The present new translation of Pushkin’s drama The Water-Nymph (Rusalka, 1829–32) by James Falen is a welcome addition to Falen’s growing corpus of Pushkin translations. This lively rendering preserves Pushkin’s meter and conveys the Russian poet’s brilliance and concision in natural and flowing English. The meter of the original and the translation is one natural to English—the unrhymed iambic pentameter that Pushkin learned from Shakespeare and adopted to such perfection for Russian versification—and Falen’s poetic execution does the best job of any English version to date in making this extraordinary piece accessible to the non-Russian speaking student of Pushkin.
THE BANK OF THE DNIEPER, A MILL.
The MILLER and his DAUGHTER.
I swear, you stupid girls, you’re all the same—
No brains at all. When some good man turns up,
A proper catch, and not some common sort,
You need to wrap him up and not let go.
And how? Through commonsense and right behavior,
Enticing and rebuffing him by turns;
And now and then, in passing as it were,
To hint at marriage,—but above all look
To keep your precious maidenhead intact—
That priceless gift—it’s like a spoken word—
Once let it go, you’ll never get it back.
Or if, for marriage, there’s no hope at all,
You ought at least to profit in some way,
Or benefit your kin; you have to think:
“He won’t forever love me like today
And pamper me with gifts.” But no, not you!
You’d never think of reaping while you can!
Whenever he appears, you turn to mush;
You cater to his every whim and wish;
You hang about his neck the whole day long,—
Then all at once… your charming fellow’s gone,
He’s disappeared without a trace. And you?
You’re left with nothing. Oh, you stupid girls!
I’ve told you this a hundred times or more:
Look out, my girl, and don’t be such a fool,
To throw away good fortune when it comes;
Don’t let the Prince escape, or waste yourself
By giving in too soon. And all for what?
So you can weep forever and lament
What’s lost and gone.
Alexander Pushkin did not leave a clear written record of what he thought of Adam Mickiewicz, but Mickiewicz left scholars of Pushkin some very interesting interpretations and reminiscences in the texts of lectures and an essay composed in French. In 1837, upon hearing of Pushkin’s death, Mickiewicz began to write an article which was soon published in the French newspaper Le Globe. Later, during his tenure as lecturer at the Collège de France, he gave a course of lectures on Slavic Literature and mentioned Pushkin several times. These texts can be found in their original French; in Polish translation in complete editions of Mickiewicz’s works; and in Russian translation in one or two editions of Mickiewicz’s works. To my knowledge this is the first translation into English.