unco, cause, ye ken,

They hudnae any feet.

Fower ither Oysters follaeed thum,

An yit anither fower;

An thick an fast they came at last,

An mair, an mair, an mair –

Aw hoppin through the frothy waves,

And scrambling tae the shore.

The Muckle Flabby Selch an the Jiner

Daunered oan a mile or so,

An then they rested oan a rock

Conveniently low:

An aw the wee Oysters stood

An waited in a row.

The time has come, the Muckle Flabby Selch said,

To spaikit o mony hings:

O shoes – an ships – an sealing-wax –

O cabbages – an kings –

An why the sea is bilin hoat –

An whether sows hae wings.

But wait the noo, the Oysters gret,

Afore we huv oor chat:

Fir sum o us are oot o breath,

An aw o us are fat!

Nae rush! Said the Jiner.

They thanked him much fir that.

A loaf o breed, the Muckle Flabby Selch said,

Is wit we chiefly need:

Pepper an vinegar besides

Are gey guid indeed –

Now if yer ready, Oysters dear,

We cun stairt tae feed.

But naw oan us! The Oysters gret,

Turning a wee bit blue.

After such kindness, thit wid be,

A rotten hing tae do!

The nicht is braw, the Muckle Flabby Selch spaikit.

Do you admire the view?

It wis so kind of ye tae cum!

An ye are awfy nice!

The Jiner said nowt but

Cut us inither slice:

I wish ye werenae quite so deef –

I’ve had tae ask ye twice!

It seems a shame, the Muckle Flabby Selch spaikit,

To play them such a trick,

After we’ve broucht them oot so far,

An made them trot so quick!

The Jiner said nowt but

The butter’s spread too thick!

I greet fir ye, the Muckle Flabby Selch spaikit:

I deeply sympathize.

Wae sobs and tears he sorted oot

Those o the mucklest size,

Haudin his hanky

Afore his greetin eyes.

O Oysters, said the Jiner,

Ye’ve had a bonnie run!

Shall we be trotting hame again?

But reply came there nane –

An this was scarely unco, cause

They’d scoffed every yin!

Twas The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore

(or Twis The Nicht Afore Yule)

Twas the nicht afore Yule,

when aw throu the hoose

Nae a beastie wis steerin,

nae e’en a moose;

The stockings were hung

by the lum wae care,

In houps thit St. Nic

soon wid be thir.

The weans were cooried

aw snog in their beeds,

While veesions o sugarplums

birled in thir heids;

An Maw in her mutch

an a in ma cap,

Had juist corried doon

fir a lang winter’s nap –

When oot oan the gairdin

there heaved such a clatter,

A boonced fae ma beed

to luik wit wis the matter.

Awa tae the windae

a fleed like a flash,

Teared open the shutters

an chucked up the sash.

The muin on the breist

o the new-fawen snaw,

Gave a lustre o twaloors

tae objeects ablow.

When, wit tae ma ferlie een

Shood kythe,

But a wee sleigh

An aucht wee Yule deer,

Wae a wee auld driver

so swippert an quick,

A kent in a blink

it must be St. Nick.

Mair fest than aigles

his coursers they came,

An he fussled, an rousted,

an cried them by name –

“Noo, Dasher! Noo, Dancer!

Noo, Prancer an Vixen!

Oan, Comet! Oan, Cupid!

Oan, Donder an Blitzen!

Tae the tap o the entry,

tae the tap o the wa!

Noo, hurl awa! Hurl awa!

Hurl awa aw!”

As dry leaves afore

the gallus hurricane flicht,

When they meet wae an obstacle

rise tae the lift,

So up tae the hoosetap

the coursers they fleed away,

Wae sleigh fu o thingamajigs –

an St. Nicholas tae;

An then in a glenting,

a heard oan the roof

The linkin an luifin

o each wee huif.

As a drew in ma heid

an wis birlin aroon,

Doon the lum St. Nicholas

came wae a boond.

He wis set-on aw in fur

fae his heid to his fut,

And his claes were aw tarnished

wae ashes and suit.

A haunfie o thingamajigs

he hud chucked oan his back,

An he luiked lik a peddler

juist opening his pack.

His een hoo they twinkled!

His dimples hoo mirkie!

His chowks were lik roses,

his neb lik a cherry!

His unco wee mou

wis drawn up lik a bow,

An the baird oan his chin

wis as fite as the snaw!

The stock o a gun

He held ticht in his teeth,

An the reek it encircled

his heid lik a wreath.

He hud a braid face

an a wee roon belly

Thit shoogled when he buckled

lik a bowlie fu o jelly.

He wis pluffie an sonsie –

a richt gawsie auld elf,

an a keckled when a saw him,

in maugre o masel.

A glimmer o his een

an a skew o his heid,

Soon gave me tae ken

A hud nowt tae dreid.

He spaikit nae a wird,

but when straucht tae his wirk,

An fillt aw the stockings

then birled wae a yerk,

An pittin his pinkie

aside o his neb,

An geein a nod,

Up the lum he fled.

