Russian Literature LXVI , no. 1, pp. 65-98 / 2009
In 1966 and again in 1969 Chukovskii published volumes titled «Moi Uitmen». An examination of the two editions reveals significant differences in the selection, the ordering, and even the texts of the poetry. These differences turn out to be only the final stage in creating many different «Whitmans», beginning with Chukovskii’s first volume dedicated to the American poet, «Poet anarkhist Uot Uitman», published in 1907, and continuing through many redactions over the next six decades. Early in these endeavors Chukovskii sharply attacked Konstantin Bal’mont, his one great rival in first bringing Whitman to the attention of Russian readers. Bal’mont, however, turns out to have been a more skilled translator than many have asserted, and for that matter his poetry reveals as strong a likely influence of Whitman as do the leading Futurists, whom Chukovskii and others felt were Whitman’s chief disciples in Russia. In the final analysis, Chukovskii’s varied Whitmans are perhaps most valuable for providing an open laboratory of the translator at work, wrestling with the difficulties of conveying a new and in its day alien verse form in a different language.
I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable.
(Walt Whitman, ‘Song of Myself)
I. In 1966, and again in an expanded edition of 1969, Kornej Cukovskij, who is widely credited with first popularizing Walt Whitman in Russia, published a provocatively and perhaps even defiantly titled volume, «Moj Uitmen».1 If using the first-person possessive seems to be laying claim to the American bard, the «my» also hints at something idiosyncratic in the particular Whitman that is being presented: this is not meant to be a consensus view of the poet, nor is it necessarily, by 1969, the Whitman most familiar to Russians. Rather, as Cukovskij indicates in his introduction to the work, this is very much his Whitman, the Whitman, or more accurately those aspects of Whitman, that he still admired more than sixty years after first discovering his poetry.
However, Cukovskij produced more than one Whitman for Russia. He initially became aware of the American poet in 1901 when, for all of 25 kopecks, he purchased a volume of his work from a sailor in Odessa. Captivated by the poetry, he soon set about translating his favorite poems in order to attract others to Whitman’s art, and, after several publications in periodicals and newspapers, put out a small volume of the poetry in 1907, entitled «Poet anarchist Uot Uitman».2 The volume, containing Cukovskij’s first Whitman, succeeded in making Russians more aware of the American poet than they had been in the past, but Cukovskij soon came to feel that the translations were inadequate. He tackled the poems again during the 1910s and produced a somewhat different Whitman, now referring in the title not to the poet as anarchist, but to the poetry of the coming democracy.3 Numerous other editions, under various titles and with overlapping yet differing selections of the poems, continued to appear well into World War II.4 Subsequently, Soviet volumes of Whitman’s poetry came to include not just the works translated by Cukovskij, but also translations of other poems. When Cukovskij examined these collections of the 1950s, he felt that Whitman had lost his magic for him; some of the works were even boring. He bluntly stated his goal for «Moj Uitmen»: «voskresit’ (dlja sebja i dlja novogo pokolenija citatelej) Uolta Uitmena moej molodosti» (p. 6). To do so he included only those poems, and in some cases those parts of poems, that had affected him most strongly in his younger years and left out all of those which he found alien or uninteresting. And rather than attempt to follow Whitman’s ordering or his division of the book into sections, Cukovskij, as in most of his earlier editions, placed the poems in a sequence of his own choosing.
In this introduction to «Moj Uitmen» Cukovskij recognizes that a complete edition of Whitman’s work will someday appear in Russian, but to Cukovskij the value of poetry — and in particular, it would seem, Whitman’s poetry — lies not in its ability to serve as the material for a scholarly edition; he is interested rather in how poetry speaks to the emotions, to the inner self (p. 7). In his admittedly subjective approach to the material, he wants to preserve precisely those portions of Whitman’s heritage that continue to have value for him and omit the rest. At the very end of «Moj Uitmen» he notes that over the years scholars had discovered poems, prose works, and brief articles dating from the decades prior to the first edition of «Leaves of Grass» in 1855. He finds all those works to be banal and weak (p. 301). Whitman’s true value as a writer appears only in «Leaves of Grass», and not, in Cukovskij’s opinion, even in the entirety of that masterwork.
У него было много невдохновенных, программных стихов, придуманных для заполнения какого-нибудь определенного пункта в заранее намеченной им программе. Из-за этих сухих, мертворожденных стихов многие страницы его » Листьев травы» кажутся удручающе скучными, (pp. 47-48)
In other words, the very decision to work on «Moj Uitmen» can be seen as Cukovskij’s effort to preserve his personal vision of the poet, which clearly does not embrace all of the American bard’s oeuvre. Strikingly, from the original publication of «Poet anarchist Uot Uitman» in 1907 through World War II, Cukovskij was responsible for virtually all the editions of Whitman’s poetry in Russian, with a 1911 volume by Bal’mont, whose translations were bitterly attacked by Cukovskij, serving as the most notable exception.5 Thus the project also signals an ongoing attempt to maintain the status of his Whitman as Russia’s Whitman — and to do so as more complete versions of «Leaves of Grass», edited by others, were beginning to appear in the Soviet Union.6
The goal of this article is to examine, more closely than has been the case previously, the various «Whitmans» produced by Cukovskij: ranging from the Whitman represented in Cukovskij’s 1907 volume, to the revised Whitman who first appears during the 1910s and then in various guises over the next three decades, to the figure who emerges in the two editions of «Moj Uitmen». The latter is by far the most familiar today and I will start there; however, a look at the earlier versions will then show that the translations as well as the accompanying materials underwent numerous modifications from one edition to the next. Since the interplay with Bal’mont’s translations was crucial to Cukovskij’s early formulation of «his» Whitman, as part of this investigation I will also discuss their rival claims to the poet, and, more broadly, consider Cukovskij’s claims regarding Whitman’s literary influence in Russia as the poet came to be widely known there after the turn of the century. Finally, I provide a close look at several Russian versions of a single passage in Whitman, in order to help characterize the process by which the translations of the poems evolved over the years.
II. As it turns out, Cukovskij’s definition of «his» Whitman changes even between the two editions of «Moj Uitmen». The basic structure of the two volumes is identical, and most of the sections are little altered. Cukovskij adds a one-page work to the selection of Whitman’s prose, and he substantially expands the list of foreign criticism at the very end of the volume. The most important differences, though, are in the bodies of poetry. If there were 47 titles in 1966, Cukovskij now increases the number to 56. The greatest change occurs at the beginning, where 5 of the first 11 poems in the 1969 edition are new since 1966, and ‘To You’ («Whoever you are, I fear you are walking the walks of dreams»), which opened the 1966 selection, is placed twelfth. ‘Recorders Ages Hence’, second in 1966, is now first and is followed by two poems, absent from the 1966 edition, that appear consecutively in the ‘By the Road’ section of «Leaves of Grass»: ‘To Rich Givers’ and ‘The Dalliance of the Eagles’. Another of the added works, «When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer», is also from that section, while the remainder are from poems scattered throughout Whitman’s book.7
The poems of the 1969 edition make a different impression, not so much because a few additional poems are sprinkled over the latter three-fourths of the corpus but because Cukovskij changes the beginning of his selection so extensively. In ‘To You’, which opened the 1966 «Moj Uitmen», the narrator addresses an individual intimately, but, as is typical of Whitman, he avoids reference to an actual person and instead makes the «you» generalized, especially by the end, where he refers to «you» as «Old or young, male or female». The focus is outside the poet, on how he can use his songs to describe and celebrate the «you» who in turn serves as the inspiration for his verse. In 1969 the work that replaces it in the initial position, ‘Recorders Ages Hence’, is much more about Whitman himself, about the poet «underneath this impassive exterior», who was proud of the «ocean of love within him» and who «often walk’d lonesome walks thinking of his dear friends, his lovers». The short poem ‘To Rich Givers’, despite the title, is again about the poet, who, while receiving a «little sustenance» from his «rich givers», can in return «bestow upon any man or woman the entrance to all the gifts in the universe». In ‘The Dalliance of the Eagles’ the poet is purely an observer, not a commentator, as he views the mating of two eagles in the air above him. The violent sensuality of that poem, even though it describes only birds, not people, was sufficient to have it banned in Boston in 1881, and, some thirty years later, in Moscow as well.8 Other poems added to the early portion of the selection are similarly notable for their physical explicitness, be it in describing the closeness of two people (‘We Two Boys Together Clinging’, ‘Once I Pass’d through a Populous City’) or an intimate connection to the earth itself (‘This Compost’). In short, Cukovskij’s Whitman has been altered between 1966 and 1969, subtly but definitely. The figure of the poet, rather than the subjects of his poetry, stands in the foreground, and the volume takes on a sensuality that was far less obvious just three years earlier.
Also, the excerpts from longer poems are at times not identical. Some of the changes are relatively minor; thus in ‘Song of the Exposition’ he corrects a transposition of two stanzas (the first two stanzas of part 7 appear reversed in 1966), and he supplies footnotes for his Russian readers. More critically, he adds substantially to some of his selections. In 1966 he provides several lines of part 4 and approximately the first half of part 5 (which begins «This is the female form») from ‘I Sing the Body Electric’ (in both editions Cukovskij labels his excerpts ‘From the Poem «The Children of Adam»‘). The 1969 edition adds most of part 7 (which begins «A man’s body at auction»; 1966, p. 174; 1969, pp. 191-192). This later edition also features several parts from ‘Song of Myself’ that were not printed in 1966, but even so he includes (and not always in their entirety) only some 25 of the 52 parts in the original. Yet, more than a decade earlier his translation of all 52 parts had appeared in one of those Soviet editions that Cukovskij had come to dislike9. Clearly, Cukovskij’s preferred Whitman comprises only part of Whitman’s Whitman.
A close comparison of the texts in the two volumes reveals as well not infrequent changes in individual lines or groups of lines. The second line of ‘Recorders Ages Hence’ — «Come, I will take you down underneath this impassive exterior, I will tell you what to say of me» (p. 104) — in 1966 reads: «Vot ja otkroju, cto skryto za etim besstrastnym licom, i skazhu vam, cto napisat’ obo mne»; in 1969 he changes the beginning to «Vot pogljadite» and changes «i skazhu» to «i ja skazhu» (1966, p. 92; 1969, p. 94). The second alteration, which seems insignificant at first, may have been intended to make the line’s rhythm somewhat less regular and more like Whitman’s rough cadence; without that one-word insertion the Russian maintains a dactylic rhythm just a little longer (note that the first part of the line, in both versions of the translation, consists of six regular dactylic feet; in 1966 these are followed by a seventh dactylic foot). The change at the beginning of the line removes the overly specific «ja otkroju» and hence marks an improvement as well.
