Fedor Sologub as translator of french symbolists

V. E. Bagno

Translations made chronologically within a particular literary school not only present philologically enlightening interest, to say nothing of historical one, but also own certain artistic advantages over all those that follow. The fact that a Russian man of letters, a symbolist in particular, addressed the works of a creatively close contemporary poet, who shared his literary views and sympathies, frequently endowed his translation endeavors with undoubted and unique merits. As far as research interest is concerned, these translations could undoubtedly serve as a reliable material for revealing the national specificity of this or that branch of a literary school[1], which is not less trustworthy than theoretical views of its members. The choice itself of works for translation is remarkable, as well as a complex system of substitutions which exists in any translation activity, being programmatically declared or subconsciously realized. Among the most outstanding creations of Russian literature between 19th and 20th centuries Fedor Sologub’s highly illustrative translations from French symbolists are probably least studied[2].



For Sologub, as well as other Russian “elder” symbolists, orientation towards Western European culture had an essential meaning. This orientation defined the place which translations held among their works (Donchin 1958: 10). It is no coincidence that Briusov considered it possible to start his literary life with translations from Verlaine[3], while in the introduction to the collection “Pol’ Verlen. Stikhi, izbrannye i perevedennye Fedorom Sologubom” (1908) prepared by Sologub, he called it his seventh book of poetry.

Sologub started translating early, from late 1870s, and kept on doing that, mainly from French and German, till the end of his life. He made classical translations of many Verlaine’s poems, Voltaire’s philosophical tale “Candide, ou l’Optimisme”, Maupassant’s novel “Fort comme la mort”. At different moments of his life he spent much time and energy to translate into Russian the poems of French poets — Hugo, Leconte de Lisle, Rimbaud, Mallarmé, German expressionist poets — Goll, Zech, Ukranian — Shevchenko and Tichina, Hungarian — Petőfi, Jewish — Bialik, Armenian — Nahapet Kuchak, the poem of a Provençal poet Frédéric Mistral entitled “Mirèio”, dramas of H. von Kleist (together with A. Chebotarevskaia). According to Sologub himself, translation work brought great satisfaction to him[4]. The diversity of his translation activities (during his youth he translated from Euripides and Aeschylus, Shakespeare and Kochanowski, Goethe and Heine) is testimony to the wide spectrum of Sologub’s poetic interests. His different translations had a mixed reception in the press, more than cold at times. In later Sologub’s translations Chukovskii discovered “prezrenie k shevchenkovskomu stikhovomu zvuchaniiu i k smyslu” (Chukovskii 1968: 351; see also p. 350—357). The fact that even with his characteristic attention to the original Sologub invariably reshaped it according to the features of his own poetic world was clearly understood by contemporaries. I. Annenskii wrote in his article “O sovremennom lirizme”: “Net, Sologub — ne perevodchik. On slishkom sam v svoikh, im zhe samim i sozdannykh prevrashcheniiakh. A glavnoe — ego dazhe i nel’zia otravit’ chuzhim, potomu, chto on mudro immunirovalsia” (Annenskii 1979: 357).

Sologub most substantially contributed to Russian translation culture by his translations from Verlaine. He was one of those who inculcated love to the French poet among Russian public and was simultaneously creating a new type of reader, who was ready to perceive and value Russian symbolism.

