Pushkin’s Poem “Ia Vas Liubyl”

The literary heritage of Alexander Pushkin is of paramount importance for both the Russian literature and the worldwide art community. Pushkin is honored as the father of modern Russian literature, “a national hero and a universal genius”. This author’s poetry is a vivid lingual representation of the authenticity, richness and profoundness of the Russian culture and outlook. The paper focuses on the poem named “Ia Vas Liubyl” and its different translations in English. Specifically, the essay encompasses 8 poem’s translations, including the versions of Yevgeny Bonver, Michail Kneller, KatharenaEirmann, GeniaGurarie, Douglas Robinson, 2 versions by Babette Deutsch, and a version provided in A Bilingual Anthology of Russian Verse. The essay aims to analyze the main variants of translations of this literary piece and identify the core similarities and differences with the original source. Apart from clear relatedness with the primary source, every translation of the poem unfolds a specific insight of the translator along with particular vision and conception of the fundamental idea deciphered within the poem.


Key Words

To start with, every variant of translation adheres to the main idea reflected in the original poem by Pushkin, namely, true love the author experienced once. The bottom line of the Pushkin’s masterpiece is the feeling of such overwhelming love that the author is ready to conceal this sensation in order to prevent any possible sorrow or trouble that may happen to his beloved one. in this regard, each translation involves the key words and meanings such as: “I loved you”; “jealous” or “jealousy”; “God grant.” These phrases symbolize the priorities of true and dedicated love, according to the renowned author of the poem. Moreover, they form a background for framework of love conception that will be analyzed in the next section.

Conception of Love

Conception of love in the translated patterns is formed by means of symbols, additional nuances, and direct translations. The phrase “I loved you” is preserved in its authentic form in every translation in order to emphasize the depth of the feelings, the past tense of their duration, and overall significance of this stance to the author. Some translators added “once” to the given phrase, but it may be interpreted as a sign of transient and insignificant place this love occupied in the author’s heart. On the other hand, this phrase may mean that the poet clearly indicates that this love is the issue of the past and has no influence on him. Admittedly, this implicit meaning strongly contradicts to the next phrase of the poem that hints on probability that love still exists and tortures the artist. Therefore, the given nuance spoils accuracy of the authentic meaning of the first line of the poem.

One of the most unrestrained and properly translated versions of the first line of the poem by Pushkin is the one by Eiermann: “I loved you; even now I may confess / Some embers of my love their fire retain.” Furthermore, the given example contributes to considerably accurate and, at the same time, professional translation of the second line. The reference to the fire is a reconsideration of the Pushkin’s words highlighting that, perhaps, his love has not extinguished yet.

It is also appropriate to emphasize the significance of translation of the fifth line of Pushkin’s poem. This line refers to the way the author loves the woman to whom the poem is dedicated. The authentic line in the poem by Pushkin states that the poet loved “silently and hopelessly”, and some translators use this direct translation. For example, Deutsch chooses a reverse sentence order and incorporates these words in the beginning of the line to underline their importance: “Silently and hopelessly I loved you”, whereas Bonver extends the original message: “I loved you silently, without hope, fully.” Kneller presents absolutely different approach to translation as far as the message is transferred to the readers properly and, simultaneously, the literary form of the translation differs from other versions. Eiermann presents a considerably redundant translation of the fifth line, and in such a way, the overall impression of the given version of Pushkin’s poetry is partially distorted. The redundancy causes one more twist, namely, considerably different rhythm of the poem. Therefore, Eiermann’s translation may be referred to only as an alternative variant, but not the main one when readers intend to discover the paramount genius of Pushkin. Apart from that, a particular old-fashioned manner may be perceived in the translation by Eiermann.