The third and fourth lines of ‘The City Dead-House’ have been reworked:
Вот брошенное жалкое тело, не нужная никому проститутка,
Лежит на мокром кирпичном помосте, никто не явился за ним, (1966, p. 101)
Вон проститутка, брошенное жалкое тело, — за которым никто не
Лежит на мокром кирпичном помосте, (1969, p. 114)
Compare the original:
I curious pause, for lo, an outcast form, a poor dead prostitute brought,
Her corpse they deposit unclaim’d, it lies on the damp brick pavement, (p. 309)
In 1969 Cukovskij realizes that «broshennoe» and «ne nuzhnaja nikomu» are basically saying the same thing, and so he drops the second phrase. However, when he then pulls part of the fourth line back into the third, he is left with a distinctly shorter fourth line than in the original. The 1969 version is tighter, but, surprisingly, seems less successful in conveying Whitman’s odd syntax. While the changes here and elsewhere in the renderings are not necessarily vast, they show that Cukovskij continued to tinker with his translations until the end. Had he lived long enough to put out another edition of «Moj Uitmen» he undoubtedly would have made yet further revisions.
The items that accompany the poems are similar in both editions. The verse translations are preceded by a «works and life», two distinct sections that offer on the one hand a critical appraisal of the poetry and on the other a scholarly recounting of Whitman’s life, for which Cukovskij uses a wide range of largely English-language sources. Of most interest here is the essay about the poetry, where Cukovskij highlights what he sees as the key themes and features of the verse: Whitman’s «cosmism», as evidenced by his interest in time and space; the popular knowledge of natural science that permeates the poetry; the influence of idealist philosophy and the transcendentalists; the expressions of democracy, and his unshakable faith that ordinary people would help create a better world for all of humanity; the absence of identifiable people but instead a focus on the national and universal, with the image of himself as the individual who embraces and is part of everything; and a celebration of the modern, urban, industrializing world that was Whitman’s America of the nineteenth century.
There is nothing in Cukovskij’s summary that appears wrong, and yet he underplays certain aspects of Whitman’s poetry. The survey of the themes is in keeping with the selection for the 1966 edition, but it does not highlight the sensuality that is more evident in 1969. Yet Cukovskij was certainly aware of the sexual motifs in Whitman’s work. Perhaps his most open discussion of them appears in an article, ‘Rozanov i Uolt Uitmen’, published some fifty years earlier, in March 1918. There he talks of the American poet as anticipating Rozanov’s views on the links between sex and human spirituality and as going even further than Rozanov in his sexuality.10 Having fallen victim to censorship even before the revolution for being too explicit in conveying this aspect of Whitman’s poetry,11 Cukovskij seems to have decided to tread as delicately as he could in this regard during the Soviet era, though his 1969 choice of poems, if not his essay, reflects a sense that it was becoming possible to be more explicit about this aspect of Whitman’s work. Conversely, in 1969 he perhaps overemphasizes the interest in science and makes Whitman’s depictions of himself in his poetry seem drier and more mannered than they are. Cukovskij also analyzes Whitman’s technique, noting that he rejected the devices and manners of conventional literary verse, instead creating new forms, and in particular new rhythms of his own. His seeming artlessness in fact involves much art, and Cukovskij comments on the care with which Whitman worked and reworked his verses, making changes with each new edition (pp. 40-41), much as Cukovskij himself did with his translations. Without stating the point in so many words, he clearly demands translations that not only convey the central themes of Whitman’s verse, but also his style.
Following the poetry are selections of Whitman’s prose and observations on Whitman in Russia. The latter include comments on the earliest mentions of Whitman in the Russian press, on the surprisingly strong interest of both Turgenev and Tolstoj in the American poet, and on Whitman’s possible influence on the Russian Futurists, most notably Majakovskij and Chlebnikov. He concludes with what at first seems to be a random survey of three pieces on Whitman by Soviet critics: a Lunacarskij article, ‘Uitmen i demokratija’, that was appended to the 1918 edition of Cukovskij’s Whitman translations; a piece by D.S. Mirskij, which originally served as the preface to the 1935 edition; and a recent book by Moris Mendel’son, the leading Whitman scholar in the Soviet Union.12 Upon close reading, though, the selection and the comments are less random than purposeful in making Whitman into an acceptable «Soviet» poet. Lunacarskij, in Cukovskij’s ostensibly neutral paraphrase of the article, turns Whitman, with his open heart and democratic instincts, seemingly into a forerunner of communism. Cukovskij’s summary of the Mirskij piece similarly emphasizes themes of democracy and equality, as well as the «realism» of the poetry. However, in the original article Mirskij talks as well of Whitman’s «mysticism» in his search for a higher knowledge than what science can provide, and speaks very directly, more directly than does Cukovskij anywhere in «Moj Uitmen», of the erotic qualities in Whitman’s verse.13 In describing Mendel’son’s book Cukovskij yet again highlights the author’s political interpretation of Whitman, and says that «eto pervoe u nas bol’shoe issledovanie o velikom poete» (1969, p. 287). Cukovskij’s diary, though, offers a quite different view of Mendel’son, at one point referring to him as a blockhead, and at another saying that his interpretation of Whitman, by concentrating solely on his political convictions, gave a one-sided and partial view of the writer.14
In short, «Moj Uitmen» manages to be simultaneously idiosyncratic and calculating. Clearly, Cukovskij has a strong preference for certain portions of Whitman’s work and presents those largely to the exclusion of others. He was first attracted to Whitman as an «anarchist poet», and the emphasis on Whitman as the initiator of an aesthetic that is both original and unruly remains. The very jumble of material — a critical essay on the verse, a biography, the selections of the poetry and the prose, and the somewhat disjointed selection of items relating to Whitman in Russia — gives the volume a very personal feel. At the same time Cukovskij is clearly careful to make his Whitman acceptable within what was still the Soviet tradition. The reviews of the writings by Soviet critics stress the «democratic» aspects of Whitman, while ignoring references to the mystical and sensual elements in the verse. Cukovskij refers with implicit if not explicit approval to the book by Mendel’son, for whom in private he felt only contempt. Tellingly, with the acceptance of the 1966 «Moj Uitmen» and his efforts to put forth a Whitman that would be palatable to the authorities, Cukovskij seems to have felt free to become more daring in his presentation of the verse, thus including poems near the beginning that are either more subjective, with a stronger emphasis on the poetic «I», or with a heightened sensuality.
III. The original impact of Cukovskij’s translations on Russian poetry, however, came through neither of these late Soviet publications, but through his earlier Whitmans, who first appear in the 1907 «Poet anarchist Uot Uitman» and the following decade in «Poezija grjaduscej demokratii». Cukovskij’s subsequent rejection of «Poet anarchist Uot Uitman» is unambiguous. In 1918 he states that he had gone back to the earlier edition in an effort to correct it, but had decided that the book was not rectifiable and so decided to start over.15 In «Moj Uitmen» he calls those early translations weak, and says that he is ashamed to reread them (1969, p. 5). In certain ways, however, his first effort left its mark; thus the structure of the 1969 book is already visible here, some sixty years earlier. «Poet anarchist Uot Uitman» does not contain any of Whitman’s prose, but it too has a biographical essay (relatively brief and much less of a scholarly effort than what Cukovskij would produce later), an analysis of the poetry, and a section called ‘Russkoe o Uitmene’. In his 1907 preface he notes that he had already published translations from Whitman as well as notes about him in the periodical press,16 that several of the longer works are given only in extracts, and that «dve ili tri vesci perevedeny rifmoj, nesootvetstvenno podlinniku». The essay on the poetry, like that of «Moj Uitmen», already discusses the importance of democracy for Whitman, but instead of linking him to the new, the modern, it goes on to discuss another «face» of Whitman, that of the anarchist, who recognizes only the individual and does not accept the norms of society. The liberation of the individual, the casting off of social restraints, comes about by recognizing and celebrating the corporeal essence that lies at the very root of human existence. The individual attains a kind of numinous existence, beyond time and space, by immersing the self into the mystery of the sensual. Cukovskij goes on to cite Nietzsche, whose emphasis on the individual and the Dionysian corresponds to this other aspect of Whitman’s poetry.17 Significantly, in his earlier, pre-Soviet writing on Whitman Cukovskij does not shy away from Whitman’s sensuality; he treats it not as an aside, but as lying at the very core of his poetry — a trait that may have reached its culmination in ‘Rozanov i Uolt Uitmen’, published, as we have seen, just a few months after the Bolshevik revolution.
The introductory essay to «Poet anarchist Uot Uitman» contains some extracts and entire poems (for instance, a translation of ‘Queries to My Seventieth Year’ on p. 70) that are not found in the verse section, which is actually quite modest. The first poem comprises a pastiche taken from ‘Song of the Exposition’: the Russian text begins with part 2 of that long poem, includes the second stanza and then the concluding lines of part 3, the second stanza of part 4, and a couple of excerpts from part 7.18 The translation is presented as though it were a single whole work; ellipses are not used to signal the omissions. That is followed by four brief excerpts from ‘Song of Myself’, again with no indication that, for instance, the fragment numbered «1» in fact comes from two separate passages in part 24 of the original. Cukovskij often referred to the poem ‘I Sing the Body Electric’ by the title of the section in which it appears, ‘Children of Adam’ — as noted earlier, this is true for the fragments he includes in «Moj Uitmen». In this earlier work, under the rubric ‘Iz «Adamovych detej»‘, he gives five separately numbered brief excerpts. The first is from part 5 of the original and the last from part 7; the fourth is from part 4. The third excerpt seems to combine a couple of lines from part 5 with some lines from part 1, while the second item is from the latter part of the subsequent poem in the cycle, ‘A Woman Waits for Me’. Finally, fifteen other works from throughout «Leaves of Grass» are represented. While Cukovskij was to go on to make improvements in all these attempts for his subsequent editions, several works (e.g., ‘The Dalliance of the Eagles’, ‘We Two Boys Together Clinging’) are in fact already quite close to the renditions of 1918; he did not, as he was to claim later, undertake a totally fresh beginning in the 1910s.