By 1890s French symbolism had already performed the mission which Russian poets, grouping around “Severnyi vestnik” in Saint-Petersburg and Briusov in Moscow, were getting ready for and radically renewed its poetic arsenal. It is rather logical that, having set the same goal a little later, Russian writers at first borrowed a lot of inspiration and, more specifically, literary devices from Verlaine. S. A. Vengerov wrote about exceptional significance of Baudelaire as immediate predecessor of French symbolism and Verlaine for the first stage of Russian symbolism[5]. At the same time acquaintance with both national versions of the same literary trend leaves no doubt that it was not the case of a “translation” school (Izmailov 1911: 296). It is enough to say that the meaning of the term symbolism was too vague to place the question of direct “translation”. One of “younger” French symbolists Remy de Gourmont wrote: “Que veut dire Symbolisme? Si l’on s’en tient au sens étroit et étymologique, presque rien; si l’on passe outre, cela peut vouloir dire: individualisme en littérature, liberté de l’art, abandon des formules enseignées, tendances vers ce qui est nouveau, étrange et même bizarre; cela peut vouloir dire aussi: idéalisme, dédain de l’anecdote sociale, antinaturalisme, tendance à ne prendre dans la vie que le détail caractéristique, à ne prêter attention qu’à l’acte par lequel un homme se distingue d’un autre homme, à ne vouloir réaliser que des résultats, que l’essentiel” (Gourmont 1896: 8) (Gourmont R. de. Le livre des masques: portraits symbolistes, gloses et documents sur les écrivains d’hier et d’aujourd’hui. Troisième édition. Paris, 1896). “Chto takoe simvolizm? Esli derzhat’sia priamogo, grammaticheskogo znacheniia slova, pochti nichego. Esli zhe razdvinut’ vopros shire, to slovo eto mozhet nametit’ tselyi riad idei: individualizm v literature, svobodu tvorchestva, otrechenie ot zauchennykh formulirovok, stremlenie ko vsemu novomu, neobychnomu, dazhe strannomu. Ono oznachaet takzhe idealizm, prenebrezhenie k faktam sotsial’nogo poriadka, anti-naturalizm, tendentsiiu peredavat’ tol’ko te cherty, kotorye otlichaiut odnogo cheloveka ot drugogo, zhelanie oblekat’ plot’iu lish’ to, chto podskazyvaetsia konechnymi vyvodami, to, chto sushchestvovalo” (Gurmon 1913: VI). Having learned a lot from Mallarmé in his youth, Paul Valéry was even more persistent writing about the inability to define precise borderlines of this literary school: “Ce qui fut baptisé: le Symbolisme se résume très simplement dans l’intention commune à plusieurs familles de poètes (d’ailleurs ennemies entre elles), de “reprendre à la Musique, leur bien”. Le secret de ce mouvement n’est pas autre. L’obscurité, les étrangetés qui lui lurent tant reprochées: l’apparence de relations trop intimes avec les littératures anglaise, slave ou germanique; les désordres syntaxiques, les rythmes irréguliers, les curiosités du vocabulaire, les figures continuelles… tout se déduit facilement sitôt que le principe est reconnu” (Valéry 1920: XII—XIII) (Valéry P. Avant-propos // Fabre L. Connaissance de la déesse. Avant-propos de Paul Valéry. Paris, 1920). “To, chto narekli simvolizmom, poprostu svoditsia k obshchemu dlia mnogikh poeticheskikh semeistv (prichem semeistv vrazhduiushchikh) stremleniiu “zabrat’ u Muzyki svoe dobro”. Takova edinstvenno vozmozhnaia razgadka etogo napravleniia. Temnota i strannosti, v kotorykh stol’ko ego uprekali, slishkom tesnaia na pervyi vzgliad sviaz’ s literaturoi angliiskoi, slavianskoi ili nemetskoi, zaputannost’ sintaksisa, sbivchivost’ ritmov, prichudlivost’ slovaria, naviazchivye figury <...> vse eto legko ob’’iasnimo, kol’ skoro vyiavlen osnovnoi printsip” (Valeri 1976: 366—367). The allegation of a “translation” type of Russian symbolism is all the more wrong that “younger” Russian symbolists on the whole found their French counterparts to be alien. Both Viach. Ivanov and Andrei Belyi considered them to be too rational and their images too unambiguous and precise (Asmus 1968: 584). In an unfinished article, which he was working on in 1918, Andrei Belyi reproached French symbolists for not being able to “deepen” symbolism as world outlook and narrowed it to a school, having concentrated attention on the stylistic aspect and verbal instrumentation (Belyi 1980: 174). “Younger” symbolists’ declarations may contain both inaccuracies and groundless generalizations. According to Viach. Ivanov, both his creative associates and himself had neither historical, nor ideological grounds to link their activities to the methods and way of thinking of French symbolists. He claimed that the biggest discrepancy between the two schools was their attitude to the logical meaning of words. While Mallarmé “khochet tol’ko, chtoby nasha mysl’, opisav shirokie krugi, opustilas’ kak raz v namechennuiu im odnu tochku”, for the Russian school symbolism “est’, naprotiv, energiia, vysvobozhdaiushchaia iz granei dannogo, pridaiushchaia dushe dvizhenie razvertyvaiushcheisia spirali” (Ivanov 1916: 157). Not only “elder” symbolists, such as Sologub and Briusov, but also “younger” ones, like Voloshin, who was close to them, would not have agreed with Viach. Ivanov’s understanding of both French and Russian symbolism, especially as his interpretation of Mallarmé and his works was highly subjective.