The theme of hopelessness is revealed and supported in the versions by Robinson, Deutsch and Gurarie: “I loved you; and the hopelessness I knew” (Gurarie); “I loved you without hope, a mute offender” (Deutsch); “I’ve loved you hopelessly, and yet so dearly” (Robinson). Deutsch and Gurarie put prevailing emphasis on the lyric character and poet’s suffering from this love, whereas Robinson focuses more on the uniqueness and strength of love the artist has experienced. The main emphasis in Robinson’s translation of Pushkin’s poem relies on depth and sincerity of the feeling of love and the poet’s dedication to his mistress. In order to reveal precisely the love depicted by Pushkin, the translator employs such words as “hopelessly,” “dearly,” “tenderly,” and “sincerely.” Almost every word is a direct reference to the original words used by Pushkin. Hence, Robinson succeeds in preserving authenticity and transferring the core message to the English-speaking audience of readers.

To compare, the epithets used to describe the poet’s love employed by Deutsch include “silently, hopelessly, tenderly, truthfully” in one translated version and “deep, true, and tender” in the other one. These versions of translation also do not distort the overall perception of the concept of love developed by Pushkin in the poem. In addition, the rest of the translations align with the general idea and represent it properly. For instance, Kneller uses words “wildly” and “mildly” that may be argued concerning their relevance in the given context. They may correspond to the overall notion of suffering loving heart, but are not encompassed by Pushkin’s vision of true love depicted in the poem.

The next line is one of the most difficult and challenging in terms of translation. It refers to the tortures of jealousy and timidity the author has experienced when in love. Every translation reveals the core meaning of the original version and simultaneously develops a particularly strong image of the suffering poet in love. For example, translations by Deutsch provide the reader with a tragic and overwhelming image of the suffering loving heart: “What jealous pangs, what shy despairs I knew!” Furthermore, the version provided by Deutsch is impeccable in simplicity and absolute accuracy of the description of loving Pushkin’s heart as long as it depicts uncertainty, oppositions and a challenge of exaggerated emotions: “At times too jealous, and at times too shy.” Bonver also provides a melodic literary translation of the given line employing such words as “In diffidence, in jealousy, in pain.” Such a vivid picture outlines the key niches of the poet’s love distinctly.

Two final lines of Pushkin’s poem are crucial for the given analysis as far as they reflect the unique quintessence of true and devoted love. Moreover, complex structures of phrases, overall tension of culmination, and profound implications that are to be preserved by the translators make the challenge of translation even more serious. Two final lines reveal the true depth and abnegation of the poet and his love for the sake of happiness of the beloved. Every translation transfers this message to the readers’ audience properly, whereas the level of precision and closeness to authentic version varies. To be more precise, one of Deutsch’s translations reveals considerable distortion of the original sense of Pushkin’s poem: “God grant you find another who will love you / As tenderly and truthfully as I.” Pushkin’s poem pronounces that the loving heart is ready to self-sacrifice and desires the beloved lady to be loved by another man as sincerely and tenderly as the poet does. Nonetheless, the given translation by Deutsch distorts the initial idea by adding the word “find” that does not reflect the implicit meaning of two final lines. Kneller presents a significant translational pattern of these lines that corresponds to the authentic text: “I loved you so sincerely and mildly, / As, God permit, may love you someone else.” This translation adheres to the original idea properly highlighting permission of God, not a sheer will of a human being, and sincerity of poet’s love. One more vivid and constructive translation is conducted by Robinson. The translator employed the similar reference to the divine will on granting the beloved lady with one more love of such tenderness and sincerity: “So tenderly I’ve loved you, so sincerely, / God grant you may be so well loved again.” Hence, the key idea is interpreted and embodied in relevant words that form two final lines of Pushkin’s poem.

Authenticity Issue and Peculiar Translators’ Insights

Based on the previous analysis, the translators added some implications of their own visions to the translations; hence, authenticity of their versions of Pushkin’s poem can be questioned. One of the most significant translations of the literary work was performed by Bonver. Its ultimate importance and value relies on fluency of the lines, sophisticated tempo and melody of the whole verse. The speech is similar to that of the authentic source. It is a crucial nuance since the majority of the translations acquire their particular tempo and many translated variants reveal different kind of tempo in comparison with the poet’s version. In contrast, Bonver manages to preserve the original tempo and, simultaneously, transfer the key ideas and images of the authentic poem. To be more precise, the first lines are considerably succinct and refined, whereas the meaning is similar, but not completely analogous as it is in the third and fourth lines: “But let it not recall to you my dole; / I wish not sadden you in any way.” These lines refer to the original words of Pushkin and resemble the author’s excellent style. It is crucial that both meaning and form are molded into a unity in order to transfer the idea of the poetic masterpiece to the global literary community. Furthermore, the use of grammar is closely related to the peculiarities of the epoch in which Pushkin lived. In such a way, the translation by Bonver preserves authenticity and key implications of the Pushkin’s verse to the fullest.