In all, the poetry occupies just 37 pages (pp. 21-57), with generous portions of white space. If the selection is relatively brief and features some significant rearrangements of the verse lines along with passages that are more paraphrases than true translations of the original, it nonetheless supplies useful illustrative material for Cukovskij’s essay on the poetry, with the translations conveying a sense of Whitman both as populist and as a singer of the flesh.
By the time of the 1918 «Poezija grjaduscej demokratii» the selection of verse has changed noticeably, even as there is significant overlap with the first edition. The first poem is ‘You Felons on Trial in Courts’, a work from deep within «Leaves of Grass». The narrator’s apparent identifying with con victs and prostitutes imparts to Whitman a darker and more «urban» quality from the very start of the compilation.19 Two of the other early poems in this volume are ‘To One Shortly to Die’ and ‘The City Dead-House’, both of which are also from the second half of «Leaves of Grass» and maintain the cheerless atmosphere established by the opening work. The mood then shifts with ‘The Dalliance of the Eagles’, followed by passages from ‘Song of the Open Road’. Again, excerpts appear from ‘Song of Myself’ and from the cycle ‘Children of Adam’, but a clear favorite of Cukovskij is the cycle ‘Calamus’. He presents seven poems under that heading in Whitman’s ordering (including ‘Of the Terrible Doubt of Appearance’, ‘Recorders Ages Hence’, and ‘We Two Boys Together Clinging’), thereby accounting for a quarter of all the titles in the poetry section. Several poems from the 1907 volume have been omitted (e.g., ‘Vocalism’ [‘Vokalizm’], which will reappear as ‘Muzykal’nost» in «Moj Uitmen»).
For the «critical and biographical» essay that precedes the poetry, Cukovskij now provides a bibliography of sources, which is, not surprisingly, much shorter than the one that appears a half-century later in «Moj Uitmen». The volume concludes with the article by Lunacarskij; before that, as in «Poet anarchist Uot Uitman», he has a section called ‘Russkoe o Uitmene’. In 1907 this part of the book was very brief, less than two and a half pages, and largely limited to a listing of the errors he found in articles on Whitman by other critics. Here it is much expanded, some twenty pages in length, and includes exegeses of quite a few writings on Whitman in Russian — both articles by Russian critics, and translated pieces from foreign sources. Thus an analysis of Gor’kij’s comment on Whitman in his 1909 essay ‘Razrushenie licnosti’ precedes a commentary on the pages devoted to Whitman in William James’s «The Varieties of Religious Experience». About a quarter of this entire section is devoted to Bal’mont, who had undertaken serious translation of Whitman at just about the same time as Cukovskij, drawing the latter’s attention, and, as already noted, his ire.20
Three points need to be made about the 1918 verse corpus. First, the translations tend to be fuller and closer to the original than was the case in 1907. To be sure, some of the renditions in that early volume had more merit than Cukovskij was later willing to admit, but others were little more than Russian approximations of the English, taken from scattered portions of Whitman’s texts. Second, even those versions that are closer to the original do not necessarily follow Whitman precisely. Cukovskij uses seven lines to translate the opening four-line stanza of ‘You Felons on Trial in Courts’, breaking up Whitman’s longer lines into smaller units and in some cases creating a more regular rhythm than in the original. His ‘Song of the Open Road’ gives no indication that the translation is not complete; for instance, what he numbers as part 2 of the poem is in fact the last stanza of Whitman’s part 4. Finally, this volume brings to the fore more clearly than the 1907 collection, albeit not as starkly as in «Moj Uitmen», Cukovskij’s willingness to rearrange the order of the collection as well as the selectiveness with which he approaches «Leaves of Grass». If he does follow the sequencing in a few places, in others he shows no compunction about moving poems from far back in the original toward the front, or in putting his excerpts from ‘Song of the Exposition’ at the very end. And at no point, not even in providing a relatively generous selection from ‘Calamus’, does he offer a truly full picture of even any one section in «Leaves of Grass».
If the 1919 publication of Whitman’s verse was virtually a reprint of what appeared in 1918, Cukovskij’s interpretation of Whitman continued to evolve in the 1920s and beyond. During the early 1920s for the first time he refers to List’ja travy in the title of his collection, though it is Walt Whitman and his «Leaves of Grass»: the poet is as much the subject as the works. He also places the poems in the same order as Whitman, even while still being very selective in the poems he includes.21 As it turns out, though, the decision to follow Whitman’s sequencing was to be only temporary.
The 1935 volume, appearing during the Stalinist era and simply titled «List’ja travy», is noteworthy in several regards. The poems at the beginning of the collection come from various sections within «Leaves of Grass»; the choices this time are clearly motivated by Cukovskij’s attraction to the individual poems and not by Whitman’s ordering. Thus the poetry section starts with ‘This Compost’ (from ‘Autumn Rivulets’, a section that appears in «Leaves of Grass» well after the mid-point), followed by ‘Respondez!’, a work that Whitman eventually omitted from «Leaves of Grass»; section 7 of ‘I Sing the Body Electric’ («A man’s body at auction…»); «Beat! Beat! Drums!», from ‘Drum-Taps’; ‘You Felons on Trial in Courts’, the poem that opens the 1918 and 1919 selections by Cukovskij; and ‘The Dalliance of the Eagles’.22 Several «songs», including ‘A Song of Myself’, appear in a group at the end of the selection, whereas Whitman had placed these much earlier in «Leaves of Grass».
If the sequencing and the very inclusion of Mirskij’s article comprise bold steps, Cukovskij is much more careful in his preface. For once Cukovskij says little about Whitman’s influence in Russia. Rather than discussing Russian Futurism broadly, he confines his remarks largely to Majakovskij, and towards the end of this section notes that much in Whitman was in fact foreign to Majakovskij.23 There is nothing on any earlier interest in Whitman, and for once his comment on Bal’mont is relatively neutral, noting only that he started to propagate Whitman’s poetry in Russia. Cukovskij refers to pre-revolutionary suppression of Whitman’s work in Russia, but does not cite the specific reasons: it would be reasonable for his readers to conclude that the censorship was for political motives, rather than for the actual cause, the poetry’s often erotic content.
As in 1918, Cukovskij again rejects his earlier translations, this time claiming specifically that the 1918 edition itself has become obsolete. He confesses to having been under the influence of a symbolist aesthetic in those earlier years and therefore softening Whitman’s coarseness. Now, he asserts, he has had to go back to Whitman’s poetry and in most instances translate it differently, making it closer to the original by using language that is cruder and harsher.24
Indeed, Whitman has made significant changes from 1918. Entire lines and passages are the same, but in numerous instances he has reworked the translations, changing the line structure, the syntax and the vocabulary. Consider once again the third and fourth lines of ‘The City Dead-House’:
I curious pause, for lo, an outcast form, a poor dead prostitute brought,
Her corpse they deposit unclaim’d, it lies on the damp brick pavement, (p. 309)
In 1918 the Russian read:
Я, любопытствуя, замедлил шаги;
Вижу, — отверженный труп, проститутка, —
Простерлась на мокром кирпичном полу никому не нужна.
In 1935 this has been changed to:
Я с любопытством замедлил шаги, потому что принесли
проститутку, брошенное, жалкое тело,
Сюда принесли ее труп, он лежит на мокром кирпичном помосте,
никто не пришел за ним,
Cukovskij goes from three lines to two and introduces much of the specific phrasing («broshennoe, zhalkoe telo; na […] pomoste») that he will employ again in the 1960s, by which time he finally gains, along with the more vivid language, some of the syntactic complexity that helps him convey the uneven flow of the Whitman original. Similar efforts to follow Whitman’s line divisions can be seen elsewhere in the 1935 collection; thus instead of the seven lines he utilized in 1918 to translate the first four lines of ‘You Felons on Trial in Courts’, in 1935 he compresses the translation to the same four lines found in Whitman and employs wording very close to that which he will use in 1969.
A decade later, in his most extensive selection from «Leaves of Grass», Cukovskij also orders the poems idiosyncratically, but quite differently than in 1935 or subsequently in «Moj Uitmen».25 A relatively full, but still not com plete, version of ‘Song of Myself’ appears in the penultimate position, followed by ‘O Captain! My Captain!’ at the end of the poetry section. The first five poems are ‘A Song of Joys’, ‘When I Heard at the Close of the Day’, ‘To a Foil’d European Revolutionaire’, ‘Sometimes with One I Love’, and ‘O You Whom I Often and Silently Come’. The placement may be an attempt to highlight certain moods toward the end of World War II, with the elation of victory mingling with sorrow and a return of personal concerns. The translations show evidence of further reworking; lines 3 and 4 of ‘The City Dead-House’ are now another step closer to what they will be in «Moj Uitmen»:
Я с любопытством замедлил шаги, потому что — вот проститутка,
брошенное жалкое тело,
Сюда принесли ее труп, он лежит на мокром кирпичном помосте,
никто не пришел за ним,
This volume contains 67 titles (as opposed to the 56 of «Moj Uitmen»). Atypically, excerpts from ‘I Sing the Body Electric’ appear under that title (‘Elektriceskoe telo poju’, pp. 98-100).26 Both this poem (which is represented by essentially complete translations of parts 3, 4, 5 and 7) and ‘Song of Myself’ appear in fuller versions than in «Moj Uitmen». Interestingly, then, the 1944 edition, even as it shows still further tinkering with old translations, in retrospect turns out to offer evidence that as Cukovskij translated more and more of Whitman he also found himself working on poems, or in some cases sections of long poems, that ultimately were less to his liking. Hence, later, as he prepared «Moj Uitmen» and looked to recapture the Whitman who had so excited him in his youth, Cukovskij stepped back and once again became more selective.
IV. If the American poet was already safely «Cukovskij’s Whitman» by the early post-revolutionary years, that was in part because he had vanquished his one serious rival to the claim for introducing Whitman to Russia, Konstantin Bal’mont. Already in the 1907 biographical essay Cukovskij mentions that «Leaves of Grass» had been translated into several languages, and notes that the publishing house Znanie is about to put out a Russian translation by Bal’mont.27 The volume did not appear until 1911, and then was published by Skorpion rather than Znanie.28 However, Bal’mont’s first article, which contained as illustrative examples a generous selection of the poetry, appeared a year before Cukovskij’s first translation was in print. And Cukovskij appears to have been aware that Bal’mont’s book manuscript, which included about a third of all the works in «Leaves of Grass», contained a far more substantial selection of Whitman’s poetry than what Cukovskij had to date attempted.