He legged it tae his sleigh,

tae his fleeto gave a whustle,

An awa they aw flew

like the doon o a thrissel.

But a harked him goller

as he hurled oot o sicht,

“Joco Yule tae aw

an tae aw a gid nicht!”

Franz Stelzhamer: ‘The Austrian Burns’

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The following blog post was written by Jim Andrews, one of Robert Burns Birthplace Museum’s Visitor Service Assistants.

There may be something about dialect poets that attracts a dedicated and loyal following. I have never been a member of a Burns club or society, though I do have several friends who are, and I used to believe that such organisations were uniquely Burns-related phenomena. That is, until I came across the Austrian writer Franz Stelzhamer, remembered today for his poems and songs in the dialect of Upper Austria. He has been called “the Austrian Burns” and, from a heritage point of view, Stelzhamer, like Burns, is very well represented in his country. There is a Stelzhamerbund (Stelzhamer Federation – web address http://www.stelzhamerbund.at), a Stelzhamerhaus (birthplace and museum), a Stelzhamer prize, a play about his life and some statues of him.

Franz Stelzhamer

Like Burns, Stelzhamer was born into a rural family of modest means. However, he was recognised quite early as a particularly gifted child and sent to school in Salzburg. He went on to study law in Graz and Vienna and theology in Linz. He abandoned his studies before qualifying (much to his father’s displeasure) and became instead an actor, writer and journalist. Burns had a breakthrough moment with Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect: Stelzhamer’s came with Lieder in obderenns’scher Volksmundart (Songs in the Upper-Enns Dialect). He continued as a writer in both standard German and dialect, but it is for his work in dialect that he is now remembered and admired. Although Upper Austria is not an independent nation, it has its own anthem, Hoamatgsang, with words by Stelzhamer in the Upper Austrian dialect, of course.

It is a rather curious fact that Stelzhamer translated five of Burns’s works into the Upper Austrian dialect: curious, because Stelzhamer had no knowledge of English or of Scottish dialect. His sources were translations of Burns in standard literary German. I have always thought that Burns’s poems and songs are very comfortably accommodated in German: it seems to be able to preserve the natural rhythms of the original works. I think that even a non-German-speaker with some knowledge of Burns could easily identify the original work from the following lines: Mein Herz ist im Hochland, Mein Herz is nicht hier… But just in case, they are, of course, the first lines of My Heart’s in the Highlands.

One of the songs that Stelzhamer translated was John Barleycorn (in German, Hans Gerstenkorn). Here is the final verse in Burns’s original, in Georg Pertz’s German translation, which was probably Stelzhamer’s source text, and in Stelzhamer’s translation:

Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
Each man a glass in hand;
And may his great posterity
Ne’er fail in old Scotland!

Drum lebe hoch Hans Gerstenkorn,
Ein Jeder nehm’ sein Glas,
Und daß sein Saame, weit und breit
Altschottland nie verlaß’!

Drum Hans Gerstenkern hoch!
Und höbts Glas olle z’gleich,                       ,
Daß a dableibt bon üns
In liebn Obröstareich.

It is a reasonably fair translation of a translation, but there is an interesting discrepancy in the last line. The very last word, Obröstareich, is the dialect form of the standard German word Oberösterreich. It is not old Scotland, as in the original, or even Altschottland (old Scotland), as in Georg Pertz’s version: Oberösterreich is Upper Austria. Moreover, at the beginning, the three kings in Burns’s original and Pertz’s translation are replaced with three simple Austrian farmers. Perhaps not just translated: could we say “hijacked”? To be fair, Stelzhamer did acknowledge Burns as the original author. Burns would probably have approved of being translated into a German dialect rather than into the standard literary language, and perhaps even of some creative tweeking to bring the narrative closer to the intended readership.

From Russia with Marshak…

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This blog post on Russian translator Samuil Yakovlevich Marshak was written by Visitor Services Assistant Jim Andrews.

  Samuil Yakovlevich Marshak

 

I think it would be true to say that the majority of non-English-speakers who have delved into the works of Robert Burns will have done so through translations. Our Russian-speaking guests will be familiar with the work of Robert Burns through the translations of Samuil Yakovlevich Marshak. I have met Russian visitors who had come to us carrying a copy of Marshak’s translations. I first came across Marshak at secondary school: our Russian teacher, a Burns enthusiast, thought it might be fun to have us learn “Scots Wha Hae” in Russian. As I recall, we did not share his notion of fun.

Usually translators, however talented they may be at what they do, remain in the shadow of the original authors. Not so with Marshak. In Russia he is certainly more famous than our Robert Burns. He is an author in his own right, best known for his children’s literature. As a translator, he has provided Russian-speakers with access to a vast swathe of English literature, from Shakespeare’s sonnets, through the Romantic poets of the 18th and 19th centuries (as well as Burns, he translated Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth among others), and on to the works of Rudyard Kipling and A. A. Milne. His translations of Shakespeare’s sonnets are widely considered to be virtual classics of Russian literature in their own right.

