Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bishop Daniel's Fables, I

Among the late Bishop Daniel of Erie's lesser known accomplishments was as a translator of Russian fairy tales. In 2001 he issued one anonymous little booklet entitled Selected Fables from the East, "translated by a Russian priest." Here is how he introduces this volume:
The fables in this booklet are a free translation in verse of fables from various sources, mostly Russian. The majority of Russian fables are by I. A. Krylov (1768-1844); There are other translations of Krylov's fables into English, but they have not been consulted by the translator of these fables. If there is any familiarity in the text, it is not intentional.

Other Russian fables are anonymous: Fable No. 10, "The Three Deaf Old Men" is cited by A. S. Pushkin as "old" – it must belong to the 18th century. Fable No. 4, "The Lion and the Sow" was in the papers of the translator's aunt, who died in 1931. He remembers only a few lines and the general sense. It appears to be a commentary on the success of the revolution against monarchy, and for this reason it lacks a moral – the reader is supposed to draw his own conclusions. It was obviously written in the 1920's, when open criticism of the existing regime was unthinkable. No 14, "Gromoglas," was originally not a fable at all, but a story the translator has heard in Russian. Putting it in verse and adding a moral makes it a fable.

Two fables are taken from Persian, from Saadi's Gulistan – No. 13, "The Offended Prince and No 19, "The King and the Ghulam." One is from Chinese sources, No. 9, "Juridical Reform," and two from Indian sources: No. 3, "The Man and the Tiger" and No. 11, "The Dog, the Cat and the Monkey." All these have been translated from prose translations.
God willing, I will reproduce one fable a day for the next twenty-two days (that being the number of fables) in prayerful memory of Bishop Daniel. May his memory be eternal.

Now here is the very first fable, "The Crow and the Fox" (I. A. Krylov, Vorona i lisitsa):
For many years we have been taught
That flattery is bad and that it ought
To be despised, being a vile deception,
But all in vain: the flatterers are smart
And in the human heart
Will always find a welcoming reception.

A crow who found a slice of cheese
Looked for a perch among the trees
And, mounting on a spruce at last,
She was about to break her fast,
But for some reason she did pause
And held her breakfast in her jaws.
A fox comes by (the fragrance drew him near)
And he begins to flatter to to speak:
"You are so beautiful, my dear!
What pretty eyes and what a well-formed beak!
What pretty feathers, what a lovely tail!
You are a fairy-beard out of a fairy-tale!
Being so beautiful, if you know how to sing,
Among the birds you ought to be a king!
Sing to me, please, with your angelic voice,
Oh, let me hear it and rejoice!"
The bird of omen, who was otherwise
As wise
As any wizard
Was overjoyed
Hearing the praise the fox employed,
Her breath stopped in her gizzard,
And, being dizzy with delight,
She loudly crowed with all her might.
The cheese fell out, of course,
The fox was quick in taking it
And quit
Without remorse.

1 comment:

incendiarious said...

Просто замечательно! Если бы я мог так перевести смысл...