Indeed, Bal’mont, in what appear to have been two bursts of energy in 1903 and 1905, translated more poems than Cukovskij was to attempt over the next six decades.29
In «Moj Uitmen», Cukovskij chooses to ignore Bal’mont almost entirely, though a sharply negative appraisal in «Vysokoe iskusstvo», his book on translation theory, shows that he had hardly forgotten his one-time rival even in the 1960s.30 Back in his 1907 volume, Cukovskij had mentioned Bal’mont’s translations and articles, commenting that Bal’mont’s language is too «sugary» («slascav») to be suitable for translating Whitman, and criticizing specifically Bal’mont’s translating the English «form» by «forma» instead of «telo».31 The 1918 «Poezija grjaduscej demokratii» contains an especially severe critique of Bal’mont. Cukovskij accuses him of simply copying information out of a study by John Addington Symonds; complains that he failed even to attempt ‘Song of Myself’, Whitman’s single most significant poetic work, or such important poems as ‘Pioneers! O Pioneers’ and ‘To You’; and again finds fault with the quality of the renderings, saying that both the words and the rhythm are all wrong. Bal’mont’s translations, he says, are:
[…] машинное производство, здесь не истрачено ни капли души, и часто случается, что переводчик даже не пробует разобраться в значении и смысле переводимого текста 32
Cukovskij’s harsh dismissal of Bal’mont as both translator and critic seems to have been largely responsible for the tendency among the majority of subsequent scholars to reject Bal’mont’s translations in favor of Cukovskij’s. Arguably, though, even Cukovskij’s late versions of the translations are less superior to Bal’mont’s than many have suggested, and that goes doubly for Cukovskij’s earliest attempts, the versions more nearly contemporaneous to those of Bal’mont.33 Cukovskij, as we have seen in the two editions of «Moj Uitmen», continued to rework his translations until the end; even by the time of his 1918 volume he says:
[…] иные стихотворения я переводил по пяти, по шести раз, в разных тонах, в разных стилях, и должен сказать, что перевод произведений Уитмэна — труднейшая литературная работа34.
Bal’mont, by contrast, rarely went back to revise his works, and when he re-published a selection of the Whitman translations a decade after «Pobegi travy» first appeared, they did not reveal signs of further attention.35 Bal’mont’s huge and speedy effort, which results in translations that in many cases are still of more than passing merit, is a feat in and of itself that deserves more recognition than has been the case for many years within Russia.
That said, the battle over Whitman has had less to do with the quality of the translations per se than with the approach of each translator. Granted, Cukovskij and others have found some occasional mistakes in Bal’mont’s translations, and yet many of Cukovskij’s initial criticisms do not seem all that well taken. His complaint about Bal’mont’s translation of the English «form» originally led to a rejoinder and counter-rejoinder on the pages of «Vesy»; Cukovskij preferred to translate «the female form» as «zhenskoe telo» rather than «zhenskaja forma», which he felt was an unnatural phrasing in Russian. Be that as it may, if Whitman had wanted to say «body» he would have done so, and Cukovskij’s own translation misses something.36 The real issues are two-fold: versification and the image of the poet. Bal’mont has been said to «regularize» Whitman, to make his verse smoother than in the original, thereby obliterating a key feature of the verse. Rather than Whitman’s non-metrical rhythms, Bal’mont, according to Cukovskij, employs lines that are too close to the syllabo-tonic tradition that has prevailed in Russia. Yet Bal’mont’s own comments show that he was hardly unaware of Whitman’s purposeful avoidance of metrical regularity and that he tried to imitate his forms as well as the content.37 He was not always successful in avoiding a greater metrical regularity than in the original, but then too, as we shall see, nor was Cukovskij. The most important issue, though, is the image of Whitman that each tries to convey. Larry Gregg, one of those who prefers Cukovskij’s translations to those of Bal’mont, sees the latter as the complete opposite to Whitman: «Where Whitman is robust and earthy, Balmont is esoteric and dainty […] Whitman is a celebrator, Balmont is an aesthete.»38 However, in his first published essay on Whitman, Bal’mont makes some of the same points that are to be found in Cukovskij’s first book: he sees Whitman as a poet who glorifies the individual and is a singer of the body, and he offers at least passing comments on Whitman’s democratic ideals, calling him the «bard of a free America».39 Still, the emphasis is ultimately different in Bal’mont, who talks of «a harmonic link of all the separate individuals with the Worldwide Whole» and describes a more mystical Whitman.40 Martin Bidney, in a fine article on Bal’mont’s vision of Whitman, notes that he viewed Whitman and his poetry in mythic terms, creating a visionary depiction of the great poet.41 In short, this Whitman was in keeping with Bal’mont’s own Symbolist orientation, and, as Lauren Leighton puts it succinctly: «To Chukovsky, it was deplorable that Whitman became known to Russians in an acutely Symbolist reinterpretation.»42
V. If Cukovskij was already hostile to a Symbolist appropriation of Whitman in 1906-1907, by the time he went back to rework his translations of Whitman during the 1910s he had found the literary movement to which he felt Whitman’s works showed a true affinity: Futurism. At the end of a long 1914 article, ‘Ego-futuristy i kubo-futuristy’, he called Whitman the first Futurist, a harbinger of what is yet to come, who embodied all of the inevitable future epoch in a single word, democracy, which the ego- and kubo-poets have forgotten.43 In «Poezija grjaduscej demokratii» he details Whitman’s importance for the Futurists, already citing all the major works that he will mention in «Moj Uitmen», which expands on this earlier version largely by adding some biographical details about Majakovskij’s admiration for Whitman.44 For all their faults, even the first translations by Cukovskij presented various qualities that were new to the Russian poetic tradition: the free verse rhythms, the heavy reliance on syntactical parallelism and repetition as the main organizational features in the verse, the particular vision of a poet who seemingly glorifies himself and at the same time wants to merge his being with all that is around him, a frank and at times almost analytical eroticism, a glorification of science and the new age, and a concomitant sense that old forms, and possibly old themes, need to be left in the past. This combination, as Cukovskij indicated, made Whitman a kind of proto-Futurist.
And of all the Futurists the one who, at first glance, seems closest to Whitman is Majakovskij. Interestingly enough, Majakovskij attacks Whitman in ‘150,000,000’, the only poem in which he refers to him:
Вся зала полна
из самой отборнейшей знати.
Его шевеленья малейшего ждут.
В тесном смокинге стоит Уитмэн,
качалкой раскачивать в невиданном ритме.45
As Clare Cavanagh has noted, although Majakovskij’s swipe at Whitman is in part in keeping with the post-revolutionary effort to dethrone all American idols (the Lincolns and Edisons, as well as the Whitmans), it also represents a settling of accounts with a figure who could be seen as his rival as well as an unacknowledged influence.46 Cukovskij has remarked on Whitmanesque qualities in Majakovskij’s ‘Celovek’, which is both written in a highly irregular verse form that resembles Whitman’s free verse, and, like ‘Poem of Myself’, puts forward the poet as protagonist. Certainly the poet’s use of his alter ego as hero, the self-aggrandizement that can occur as a result, the search for new forms, the intense interest in language which leads to the use of obscure words and neologisms — all these elements point to a profound affinity between Whitman and Majakovskij (an affinity shared, in varying degrees, by other Futurists as well). Cukovskij and others have cited the following passage in particular as providing evidence of a Whitman-like quality at certain points in the poem:
себя мне не петь
если весь я —
если каждое движение мое —
Две стороны обойдите,
Пара прекрасных рук!
And yet the similarities to Whitman go only so far. Dale Peterson was perhaps the first to point out that the very structure of Majakovskij’s verse differs from that of Whitman. For Majakovskij, rhyme and sound harmony are essential devices in the organization of the verse line, along with his use of the «stepladder» graphic layout, which breaks the line down into self-contained units; whereas for Whitman, who largely avoided rhyme, the chief device is parallelism.47 But the main point for both Peterson and Cavanagh is that despite the emphasis in both writers on the poetic persona, which creates a strong superficial similarity between the two poets in this and several of Majakovskij’s other works (such as ‘Vladimir Majakovskij’ and ‘Oblako v shtanach’), ultimately they are quite different. Whitman’s «I» is connected to all of existence and embraces it fully; Majakovskij’s «I» finds the world a hostile place and in many ways seems alienated from it. In contrast to Whitman’s vigor and optimistic turn toward the future, Majakovskij appears to be in a dead-end world and is dragged down by the forces with which he contends.48
Cukovskij also put forth Majakovskij’s fellow Futurist, Chlebnikov, as a writer who apparently absorbed the influence of Whitman’s manner. Some similarities are evident in the opening lines of the 1909 ‘Zverinec’:
О, Сад, Сад!
Где железо подобно отцу, напоминающему братьям, что они братья, и останавливающему кровопролитную схватку.
Где немцы ходят пить пиво,
А красотки продавать тело.
Где орлы сидят подобны вечности, означенной сегодняшним, еще лишенным вечера, днем.
Где верблюд, чей высокий горб лишен всадника, знает разгадку буддизма и затаил ужимку Китая.
Где олень лишь испуг, цветущий широким камнем.,49
Compare this passage from part 33 of ‘Song of Myself:
Walking the path worn in the grass and beat through the leaves of the brush,
Where the quail is whistling betwixt the woods and the wheat-lot,
Where the bat flies in the Seventh-month eve, where the great goldbug drops through the dark,
Where the brook puts out of the roots of the old tree and flows to the meadow,
Where cattle stand and shake away flies with the tremulous shuddering of their hides, (p. 54)
Anaphora, a salient feature in the Chlebnikov poem, is one of Whitman’s beloved devices.50 For his part, Chlebnikov, who expressed admiration for hitman on occasion, in an unpublished article denied a direct influence the American poet on this work. Cukovskij, however, remained firm in belief that Chlebnikov’s poem reflected ‘Song of Myself’, stating as late ; 67 in a letter to Aleksandr Parnis that in its structure and its syntax ‘Zverinec’ bears similarities to Whitman’s poem. At the same time, he acknowledges that the imagery is original, saying that the Russian poet took the fame from Whitman, but that Chlebnikov then painted the picture, without imitating anyone.51
The extent of Whitman’s influence on Chlebnikov, if any, is hard to determine. On the one hand, despite the poet’s denials, ‘Zverinec’ seems very close to Whitman’s writing in form and to an extent in spirit. On the other hand, even though Chlebnikov’s predilection for unrhymed free verse in his late poetry suggests the possibility of a continued influence,52 his later poems do not frequently use the very long lines and syntactic structures that distinguish Whitman. Furthermore, while Chlebnikov clearly knew Whitman’s work, the use of anaphora and parallel structures could conceivably have her sources. Such seems to have been the case with Remizov, who, when
wrote ‘Placha’ in 1902, presumably was not yet aware of Whitman’s poetry. Thanks, it would seem, to his interest in Old Russian literature and folklore, Remizov structures his free verse through repetitions and parallel constructions that are not dissimilar to those of Whitman:
И ты, семицветная радуга, бык-корова небесных полей, ты жадно пьешь речную студеную воду.
