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Essay: " 'Słutzkiya Tkachykhi' ('The Weaver-Women of Słucak'): A Translator's View"

by Vera Rich

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Link to   "The Weaver-Women of Słucak", by Maksim Bahdanovič         [ Note: This link is to the most recent translation by Ms. Rich, and is based on the earlier version of Bahdanovič's poem. The two translations included in this essay are both earlier drafts. ]





Notes

  1. Vera Rich (translator), Like Water, Like Fire, an anthology of Byelorussian Poetry from 1828 to the present day, London, 1972.
  2. Vera Rich (translator), Arnold McMillin (editor), The Images Swarm Free, a bilingual selection of the poetry of Maksim Bahdanovič, Aleś Harun and Źmitrok Biadula, London, 1982.
  3. Hence, alas, the large number of misprints, including the omission of a number of significant lines.
  4. First line of an untitled poem: see Maksim Bahdanovič, Tvory, Minsk, 1957, p. 45. The English translation is at present unpublished.
  5. Bahdanovič, op. cit., p. 47. This was the first of my Bahdanovič translations ever to be published (in a US poetry magazine, The Muse, Vol. 8, No. 2, 1964). It is reprinted in Like Water, Like Fire, p. 73.
  6. Ignacy Łukaszewiez's invention of the luminescent "mantle" — which enhanced the illuminating power of kerosene lamps to a standard which even by 20th century standards is comfortable for fine needlework or reading small print, ana which provided the standard illumination of Bahdanovič's day — came some years after the closure of the Radziwiłł workshops.
  7. "Zimoj", see Bahdanovič, Tvory and Like Water, Like Fire, loc. cit.
  8. The verb "to blue" however, cannot normally be used in an intransitive sense in English, possibly because there is already a transitive verb "to blue" which has two meanings, neither of which means to colour something blue, namely, (1) to dissipate (one's money, inheritance etc.) in riotous living, and (2) (as the older generation of housewives will remember) to whiten one's linen wash by the application of a chemical agent, known as a "blue-bag", in the final rinse.
  9. I am never happy about using the word "grain" for young cereal crops before the ears begin to be formed. If I were writing purely for an audience in the United Kingdom, there would be no problem: I should simply say "corn" — which, as in the line of Masefield quoted above, can properly be used even of the first shoots of green, corresponding to the Belarusian ruń. But since our transatlantic cousins insist on using the word "corn" to mean maize (which does not grow properly in Belaruś — as Khrushchev found out to his cost — and in any case, is not what Bahdanovič meant here), "grain" it has to be.
  10. Adam Mickiewicz, Pan Tadeusz, Bk. 6, 576-80. The two operators of the loom are described as dziewica (the maiden) and tkacz ("the weaver", in the masculine form).
  11. See Encyklopedia Staropolska, Warszawa, 1958, p. 328.



Appendix: The Two Variants in Their Current Rendering


The Weaver-Women of Słucak

(English translation from first Belarusian
version, originally published in Naša Niva
and the collection Vianok)

    From native home, from native tillage,
    To the lord's grange for beauty's sake,
    Luckless girls taken from their village,
    Girdles of woven gold to make.
    Long hours of labour they endeavour,
    Forgetful of their girlish dreams,
    Toiling at the broad weaving ever,
    Where the Persian pattern gleams.
    Outside the walls, the smiling tillage,
    The sky gleams fair beyond the pane,
    And thoughts go wandering willy-nilly,
    There where the spring's in flower again.
    There by the rye, in the far distance,
    Are cornflowers, shining azure still,
    And waves of chilly silver glisten
    Where rivers gush between the hills.
    Dark frowns the forest's jagged verdure...
    And hands, forgetful at the loom,
    Instead of the designs of Persia,
    Weave in the native cornflower bloom.


    [1912]

    The Weaver-Women of Słucak

      ("the author's final redaction")


      They see no more their native village,
      Nor hear how children's voices wake,
      Taken to the lord's grange unwilling,
      Girdles of woven gold to make.
      Long hours of labour they endeavour,
      Long-since forgetting happy dreams,
      Toiling at the broad weaving ever,
      Where the Persian pattern gleams.
      Outside, a path leads to the tillage,
      Bird-cherry murmurs at the pane,
      And thoughts go wandering willy-nilly,
      There where the spring's in flower again;
      There all is merry and appealing:
      Glistening silver flow small rills,
      And in the grain's green billows swelling.
      The cornflowers gleam in beauty still.
      There sternly the true forest murmurs...
      And hand, unbidden, on the loom,
      Instead of the designs of Persia,
      You weave the native cornflower bloom.


      [19??]



Source: "'Słutzkiya Tkachykhi' ('The Weaver-Women of Słucak'): A Translator's View" by Vera Rich; Copyright © Vera Rich, 1996-2001, and Zapisy, print edition only, vol. 22 (BINIM, New York, 1996), pages 45-58. ]


Link to   "The Weaver-Women of Słucak", by Maksim Bahdanovič         [ Note: This link is to the most recent translation by Ms. Rich, and is based on the earlier version of Bahdanovič's poem. The two translations included in this essay are both earlier drafts. ]




Return to the Vera Rich Web page     Go to the A Belarus Miscellany Topic List           Go to the top of section about Books     Go to the Belarusian Writers Web page

Search the A Belarus Miscellany Web site

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