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Охота на волков (Okhota na volkov) (English translation)

English translationEnglish
/Russian
(equirhythmic)
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Wolf Hunt

Versions: #1#2#3#4#5#6#7
All my strength I will use, every tendon,
But today and the previous day
I’m encircled by men, I’m enveloped,
They are chasing me, ready to slay.
 
From the spruce trees twin-barrels are rumbling:
There are hunters who hide in the shade.
In the snow many wolves now are tumbling:
Living targets for shooting they’ve made.
 
The hunt is open for the wolf, the hunt is open!
For silver predators: both adults and young pups.
The beaters move and yell, and dogs bark till they vomit.
The snow is stained with blood and scarlet-red are flags.
 
Equal footing we can’t have with hunters,
And gamekeepers are shooting at will.
They are mapping our freedom with flag lines,
And then aim with precision to kill.
 
For the wolf cannot break with the custom,
Since the days of the litter, since pups,
We, still blind, used to suckle our mother,
And we sucked it: "You can't pass the flags!"
 
The hunt is open for the wolf, the hunt is open!
For silver predators: both adults and young pups.
The beaters move and yell, and dogs bark till they vomit.
The snow is stained with blood and scarlet-red are flags.
 
We can bite, we can run to our fullest.
Will you tell us, head wolf, tell us true:
Why do we always rush to the bullets,
Never trying to break a taboo?
 
Wolves must not, they can not change their heading!
Time is over for me, and I’m done.
The sharpshooter, to whom I was destined,
With a smile slowly lifted his gun.
 
The hunt is open for the wolf, the hunt is open!
For silver predators: both adults and young pups.
The beaters move and yell, and dogs bark till they vomit.
The snow is stained with blood and scarlet-red are flags.
 
That’s enough, I’m done with compliance:
Past the flags! Lust for life is too strong!
And behind me I left in defiance
The astounded cries of the throng.
 
All my strength I will use, every tendon,
But today is a different day!
I’m encircled by men, I’m enveloped,
But the hunters were left with no prey!
 
The hunt is open for the wolf, the hunt is open!
For silver predators: both adults and young pups.
The beaters move and yell, and dogs bark till they vomit.
The snow is stained with blood and scarlet-red are flags.
 
Thanks!
thanked 6 times

© Schnurrbrat

Critique is always welcomed, negative too.

Submitted by SchnurrbratSchnurrbrat on Wed, 12/01/2022 - 23:27
Last edited by SchnurrbratSchnurrbrat on Sat, 20/08/2022 - 15:18
Author's comments:

This song describes a traditional winter hunt with the use of flags. Initially, the wolf territory is scouted and mapped with lines of thread that have small flags every few feet, usually of a red color. Contrary to the popular belief that wolves are afraid of red flags, the flags’ color is irrelevant since wolves do not have a good color vision, so it is just a matter of convenience for hunters. Prior to the hunt those lines with flags are kept inside the house, so they would accumulate people’s smell, which scares the wolves away. The hunting party consists of shooters (called numbers in hunters slang) and beaters who loudly move through the wolves territory and force them towards the hunters. Flag lines help to funnel the wolf pack towards the shooters.

The original meter is a trimeter (anapest for main verses, paeon for the chorus). A traditional ABAB rhyming pattern with alternation of feminine and masculine end rhymes.

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Охота на волков (Okhota na volkov)

Comments
VerulaVerula    Thu, 13/01/2022 - 10:58

Great translation! And very nice to see you back here!

YmdeithyddYmdeithydd    Mon, 04/07/2022 - 12:06
4

A few more rhymes please!

SchnurrbratSchnurrbrat    Thu, 18/08/2022 - 23:10

Thanks, Ymdeithydd.
Rhyming is not my forte, but I completely understand, since I hear this complaint a lot.
Does anything else look/sound unnatural to your ears? I would appreciate corrections from the English native.

YmdeithyddYmdeithydd    Fri, 19/08/2022 - 13:45

No, I wouldn't say anything sounds unnatural. I kind of feel you would say 'to our fullest' not 'to the fullest', but I'm not sure everyone would pick up on that. There are a few word combinations I paused over before making that assessment, which is not the same thing. But I would probably not myself have written 'the hunt is open for the wolf', because it sounds like it's open for the wolf, if you see what I mean, so 'the hunt for the wolf is open' would be better. The thing about the rhymes was a joke really - it was good you found so many, but I thought it was a shame you left out the repeated lines ending 'pups' and 'flags'. I suppose you could say 'cubs' and change 'and scarlet-red are flags' to 'and flags red as blood'. Still not a great rhyme though. 'Scarlet-red are flags' is a bit odd anyway: I don't know why, but with this inversion of complement and verb, common enough in poetry, I think a definite subject is more usual. I have heard 'scarlet red' as part of a range of colours for lipstick, maybe among other 'reds', but I wouldn't say it myself (just 'scarlet'). When you say 'we sucked it', it's not clear what, so I'd say 'we sucked in', leaving the lesson as the thing they sucked (as you intended). You could lose the 'they' in 'wolves must not, they cannot' and improve the rhythm: in fact, 'wolves cannot, must not' might work even better here.