Пожелайте счастья мне от матери-земли, сколько на небе осенних звезд!
Пожелайте счастья мне от светлого востока, сколько белых цветов земляники!
Пожелайте счастья мне от синих сумерек запада, сколько алых лепестков диких роз!
Пожелайте счастья мне от ледяного севера, сколько зеленых цветов смородины!53
Thus, while ‘Zverinec’ appears to recall Whitman in manner and sensibility, it is not at all impossible that Chlebnikov could have arrived at these similar traits on his own, as was apparently the case with Remizov.
Cukovskij also cites Ivan Oredez, pseudonym of Ivan Lukas, who in his poetry could be an almost slavish follower of Whitman:
Закованные в железо и медь легионы императора Цезаря, ткань истлевших знамен старой гвардии, артиллерийский снаряд,
свист пуль, дробящих черепа и вырывающих мясо, я славлю.
Траурный гимн полунощной заутрени,
тихий звон шага под сводом собора,
запах ладана от риз парчовых,
молитвенно-шумные вздохи органа,
и трепетанье светлых хоругвей с женственным ликом Христа
As Brjusov noted, each of the stanzas in this non-metrical poem ends with the exclamation «ja slavlju» (or «slavlju ja»), and the whole seems to be nothing more than the retelling of a poem by Whitman.55 Indeed, the refrain comprises a direct translation of the words that open the programmatic ‘Song of Myself’ («I celebrate…»), and the series of items enumerated in each stanza of the Oredez poem imitate Whitman’s use of lists, another of his favorite devices.
As it turns out, though, Whitman did not really take root on Russian soil; there turns out to be little beyond the handful of examples on the part of Futurist poets, and some of those are not clear-cut. In hailing Whitman as the poet of the coming democracy and in citing him as a major influence on the Futurists, Cukovskij apparently wants to link him to the revolutionary era. However, examples of a significant influence remain sparse. In the early 1920s Cukovskij cited the proletarian poet Aleksej Gastev and a lesser known member of the Poets’ Guild, Sergej Nel’dichen, as evidence of what he terms Whitman’s growing presence, but he failed to come up with any more prominent figures.56 While reviewing works by poets associated with the proletarian group known as Kuznica, Brjusov notes that in their most original poems they seem to have been inspired in part by Whitman. However, this type of writing, according to Brjusov, appears somewhat dated by the 1920s — and in any case they do not attain Whitman’s boldness.57 As modest as this link may be, it turns out to be a late and perhaps final indication of the interest in Whitman occasioned by Cukovskij’s early efforts to bring him to the attention of Russian poets. Granted, Whitman’s poetry did achieve some popularity among younger general readers of the time. In his diary Cukovskij several times mentions a group of students who established their own Whitman society — Whitman seems to have become a widely read if not widely imitated figure.58
At various moments Cukovskij would step back from his endeavors and admit that they had not had the results he wanted. In the preface to «Poezija grjaduscej demokratii» he complained that, while he believed Whitman was fated to play a huge role in Russian poetry, all his efforts to propagandize his works in Russia had enjoyed little success 59 — this despite the influence on the Futurists that he mentions toward the end of that volume. Part of the reason may well have been the turn away from the more radical experimentations with verse form in Russia. If free verse seemed to be of growing interest right after the turn of the century, by the 1920s the only new type of poetry that remained in wide use was the dol’nik, a verse form that is less regular than binary and ternary meters, but still a kind of metrical verse.60 Then, too, as Soviet power took hold and the state and the collective came to be glorified, Whitman’s emphasis on the individual, along with the hint of the mystical in his poetry and his frankness on sexual matters, all quickly fell out of fashion.
Nonetheless, one other possible influence, somewhat earlier and perhaps not totally expected, is worth mentioning. As early as 1895 Bal’mont writes a poem, ‘Slova ljubvi’, which concludes with an image of two birds seeming to mate in the air:
Как взмахи птицы опьяненной,
C другою птицею сплетенной
В летучем беге, в облаках.61
Recall Whitman’s ‘The Dalliance of the Eagles’, a poem translated by Bal’mont:
Skyward in air a sudden muffled sound,
the dalliance of the eagles,
The rushing amorous contact high in space together,
The clinching interlocking claws, a living, fierce, gyrating wheel,
Four beating wings, two beaks, a swirling mass tight grappling,
As Thomas Eekman has pointed out, Bal’mont’s poetry written right after the turn of the century often celebrates the poet’s own personality, in a way not dissimilar to Whitman.62 And some of his original poetry from 1903, when he was assiduously translating the American poet’s works, reveals parallel structures similar to those found in Whitman. Note these lines from «Ja tebja vospevaju»:
Если б я родился не певцом, истомленным тоскою,
Если б был я звенящей, блестящей, свободной волной,
Я украсил бы берег жемчужиной — искрой морскою,
Но не знал бы я, сколько сокрыто их всех глубиной.
Если б я родился не стремящимся жадным поэтом,
Я расцвел бы, как ландыш, как белый влюбленный цветок,
Но не знал бы я, сколько цветов раскрывается летом,
И душистые сны сосчитать я никак бы не мог.
And these from ‘Cto mne nravitsja’:
Альбатрос мне нравится тем, что он крылат,
Тем, что он врезается в грозовой раскат.
В коршуне мне нравится то, что он могуч
И как камень падает из высоких туч.
В тигре — то, что с яростью мягкость сочетал,
И не знал раскаянья, бога не видал.63
These rhymed, metrical poems are very far from Whitman’s free verse, but the anaphora in the first example and the extended listing that continues on through the whole poem quoted in the second, could well contain echoes of the Whitman whom Bal’mont was translating at that time. Ironically, then, Cukovskij’s great rival, whom he belittled at every opportunity, may well have experienced one of the deeper influences of Whitman on Russian poets.
VI. In the final analysis, though, as Cukovskij surmised already in the 1910s, Whitman’s direct impact on Russian poetry was to remain modest. His importance turns out to be more as a poet in his own right, so that the chief significance of Cukovskij’s translations was in helping to introduce to a Russian audience a highly original voice in world poetry. To see how the image of Whitman evolved in the translations by Cukovskij, and how it was originally presented by his early competitor, Bal’mont, it will be useful to examine an instance of their work: specifically, different renditions of the first five lines in part 5 of ‘I Sing the Body Electric’.64 First, here are Whitman’s lines:
This is the female form,
A divine nimbus exhales from it from head to foot,
It attracts with fierce undeniable attraction,
I am drawn by its breath as if I were no more than a helpless vapor,
all falls aside but myself and it,
Books, art, religion, time, the visible and solid earth, and what was
expected of heaven or fear’d of hell, are now consumed, (p. 83)
This is an example of Whitman’s free verse at its freest, with the number of unstressed syllables between the stresses varying from zero (divine nimbus) to three, the line lengths ranging from six syllables to 31, and, upon first reading, few obvious principles to distinguish these lines from ordinary prose. Whitman, like the Futurists, attacked the old forms and called for a newer more organic verse:
The poetic quality is not marshaled in rhyme or uniformity […] but is the life of these and much else […] The rhyme and uniformity of perfect poems show the free growth of metrical laws and bud from them as unerringly and loosely as lilacs or roses on a bush […]. (pp. 621-622)
The result is a verse structure that does not yield readily to analysis. Sculley Bradley, in a 1938 article that remains influential, noted that Whitman frequently constructed stanzas and larger units on the basis of rhythmic balance and parallelism, with, for instance, similar numbers of stresses in lines that frame the central portion of the unit.65 The whole of the 12-line stanza from which this excerpt is quoted in fact roughly follows this pattern, with fewer stresses (and of course shorter lines) toward the beginning and end, and longer lines in the middle. Many scholars have remarked upon the importance played by various kinds of parallelism in Whitman’s verse organization; in this context, the King James version of the Bible is frequently cited as a probable source, or at least as a good analogue, for many of the structures found in his poetry. And, as we have already seen, reiteration, often in the form of anaphora or simply listings, underlies much of Whitman’s parallelism.66 Whitman also tends to maintain his lines as self-contained units with an absolute minimum of enjambment, and he regularly imparts to those lines noteworthy internal structures, often based on symmetry.67
This brief passage from ‘I Sing the Body Electric’ lacks the obvious parallelisms that distinguish much of Whitman’s verse, though the fifth line does begin with a brief list — Whitman never seems to cite one item when several will do. That line too has an almost surprising rhythmic regularity at the start; the first two portions (through «earth») contain seven consecutive iambic feet, followed by a clause that creates its effect through a parallel structure («expected of heaven or fear’d of hell»), and ending with the abrupt 4-syllable predicate, which forms two more iambic feet and gives a sense of closure to this long line. Other striking features include the short first line («This is the female form»), with its alliteration between the final two words; the thirteen syllables in each of the second and third lines; and the rhythmically symmetrical phrasing at the end of the fourth line («all falls aside», «myself and it», linked by «but»). Note too the heavy use of «it» in lines 2-4, along with the prominence of this word at the end of line 4, and the focus on the narrative «I» exclusively in line 4.