His life story is every bit as interesting as Burns’s, though very different. He lived through the Russian Revolution and the Stalin era. Being a Jew in Russia at that time could have been a problem for Marshak. However, his prodigious talent was recognised and he eventually became head of the children’s branch of the Soviet state publishing house. And, along with our Robert Burns, he shares the distinction of having had his face appear on Soviet postage stamps.

Unfortunately some things can get “lost in translation”. Inevitably the flavours of the Scottish dialect are lost, as Marshak quite understandably used standard literary Russian. However, there is another aspect of Marshak’s work which has to be taken into account. In the Soviet Union writers did not have the freedom to write whatever they wanted: the Soviet government imposed a doctrine of “socialist realism” for all forms of artistic endeavour. This also covered translations of foreign authors, whose works either had to conform to this doctrine or could be “adjusted” to conform. Burns fell into the latter category and it has to be admitted that Marshak did some adjusting. Soviet ideology did not tolerate religion of any kind and all references to religion were purged or altered, making Burns seem humanist, even anti-clerical. Burns’s Scottish patriotism was watered down and his egalitarian ideals were emphasised. Essentially the Soviet reader of Marshak’s translations had to see communist ideology reflected in Robert Burns’s work, whether Burns would have liked it or not. Nonetheless, his translations earned him recognition here in Scotland: in 1960 he was made an honorary president of the Robert Burns World Federation.

                  A translation by Marshak

Of course, the Soviet Union is no more. Although a translator working today would provide a quite different, perhaps more authentic interpretation of Burns, Marshak’s translations are actually of an extremely high literary quality and remain the definitive translations (though not the only ones – some earlier translations were done during the tsarist era and they also were adjusted to make them politically correct, though in rather different ways). Burns remains a popular literary figure in Russia, but today’s visitor from Russia still sees Burns through very different eyes.

 

Burns in the USSR

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The third in our series of guest blog posts written by Glasgow University students examines Burns’s influence on the USSR.

The works of Robert Burns have been translated most frequently into Russian and Eastern European languages. In the era of the Soviet Union, Burns was promoted as the ‘people’s poet’ and was taught in USSR classrooms alongside their own national poets. Although the Soviet Regime was known to be slaughtering and silencing its own contemporary poets, Burns’s reputation endured. In fact, in 1965 the USSR was the first country in the world to honour Burns’s memory with a postage stamp, one of which is on display in the museum.

During 19th Century Imperial times when Russia was still ruled by the Tsar, intellectuals were so out-of-touch with the realities of peasant life that translations of Burns became representative of the common man. His empathy with the poor and oppressed, and his sympathies for revolutionary causes held mass appeal amongst middle-class circles, and his work also proved extremely popular amongst the ordinary Russian people.

marshak-book

To discover the reasons why, we must first look to Samuil Marshak’s translation of Burns which is housed in the museum. Marshak studied at the University of London but in 1914, just three years before the collapse of the Tsardom, he moved back to Russia and fully devoted himself to the art of translation. He began his translated version of the complete works of Robert Burns in the same year and published it by 1924. However, due to restrictions in the translation process in Imperial Russia, Burns’s poetic sensibilities have been vastly misinterpreted by the readers of Marshak’s translation, which not only sold 600,000 copies after its first publication, but was also a frequent bestseller throughout the 20th century. However, due to ideological restrictions within the arts during the tsarist regime, Marshak’s translations and adaptations do not bear much resemblance to Burns’s original poetry. An artist, or in Marshak’s case a translator, was not allowed to criticise the monarchy nor show any sympathy for revolutionary causes in their works. Marshak also tended to over-stress the ideas of religious resignation, duty, and dignity, and so due to the overwhelming popularity of his translations, aspects of Burns’s work alluding to any of the above themes have either been completely ignored or gravely misunderstood in Russia and beyond. That is not to say that Marshak’s translations do not hold any literary value, for in fact their quality is quite exceptional.

russian-burns

In the height of the Soviet Regime, Burns’s works were continually republished and new versions written – the USSR was very particular about which literature was appropriate. Soviet readers were living in a literary bubble, isolated from international readers. Translations of such poems as ‘A Man’s a Man for a’ That’ and ‘Love and Liberty’ were hailed as examples of Burns’s empathy with the poor, his democratic spirit and his connection with the worker, peasant, and beggar – the USSR was keen to elevate his desire for equality and democracy for the people.

Many aspects of Burns’s biography which are common knowledge amongst the former USSR are quite simply not true and, like his poetry, have been intercepted by ideology. For example, when the USSR started to reject churches as independent organisations, Burns was presented to the public as being anti-Christian. Biographers put uncommon and often untrue emphasis on his role as a victim of the upper classes, as a suffering alcoholic brought on by the observation of the unjust treatment of the poor, and as a wholesome, smiley family man who married once and adored his wife. His biography was both made up and emphasised in equal measure in order to bring his image closer to that of the common man.

And so we can observe how ideology has intercepted and interfered with the memorialisation of Burns in Russia and in ex-Soviet states. Although his work is still extremely popular, more efforts need to be made to separate his work and biography from pre-Soviet and Soviet ideologies.

By Kirsty Macqueen