To compare, Eirmann develops a detail, namely, “embers of my love,” that is alien to the original verse by Pushkin. This metaphor is a nuance that decorates the translation by Eiermann. It is more successful in comparison with the alternatives provided in A Bilingual Anthology of Russian Verse or Gurarie. The translated verse by Eiermann has significant precision and connection to the original source, whereas Gurarie provides an ordinary meaning that may be concluded from the Pushkin’s poem: “I loved you, and I probably still do, / And for a while the feeling may remain” (Gurarie). On the other hand, one of the translations by Deutsch reveals considerable nuances of precision and sufficient degree of doubt: “I loved you once, nor can this heart be quiet; / For it would seem that love still lingers there.” The deficit of confidence of both love and its absence is similar to the implications of the Pushkin’s poem, but Deutsch exaggerates hesitant condition of the author.

On the contrary, Robinson provides one of the most closely-connected translations that are related to authentic source explicitly. The translator encompasses every hint and meaning and frames it in an exquisite literary form: “I’ve loved you so, and may just love you still; / For in my soul love isn’t yet extinguished.” It is especially intriguing to interpret the tense forms the translator has chosen for the delineation of feelings, namely, the Past Indefinite tense used by other translators primarily is a clue to the conclusion that the author depicts the feeling that happened previously, and has no obvious or essential connection to the present moment, whereas Robinson employs the Present Perfect tense, and in such a way, underlines that both the sensation of love and its outcomes affect his life as he writes these lines. As a result, the author emphasizes that he has the feelings he writes about, though, is not determined to demonstrate them vividly. The reason of such a decision is properly explained in the next lines featuring unconventional care for feelings, serenity and happiness of the beloved woman. The lexemes Robinson has chosen for the first two lines of the translation align with the words of the original verse by Pushkin impeccably.

On a similar note, not every translator manages to select the relevant words for such an impeccable embodiment of the feelings of the father of the modern Russian literature. In particular, Kneller provides a decent replication of Pushkin’s thoughts. Gurarie offers the translation of the discussed pattern in plain words. Nonetheless, one of the versions translated by Deutsch is considerably exaggerated in the scopes of both style and precision: “But do not you be further troubled by it; / I would in no wise hurt you, oh, my dear.” Such translation frames the main idea into exquisite language, but reduces the level of overall authenticity of the poem. Such a tendency is an expected outcome in cases when there is such a diversity of translations. It contributes to Pushkin’s heritage on the global scale by means of a new vision of author’s message and individual approach to its interpretation since each translator provides a particular interpretation of the poetic images, messages and ideas. Both translations provided by Deutsch are vivid, sophisticated and relevant, whereas every line is individually interpreted and molded by the translator. Furthermore, both versions of Deutsch’s translation reveal tempo and rhythm that are absolutely relevant to the original source.


Thus, the range of translations of the poem “Ya Vas Liubyl” by Alexander Pushkin provides several different interpretations of the core ideas the poem encompasses. Each translation reveals a peculiar insight of the translator, their individualized vision and attitude to the main idea deciphered in the lines of the poem. The translations by Bonver, Gurarie, and Robinson have become the most concise and close to the original poem by Pushkin of in different aspects, whereas 2 translations by Deutsch are somehow redundant. On the other hand, the version by Eiermann is employs excessive metaphors and images that are alien to the authentic poem. The prominence of the translations by Bonver, Gurarie, and Robinson is also supported by relevance of the style as far as other translators demonstrate the poetic lines that are considerably altered when compared with the primary source. The three translators provide the readers’ audience with exquisite embodiment of Pushkin’s thoughts and feelings translated in English accurately.

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