If some of Cukovskij’s youthful first efforts to translate Whitman were reasonably successful, others veer quite far from the original. As noted above, his 1907 translations of ‘The Dalliance of the Eagles’ and ‘We Two Boys Together Clinging’ are already quite similar to the 1918 versions. In addition, many lines in ‘The City Dead-House’ remain the same, and the 1907 and 1918 versions of ‘To a Certain Cantatrice’ are quite close — all this despite Cukovskij’s assertion that he had decided to redo his translations entirely. Other early renditions are far less successful; thus his first attempt at ‘To You’ («Whoever you are, I fear you are walking the walks of dreams»), in 1907 titled ‘Vsjakomu’, violates Whitman’s verse structure by employing not only rhyme but also a strong ternary rhythm (pp. 41-42). No doubt Majakovskij had this and a few similar translations in mind when he accused Cukovskij of translating Whitman too much like candy («cerescur bon-bon’erocno»), and, in a comment that must have struck Cukovskij to the quick, said that his rhythm was «Bal’montian».68
In his initial attempt at translating a portion of ‘I Sing the Body Electric’ Cukovskij offers little more than a paraphrase:
Под дыханьем его я как пар. Дохнет, — и к нему я влекусь.
Все с моих плеч упадает тогда:
Вера, искусства, тяжелые книги,
Все, чего жду от неба,
Чего в аду я боюсь,
Времени бремя и бремя земли, —
Все исчезает, сгорает. (p. 31)
Не does have a short opening line, but then he combines the content of lines 2 and 3 from Whitman into a single line, more or less translates a portion of line 4 in his third line, and provides some of the content of line 5 in his lines 4-7. The passage recalls Whitman’s technique with its lack of rhyme, but the lines are rhythmically far more regular than in the original. Thus lines 3, 4 and 7 are dactylic tetrameter, while line 2 appears to combine an anapestic trimeter portion in the first half with an amphibrachic trimeter in the second half. To be sure, the jumble of different line types means that the fragment never adheres to any one meter, and thus back in 1907 the whole could well have been perceived as essentially «free» verse. Still, the passage conveys little of Whitman’s unpredictability and rhetorical flourish. Compare Bal’mont’s roughly contemporaneous version:
Вот это женская форма,
С головы до ног от нее ореол исходит божественный,
Она привлекает к себе притяжением неумолимым, неотрицаемым,
Я привлечен дыханьем ее так, как будто бы я не больше чем беспомощный пар, все кругом отпадает, кроме меня и этого.
Книги, искусство, религия, время, зримая плотность земли и то, чего ждал от небес, и чего ужасался в аду, все растаяло,69
Bal’mont clearly tries to follow the original closely, while providing an example of his disagreement with Cukovskij about how to translate the English word «form». In broad terms, Bal’mont’s rendition conveys the more obvious features of the original, with the lines roughly proportional in length to those of Whitman, almost word-for-word exactness in rendering the meaning, and lines that for the most part do not fit within the confines of any single meter. Granted, the rhythm is just a bit too regular in places. Bal’mont fails to render fully the shifts in Whitman from rhythmically smooth passages to others where the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables becomes highly irregular. Thus the fifth line in Bal’mont’s Russian consists of ternary feet in each of the clauses: it could be read as a dactylic tetrameter clause, followed by dactylic trimeter, amphibrachic trimeter and anapestic tetrameter. Whitman’s original begins with a series of iambic feet, but then becomes far less regular. (As this one instance illustrates, while Whitman’s more regular passages are most often iambic, Bal’mont, like Cukovskij, favors a ternary rhythm instead.) In sum, Bal’mont’s translation of ‘I Sing the Body Electric’ may not capture Whitman’s rhythm exactly, but he is significantly closer than the early Cukovskij at the same time that he provides a much fuller sense of the original.
Cukovskij’s interpretation had greatly changed by 1918; note that on p. 109 of «Poezija grjaduscej demokratii» he gives the section title (‘The Children of Adam’) and the title of the preceding poem (‘From Pent-up Aching Rivers’). After that translation he proceeds directly to a few lines from part 4 of ‘I Sing the Body Electric’ and then parts 5 and 7, without ever indicating that he has moved into a different poem. That said, this version can at least be called a translation rather than a paraphrase:
Это — женское тело!
С головы до ног от него исходит божественный свет,
Оно влечет к себе ярым и неодолимым притяжением,
Под его дыханием я как беспомощный пар; все с меня упадает
тогда, остаемся только я да оно;
Книги, искусства, религия, время, и то, чего я ждал от небес, и
то, что меня ужасало в аду, все исчезает тогда;
Interestingly, Cukovskij seems to have read his Bal’mont, with some of his wording more or less closely echoing that of his rival. Since Russian words are on average longer than those in English and English syntactic structures are more concise, it is hard to convey all that is in the original within lines that are no longer than those in the original;70 in 1918 Cukovskij comes closer to Whitman in this regard than does Bal’mont, and he is also better at varying the rhythm, even though the Russian reads more like variable dol’niks (with one or two unstressed syllables between each stressed syllable) than Whitman’s somewhat freer verse. Cukovskij omits a clause («the visible and solid earth»), and «vse iscezaet» does not quite convey the violence of «are now consumed», but on the whole this is a quite good translation, roughly on a par with the Bal’mont. The poem does not appear in Cukovskij’s 1935 edition. When it is published in 1944, it is still very close to the 1918 version, though the omitted phrase is now included («vidimaja i tverdaja pocva»).
«Moj Uitmen» reveals a more significant reworking (this passage is identical in the 1966 and 1969 editions):
Вот оно, женское тело,
Дивное сияние излучает оно от головы и до ног,
Оно тянет к себе неотвратимо и яростно,
Безвольно влекусь я к нему, как жалкое облачко пара, и всё пропадает тогда,
Остаемся только я и оно,
Книги, искусство, религия, время, видимая, твердая почва, и то,
чего я ждал от небес, и то, что меня пугало в аду, — все исчезает теперь, (p. 191)
Here Cukovskij makes the translation still tighter, even as he moves a little further from the original in terms of conveying individual words. The division of Whitman’s fourth line into two does not seem motivated, and may well be just a typesetting error. Note the addition of «i» before «do nog» in line 2. Cukovskij purposefully makes the rhythm less regular; without the extra word the last part of the line would read as a series of four iambs, an effect that Cukovskij wants to avoid.71 His success in this regard is not total; he has a series of ternary clauses in line 4, even as he manages to make the first line less regular than it was before. As in 1918, his last line contains the first person pronoun, which is absent in Whitman. Even if a couple of the changes do not work as well as they might, on the whole this final version seems the closest to Whitman’s voice.72 In this case the decades of rethinking and reworking the Russian version of a highly idiosyncratic English text yield their reward.
In one sense, though, Cukovskij’s efforts to nurture «my» Whitman ended in inevitable failure. Even by the time of the first «Moj Uitmen» in 1966, his editions of Whitman were no longer the exclusive means by which the verse was available in Russian, and certainly by the 1980s, when a Moscow publishing house put out a translation of the complete «Leaves of Grass», the Russian reading public was exposed to a very different Whitman, to the full range of the poet in all his variety and unevenness. Nor was he much more successful in propagating Whitman’s influence: if there was a certain kinship with the Futurists, the impact was nonetheless limited in scope and not long-lasting. Even as a translator Cukovskij at first struggled with Whitman, producing renditions that did not always capture the original as successfully as he might. I would argue that his earliest efforts are clearly less satisfactory than Bal’mont’s attempts, and even the final versions, for all the endless reworking, do not always come across as better poetry than what Bal’mont produced during two quick periods of translating.
And yet Cukovskij’s Whitmans comprise much more than a historical curiosity. In the first place, the very persistence with which Cukovskij brought out successive editions of Whitman assured that the American poet would be well known to the Russian reading public. Even the early polemic against Bal’mont’s versions, which took place largely in articles appearing in influential journals of the day, played a role in this regard. More significantly, from the first editions onward he created an integral volume, containing critical essays and background material as well as the poetry. As a result, Whitman’s verse, as well as could be the case for any translated poet, came to the broader readership from the very start in a context, with the artistic and historical significance of his works extensively documented. But perhaps most significantly, Cukovskij’s many Whitmans provide an open laboratory of the translator at work, wrestling with the difficulties of conveying a new and in its day alien verse form in a different language. Cukovskij himself commented on his exertions in this regard:
Когда-то я перевел Уолта Уитмена, и с той поры для каждого нового издания заново ремонтирую свои переводы: почти весь ремонт состоит в том, что я тщательно выбрасываю те словесные узоры и орнаменты, которые я внес по неопытности в первую редакцию своего перевода. Только путем долгих, многолетних усилий я постепенно приближаюсь к той «грубости», которой отличается подлинник. Боюсь, что, несмотря на все старания, мне до сих пор не удалось передать в переводе всю «дикую неряшливость» оригинала, ибо чрезвычайно легко писать лучше, изящнее Уитмена, но очень трудно писать так же «плохо» как он.73
Cukovskij spent the better part of a lifetime striving to learn how to write as badly as Whitman, to leave him untamed while nonetheless translating the untranslatable. At the same time he tried to draw attention to precisely those poems, sometimes sections of poems, that he felt best represented the poet’s originality and genius. As the differences between the 1966 and 1969 editions show most eloquently, he was never totally satisfied either with the quality of his translations or even with his selection and ordering of the poetry. However, the various Whitmans that Cukovskij has left enable us to observe both the growing mastery of a master translator and the ever-evolving image of the poet that he tried to bring to his Russian audience.
Barry P. Scherr
1. The subtitle suggests the varied contents of the volume: «Moj Uitmen»: Ego Zhizn’ i tvorcestvo. Izbrannye perevody iz «List’ev travy». Proza, 2nd ed. enl., Moskva, 1969. In 1966 the first part of the subtitle was slightly different: «Ocerki o Zhizni i tvorcestve». Much of the information in the following paragraph is gleaned from Cukovskij’s 1969 introduction, pp. 5-6. Unless otherwise noted, citations to «Moj Uitmen» are from the 1969 edition.
2. The subtitle is «Perevod v stichach i charakteristika», Sankt-Peterburg, 1907.
3. «Poezija grjaduscej demokratii»: Uot Uitmen. The first set of translations with this title came out in 1914 (Moskva); I have used the second, which appeared in 1918 (Petrograd). Another edition came out in 1919, with the title reversed: Uot Uitmen: «Poezija grjaduscej demokratii» (Petrograd). It is described as the «fourth edition, corrected and enlarged», which means that Cukovskij was still counting the 1907 volume as the first. The most significant changes in 1919, however, simply involved the switch to the new orthography and the elimination of Lunacarskij’s afterword.
4. In all, there were some ten collections published by Cukovskij between 1907 and 1944.
5. «Pobegi travy», Moskva, 1911.