SchnurrbratSchnurrbrat    Fri, 19/08/2022 - 17:00

Thank you for your prompt and thoughtful response, Ymdeithydd.
I indeed rely (on relied) on inversions too much, and it's not limited to this song alone. Sometimes it's done intentionally to front the most colorful word in the sentence (something what Vysotsky would do himself) or just to get the rhyme-ending right meter-wise. I will think about changing the word order in the refrain line about the flags, but, frankly, I like 'the hunt is open for the wolf', since it allows me to reproduce the repetition of the original - the "is open" part. But I see the ambiguity of this line — wolves are free to hunt, not the other way around.
As for the "cubs", I tried to rhyme them too of course, but I always ended with slant rhyming. cubs/blood is not a perfect rhyme to me either, but maybe it's an improvement. I'll think of it.
I like the sound of "scarlet-red". As for the color perception, it's tricky. Just recently someone told me that "scarlet red" is an allusion to blood (not in this poem). Anyway, it's something changeable, I'll review it.
re: 'we sucked it' - Yes, I had the same thoughts. I think I can introduce a participle clause in this line: sucking in that you....
Not sure about your last suggestion. This part is in anapest:
wolves must NOT they can-NOT.
I understand that "cannot" can be spelled both ways.
Thank you once again, I'll think over your suggestions.

YmdeithyddYmdeithydd    Sat, 20/08/2022 - 12:21

Inversions which would not be acceptable in prose are common in rhyming poetry and I've mostly left them uncommented on for that reason. I don't think 'the hunt is open for the wolf' is natural English. I would say the same about the 'the hunt is frenzied for the wolf', 'the hunt is easy for the wolf' or any other adjective I can think of. Yes, maybe re-spell 'cannot' as 'can not' to make the reader stress the 'not'. Trying to think of a two-syllable word for 'sucked', but can't ('imbibed' is a bit comical).

SchnurrbratSchnurrbrat    Sat, 20/08/2022 - 14:57

I'm not completely satisfied with my version of this song. I'll try to find motivation to make some noticeable changes, although it's usually much more difficult for me compared to starting a new translation. I can't not mention that it's very pleasing for me to see your interest in Vysotsky, he's my favorite poet to translate and he's our national treasure, who remains pretty much unknown in the West. Wolf Hunt is Vysotsky's signature song, but he also wrote its continuation, ten years later. My apologies for shameless self advertising, but I think I did a better job on the rhyming of the second one, since masculine rhyme-endings prevail there. Feel free to stop by if you feel like proof-reading, but please don't feel obliged to do so. I like both songs a lot. 

YmdeithyddYmdeithydd    Sun, 21/08/2022 - 10:32

I'll certainly do that.

It occurred to me belatedly I am guilty of sending mixed messages, in firstly saying nothing in your translation was unnatural, and then using that very word. It's more a question of style than naturalness. Maybe the problem starts with 'the hunt is open' for 'идёт'. Other translators have chosen 'is 'on', which would cause less difficulty than 'is open' for word inversion (in which Russian, with its case system, is far more versatile than English). But I do appreciate that revisiting hard work you had considered 'put to bed' is difficult to get round to.

Incidentally, I came across Vysotsky myself partly because I found him compared1 to "our" (Welsh) national treasure Dafydd Iwan /ˈdavɪð ˈɪwan/.

SchnurrbratSchnurrbrat    Sun, 21/08/2022 - 15:27

Your message came through loud and clear, and I completely agree with what you said.
It's just not something that I can change on the fly, but I'll be back working on this translation in the weeks to come.
Thanks for sharing this article, I bookmarked it and will take a closer look soon.
I heard that VV was compared with Georges Brassens, and I agree their manner and texts have certain similarities. Vysotsky was married to Marina Vladi, a French actress, and made a number of recordings in France, and he even sang a couple of songs in French too. So, there is a rumor that Brassens translated/performed some of Vysotsky's songs, but I couldn't find proof of it.

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