On translated poetry and the power of internet

I am not into poetry. This could be easily explained by the fact that we had to learn by heart very long, very boring poems about hapless peasants in the Russian literature class.
But there was one short piece of poetry that I really liked. It was a translation by Marshak, who was often said to produce a better translation than the original was.
I did not remember who it was translated from, just the poem itself:

– Он целовал вас, кажется?
– Боюсь, что это так!
– Но как же вы позволили?
– Ах, он такой чудак!
Он думал, что уснула я
И все во сне стерплю,
Иль думал, что я думала,
Что думал он: я сплю!

I have tried to find the original several times, but never without success. It was not helped that I thought this work to be by Robert Burns, the famous Scottish poet. But all roads lead to the internet and it finally showed up. It turned out to be a much shorter verse by the english poet Coventry Patmore:

“I saw you take his kiss!” “‘Tis true.”
“O, modesty!” “‘Twas strictly kept:
“He thought me asleep; at least, I knew
“He thought I thought he thought I slept.”

I should be able to relax now, but I cannot. For – to me – the translation does sound much better than the original and I wish I could translate it preserved back into English to read to other people.

2 thoughts on “On translated poetry and the power of internet”

  1. I wish you could too! I’m curious to know how it sounds in translation. Usually the translation sounds worse than the original but I guess that’s not always the case.

    I do like poetry but the original poem doesn’t do a lot for me.

  2. Well, it will probably sound much much worse (and certainly not a a in verse), but I will give it a try:

    – He kissed you, it seems?
    – I am afraid, that is true!
    – But how did you let him?
    – Oh, he is such an eccentric!
    He thought that I fell asleep
    And will – in sleep – endure that
    Or perhaps he thought that I would think
    Him thinking me asleep!

    What I like about this poem is that final part where the point of view shifts recursively. You come out at the end with your head spinning yet recalling your own youthful attempts at getting around the morals without appearing so.

    Well, it does that to me anyway.

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