6. While Whitman was already being published in editions other than Cukovskij’s during the post-World War II period, a full version of «Leaves of Grass» in Russian did not appear until well after his death: «List’ja travy», Moskva, 1982. It contains nearly all of Cukovskij’s translations from «Moj Uitmen», along with a few that he left out of that volume, but the poems translated by him still comprise only about a sixth of all the titles in «List’ja travy».
7. The first few poems in each of the two volumes are listed below; the page numbers in parentheses are from Walt Whitman, «Leaves of Grass» and Other Writings, Norton Critical Edition, Eds. Michael Moon, Sculley Bradley, and Harold Blodgett, New York, 2002. Further references to this edition are by page number within the text. 1966:
‘To You’ (p. 195)
‘Recorders Ages Hence’ (p. 104)
‘This Moment Yearning and Thoughtful’ (p. 109)
‘Had I the Choice’ (p. 431)
‘As Adam Early in the Morning’ (p. 96)
[‘Camerado, this is no book…’] (p. 424)
[from ‘So Long!’]
(The next three poems, ‘Beautiful Women’, ‘Thought’ and ‘A Child’s Amaze’ appear in both editions in the same order; in 1969, they follow ‘To You’)
1969 (Titles in italics are absent from the 1966 edition):
‘Recorders Ages Hence’ (p. 104)
‘To Rich Givers’ (p. 229)
‘The Dalliance of the Eagles’ (p. 229)
‘This Moment Yearning and Thoughtful’ (p. 109)
‘Had I the Choice’ (p. 431)
‘As Adam Early in the Morning’ (p. 96)
‘We Two Boys Together Clinging’ (p. 111)
‘Once I Pass ‘d through a Populous City’ (p. 94)
‘For You O Democracy’ (p. 100)
[‘Camerado, this is no book…’] (p. 424)
[from ‘So Long!’] ‘This Compost’ (p. 309) ‘To You’ (p. 195)
8. Gertrude M. White, ‘The «Dalliance» of Whitman’s Eagles’, Walt Whitman Review, 25, 1979, No. 2, p. 73; Literaturnoe nasledstvo, 98: Valerij Brjusov i ego korrespondenty, kn. 1, Moskva, 1991, p. 216. For more on this poem, see my ‘A Dalliance with Language: Chukovsky and Bal’mont Translate Whitman’, in: Stich, jazyk, poezija: Pamjati Michaila Leonovica Gasparova, Eds. Henryk Baran et al., Moskva, 2006, pp. 654-665. A Russian version of this article (‘Jazykovye igry orlov: Uitmen v perevodach Cukovskogo i Bal’monta’) appeared in Inostrannaja literatura, 117, 2007, No. 10, pp. 242- 251.
9. Uolt Uitmen, Izbrannoe, Moskva, 1954, pp. 46-102. Moris Mendel’son, in his introduction to the 1982 Russian edition of «Leaves of Grass», comments that Cukovskij only provided this full version some five decades after he first started working on ‘Song of Myself’ (List’ja travy, p. 8).
10. Kornej Cukovskij, Sobranie socinenij v pjatnadcati tomach, 8, Moskva, 2004, pp. 513-517.
11. In 1915 the Moscow censorship committee ordered the destruction of certain passages in the second edition of his book on Whitman, «Poezija grjaduscej demokratii», Moskva, 1914. See A.N. Nikoljukin, «O russkoj literature: Teorija i istorija», Moskva, 2003, p. 197.
12. The Mendel’son book was «Zhizn’ i tvorcestvo Uitmena», Moskva, 1965, though Cukovskij gives the date as 1966. The book, which was not Mendel’son’s first on Whitman, came out in a second edition in 1969. The Mirskij piece, as Cukovskij notes, was translated into English twice; the more recent and more precise of the two versions is ‘Poet of American Democracy’, in Walt Whitman Abroad, Ed. Gay Wilson Allen, Syracuse, 1955, pp. 169-186. The original (‘Poet amerikanskoj demokratii’) is in Uolt Uitman, List’ja travy, trans. K.I. Cukovskij, Leningrad, 1935, pp. 9-28. I am indebted to the Aber-nethy Collection of American Literature, Special Collections, Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont, for allowing me to use this volume.
13. ‘Poet of American Democracy’, pp. 170-171, 179; ‘Poet amerikanskoj demokratii’, pp. 13-14, 23-24.
14. Kornej Cukovskij, Dnevnik (1930-1969), Moskva, 1994, pp. 206, 227. In his diary he also comments on Mirskij’s article, expressing his admiration, while noting that it assumes an intimate knowledge of Whitman and therefore is not for the average reader (pp. 374-375).
15. «Poezija grjaduscej demokratii», p. 5.
16. His first article on Whitman appeared as early as 1904 in «Odesskie novosti», while in 1906 he published a piece with the same title as his book in «Svoboda i Zhizn». For a list of his early writings on Whitman, see D.A. Berman, Kornej Ivanovic Cukovskij: Biobibliograficeskij ukazatel’, Moskva, 1999, pp. 52, 54-56. Between 1905 and 1907 Cukovskij also had seven publications of translations from Whitman in the periodical press (Ibid., p. 166).
17. «Poet anarchist Uot Uitman», pp. 59-70.
18. Cukovskij’s omission of the first part results from his preference for the 1871 edition of the poem rather than Whitman’s final text; see the note in «Uot Uitmen i ego ‘List’ja travy'», 6th ed. enl., Moskva and Petrograd, 1923, p. 118. Cukovskij continued to base his versions on the 1871 text through «Moj Uitmen»; perhaps for this reason the 1982 complete «List’ja travy» uses somebody else’s translation rather than his.
19. In the 1919 volume he provided a footnote in which he stated that the poem clearly expressed Dostoevskij’s notion that every person is guilty before everyone for everyone and everything. He may well have decided to place it first because he perceived it as embodying this powerful theme. «Uot Uitmen: Poezija grjaducej demokratii», p. 61.
20. As late as 1923 (Uot Uitmen i ego ‘List’ja travy’) the section, now called ‘Uitmen v russkoj literature’, has changed only slightly. A few segments, including that on Bal’mont, have been expanded, and a couple of small items have been added, including the final subdivision, which lists some then recent writings on Whitman and translations from his work. One of the new pieces, ‘Uot Uitmen i demokratija’, attempts to relate his work to Communism (pp. 159-161). In light of those remarks, the appearance a few pages earlier of the comment about Whitman that «Socializm byl emu cuzd sovershenno» (p. 150), seems contradictory. No doubt this statement, which turns out to be reprinted directly from the 1918 volume (p. 137), was left in as an oversight. Cukovskij apparently intended to gather his writings on Whitman in Russia into a separate article or book: see «Izbrannye stichotvorenija i proza», p. 3, where he refers to an «unpublished work, ‘Uolt Uitman v russkoj literature'».
21. See Uot Uitmen i ego ‘List’ja travy’. Note that a second title page in this volume displays Cukovskij’s old title: «Uot Uitmen, Poezija grjaducej demokratii», 6th ed. enl. The selection is indeed expanded (thus ‘Muzykal’nost», omitted in 1918, is included), but far more striking is the reordering to follow Whitman’s original sequencing and the use of Whitman’s section titles.
22. In a note, Cukovskij implicitly defends the prominent place that he gives to ‘Respondez!’, saying that the poem’s experimental form should not veil its topic, which comprises an exposure of American capitalist society in Whitman’s day: «List’ja travy», 1935, p. 223. Cukovskij includes the poem in 1944 and again in «Moj Uitmen». The notes to the poems here are more extensive than in Cukovskij’s other publications of Whitman, and offer interesting comments on some of the individual poems, for instance highlighting individual works that Majakovskij particularly admired.
23. Ibid., pp. 6-8.
24. Ibid., p. 5.
25. «Uolt Uitman, Izbrannye stichotvorenija i proza», Moskva, 1944.
26. Cukovskij also used the title ‘I Sing the Body Electric’ during the 1920s: Uot Uitmen i ego ‘List’ja travy’, p. 167.
27. Note that Cukovskij translates «Leaves of Grass» as «Pobegi travy», the same translation that Bal’mont used, throughout «Poet anarchist Uot Uitman». Thus when Lauren Leighton says that Bal’mont «mistranslated» the title into Russian as «Shoots of Grass», he neglects to point out that it is a mistranslation
at first accepted by Cukovskij. Lauren G. Leighton, «Two Worlds, One Art:Literary Translation in Russia and America», DeKalb, 1991, p. 166.
28. Bal’mont changed publishers when Znanie did not publish the volume in a timely fashion. In a letter to Gor’kij from late 1906 he observes that the manuscript had been submitted «more than a year ago» and complains that Gor’kij’s co-editor at Znanie, Konstantin Pjatnickij, had failed to respond to Bal’mont’s numerous letters. M. Gor’kij, Polnoe sobranie socinenij: Pis’ma v dvadcati cetyrech tomach, 5, Moskva, 1999, p. 497.
29. Bal’mont specifies these two periods of translation in «Pobegi travy», p. 7. In all, he included more than 130 titles, though when the censorship banned ‘The Dalliance of the Eagles’, it also forbid publication of the ‘Children of Adam’ section, which Bal’mont had translated in its entirety (Literaturnoe nasledstvo, 98, p. 216). In the post-censorship copies of the volume, what was p. 23 is therefore numbered as pp. 23-49 (as in the copy held by Houghton Library at Harvard).
30. Kornej Cukovskij, «Vysokoe iskusstvo», Moskva, 1968, pp. 28-29.
31. «Poet anarchist Uot Uitman», pp. 82-83.
32. «Poezija grjaduscej demokratii», p. 4; the section is on pp. 140-144.
33. For an account of this scholarly debate, as well as a comparison of Cukovskij’s translations with those of Bal’mont, see my ‘A Dalliance with Language: Cukovskij and Bal’mont Translate Whitman’. Most critics have come down on the side of strongly favoring Cukovskij’s translations; for a different view of their respective merits, see Rachel Polonsky, ‘Translating Whitman, Mistranslating Bal’mont’, The Slavonic and East European Review, 75, 1997, No. 3, pp. 401-421.
Poets, interestingly, have on occasion expressed a clear preference for Bal’mont. Polonsky quotes a 1907 article by Blok, who admits that Cukovskij’s translations might be more accurate but finds Bal’mont’s Whitman, if an invention, at least to be the invention of a poet, while Cukovskij presents only «base truths». Blok, Sobranie socinenij v vos ‘mi tomach, 5, Moskva and Leningrad, 1962, pp. 203-204. Nearly six decades later Brodsky found Bal’mont’s translations of Shelley to prove that he was a poet, while Cukovskij’s of Whitman showed only a lack of poetic talent: Lidija Cukovskaja, «Zapiski ob Anne Achmatovoj», 3, 1963-1966, Moskva, 1997, p. 71. (I want to thank Lev Loseff for calling my attention to this comment by Brodsky.)
34. «Poezija grjaduscej demokratii», p. 5.
35. K. Bal’mont, «Iz mirovoj poezii», Berlin, 1921, pp. 93-119. Vladimir Orlov attests to the extreme rarity with which Bal’mont revised any of his published works; K.D. Bal’mont, Stichotvorenija, Biblioteka Poeta, Bolshaja serija, Ed. Vl. Orlov, Leningrad, 1969, p. 608.
36. For the argument over the word «orm», see Cukovskij’s ‘Russkaja Whitmaniana’, Vesy, 1906, No. 10, p. 44; Elena C[vetkovskaja], ‘Pis’mo v redakciju’, Vesy, 1906, No. 12, pp. 47-48; and Cukovskij, ‘O pol’ze broma’, Vesy, 1906, No. 12, pp. 57-58. The exchange extends to the translation of several other passages as well. The two Cukovskij articles have been reprinted in Kornej Cukovskij, Sobranie socinenij v pjatnadcati tomach, 6, Moskva, 2002, pp. 428-438.
37. «Pobegi travy», pp. 7-8.
38. Larry Gregg, ‘Korney Chukovsky’s Whitman’, Walt Whitman Review, 20, 1974, No. 2, p. 51.
39. ‘Pevec licnosti i Zhizni (Uolt Uitman)’, Vesy, 1904, No. 7, p. 14; see also p. 21, for comments on Whitman as a singer of democracy. A.N. Nikoljukin, in his article devoted to Whitman in Russia, gives far more attention to Bal’mont’s five essays on Whitman (all originally published between 1904 and 1910) than he does to Cukovskij; he implies that Bal’mont played the key role in revealing to the Russian public the nature of Whitman’s gift, his democratic tendencies, his frank portrayals of sexual love, and his ability to portray links between the present and the future (O russkoj literature, pp. 193-196).
40. Ibid., p. 31.
41. Martin Bidney, ‘Leviathan, Yggdrasil, Earth-Titan, Eagle: Bal’mont’s Re-imagining of Walt Whitman’, Slavic and East European Journal, 34, 1990, No. 2, pp. 176-191.
42. Two Worlds, One Art, p. 167.
43. Reprinted in «Russkij futurizm: Teorija, praktika, kritika, vospominanija», Comp. V.N. Terechina and A.P. Zimenkov, Moskva, 1999, p. 306.
44. «Poezija grjaduscej demokratii», pp. 146-148; «Moj Uitmen», pp. 279-280.
45. Vladimir Majakovskij, Polnoe sobranie socinenij v trinadcati tomach, 2, Moskva, 1956, p. 135.
46. Clare Cavanagh, ‘Whitman, Mayakovsky, and the Body Politic’, in Rereading Russian Poetry, Ed. Stephanie Sandler, New Haven, 1999, pp. 205-206.
47. Dale Peterson, ‘Mayakovsky and Whitman: The Icon and the Mosaic’, Slavic Review, 28, 1969, pp. 418-421.
48. Note that Cukovskij’s comment in his preface to the 1935 «List’ja travy» (see note 23) on Majakovskij’s not accepting Whitman’s poetry in its entirety was based on stylistic considerations, not on differences in the poetic «I» that each projected. Cukovskij there describes Majakovskij’s crossing out segments that seemed to him wordy or extraneous in a notebook of Whitman translations that Cukovskij had prepared for a public reading.
49. Velimir Chlebnikov, Tvorenija, Moskva, 1986, p. 185.
50. The frequency of anaphora has been documented by Autrey Nell Wiley, ‘Reiterative Devices in «Leaves of Grass»‘, American Literature, 1, No. 2, May 1929, pp. 161-162. Whitman uses the repetition of initial line words in the majority of his poems and in about 40% of all his lines. Clusters with the same initial word or phrase can be as long as 34 lines, while shorter clusters are extremely frequent — for instance, Wiley found no fewer than 28 six-line clusters.
51. Chlebnikov, Tvorenija, p. 679.
52. Thomas Eekman, ‘Walt Whitman’s Role in Slavic Poetry (Late 19th-Early 20th Century)’, American Contributions to the Eighth International Congress of Slavists: Zagreb and Ljubljana, September 3-9, 1978, Ed. Victor Terras, Columbus, Ohio, 1978, p. 174.
53. Aleksej Remizov, Sobranie socinenij, 2, Moskva, 2000, pp. 40-41. To a lesser extent the same devices appear in his 1903 ‘Cajka’ (Vol. 3, p. 59).
54. «Poezija russkogo futurizma», Novaja Biblioteka Poeta, Sankt-Peterburg, 1999, p. 379.
55. Valerij Brjusov, «Sredi stichov 1894-1924: Manifesty, stat’i, recenzii», Comp. N.A. Bogomolov and N.V. Kotrelev, Moskva, 1990, p. 388.
56. Uot Uitmen i ego ‘List’ja travy’, p. 163.
57. Brjusov, Sredi stichov 1894-1924, p. 650.
58. Komej Cukovskij, Dnevnik 1901-1929, Moskva, 1991, pp. 193, 195, 207-208. Whitman near the end of the first chapter in Vasilij Aksenov’s «Kollegi», a 1960 novel that attempted to reflect the thoughts and concerns expressed by the younger generation of its day.
59. «Poezija grjaduscej demokratii», p. 6.
60. On this history of the newer Russian verse forms in the early twentieth century, see M.L. Gasparov, «Ocerk istorii russkogo sticha: Metrika, Ritmika, Rifma, Strofika», 2nd ed., Moskva, 2000, pp. 229-232, 280-283. Gasparov cites Bal’mont’s translations from Whitman as an example of the difficulty that the early free verse experiments had in freeing themselves from more conventional rhythmic forms (p. 231). From the 1920s until the late 1950s free verse was extremely rare in Russian verse (p. 282).
61. Bal’mont, Stichotvorenija, p. 105. This link was first suggested by Vladimir Markov in his commentary to «K.D. Bal’mont, Izbrannye stichotvorenija i poemy», Munchen, 1975, p. 719.
62. Eekman, ‘Walt Whitman’s Role in Slavic Poetry’, pp. 172-173.
63. The two quotations are, respectively, on pp. 272 and 275 of Bal’mont, Stichotvorenija.
64. N.A. Abieva similarly compares a Bal’mont translation with an early and a later rendition by Cukovskij; the text she uses is ‘When I Read the Book’, Russkaja literatura, 29, 1986, No. 4, pp. 192-193. In general she is less sympathetic to Bal’mont’s renditions than I am, though admittedly his version of ‘When I Read the Book’ represents one of his weaker efforts. For some comparisons that value Bal’mont’s translations more highly, see Rachel Polonsky, ‘Translating Whitman, Mistranslating Bal’mont’.
65. Sculley Bradley, ‘The Fundamental Metrical Principle in Whitman’s Poetry’, American Literature, 10, No. 4, January 1939, pp. 437-459; see esp. pp. 445-448.
66. For an overview of this topic, see Gay Wilson Allen, «The New Walt Whitman Handbook», New York, 1986, pp. 215-230.
67. Of the more than 10,500 lines in «Leaves of Grass», Autrey Nell Wiley found only 20 instances of enjambement (‘Reiterative Devices in «Leaves of Grass»‘, p. 161). For a brief analysis of symmetrical structure in a Whitman line, see Paul Fussel, Jr., ‘Whitman’s Curious Warble’, in The Presence of Walt Whitman: Selected Papers from the English Institute, Ed. R.W.B. Lewis, New York, 1962, pp. 33-34. D.R. Jarvis has claimed that sound repetitions within the line provide another kind of symmetrical patterning: ‘Whitman andseems to have remained popular with young Russians even if his influence on poets was limited. I am indebted to Catherine Chvany for pointing out to me that one of the main characters, Aleksandr Zelenin, quotes Whitman’s short 1860 poem ‘To You’ («Stranger, if you passing meet me….») Speech-Based Prosody’, Walt Whitman Review, 27, 1981, No. 2, pp. 55-56. My comments here treat only the most salient aspects of Whitman’s verse, which has been the subject of numerous articles over the years.
68. Kornej Cukovskij, Sobranie socinenij v shesti tomach, 2, Moskva, 1965, p.349.
69. Konstantin Bal’mont, «Belye zarnicy: Mysli i vpecatlenija», Sankt-Peterburg, 1908, pp. 111-112. The article where this translation appears, ‘Poezija bor’by’, was originally published in 1907, in issue 3 of Pereval.
70. Cukovskij makes this point in his preface to the 1935 Uolt Uitman, «List’ja travy», pp. 5-6.
71. Note that Cukovskij made a similar change between 1966 and 1969 in his translation of ‘Recorders Ages Hence’ (see section II of this article), where the addition of a monosyllabic word again broke up the line’s metrically regular rhythm.
72. For a more detailed discussion of Cukovskij’s approach to the formal elements of Whitman’s verse, see Laurence Bogoslaw, ‘The Free Forms of Free Verse: Walt Whitman’s Poetry in the Hands of Russian Translators, 1907-1970’, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan, 1995. In Chapter V (pp. 173-225) he compares Cukovskij’s translation of ‘Song of Myself’, part 11, as published in 1923, with the version that appears in «Moj Uitmen». He notes, among other things, that in his later version Cukovskij brings the language a little closer to Whitman’s and succeeds more often in reproducing the prosodic symmetry of intonational units (pp. 209, 219). In general, Cukovskij «seems to have grown more attuned to Whitman’s intonational patterning» (p. 276).
73. Cukovskij, «Vysokoe iskusstvo», p. 50. His struggles to «repair» his translations were indeed extensive. As indicated in several of the examples that I have provided, thoroughly tracing and accounting for the changes in the different translations of a single Whitman poem can easily be the subject of a separate study.