While Viach. Ivanov was denying the existence of historical and ideological connection between Russian and French symbolism giving a not very complimentary characteristic of Mallarmé’s works, on the whole and regardless of the arguments about its roots the school of symbolism had already long been dominating Russian poetry, and Verlaine, his allies and contemporaries’ names had been surrounded by reverence and veneration. Meanwhile, in the early 1890s the first steps of representatives of new poetry that relied on French symbolists’ authority faced fierce resistance.

Like any new literary trend, whether it is implanted from the outside or born within (in reality, the emergence of any literary trend is always a combination of these two principles and tendencies), Russian symbolism experienced strong counteraction motivated both aesthetically and ethically, and even patriotically, as first Russian symbolists were persistently declaring if not direct dependence on the French model, then their sympathy towards their French counterparts, who had outstripped them in creating new poetry. N. N. Nikolaev called for drastic measures towards eradication of this “prilipchivaia bolezn’”. He characterized Briusov’s translation of the well-known Verlaine’s “Le ciel est, par-dessus le toit…” (“Nebo nad gorodom plachet”) in the following way, having highlighted exactly its pioneering features: “Krome etikh ochen’ nekrasivykh povtorenii vmesto rifm my vidim zdes’ i drugie povtoreniia, kotorye delaiut eto vyrazhenie blednoi, besprichinnoi toski eshche blednee, bestsvetnee. Vmeste s tem eto niskol’ko ne delaet stikhotvorenie bolee tsennym, tak kak chitatel’ vynosit vpechatlenie toski ne ot takogo zhe chuvstva, kotoroe volnuet avtora i kotoroe tot zhelal by peredat’ chitateliu, a prosto ot ego skuchnoi i durnoi manery pisat’, ot toi trudnosti, s kakoi daetsia emu protsess pisaniia i upravleniia svoim iazykom”[6]. K. P. Medvedskii expressed surprise at the serious wish of the new “sektanty” to transplant onto native ground the theories which were alien for Russian literature[7]. He claimed that salvation of national literature consisted in love to motherland, that true Russian writers were “sil’ny rodinoi” and only this force could save Russian literature from passion for foreign scribblers and charlatans and Russian men of letters — from turning into cosmopolites, rootless tramps with no homeland.

Meanwhile, the number of enthusiastic admirers of Verlaine and Mallarmé’s talent was growing; the readers were able to get acquainted with examples of their poetic works in Russian translations and get rather specific and clear idea of their peculiar talents from both original and translated critical works. For example, from the article by Z. Vengerova, who was one of the most talented popularizers of French symbolists in Russia, readers could learn that all of Mallarmé’s sonnets, which seem to be obscure at first reading, are explained by “filosofskim mirosozertsaniem poeta, ego veroi v vechnuiu garmoniiu vselennoi, v silu kotoroi odni i te zhe otvlechennye poniatiia dolzhny vyzyvat’ odni i te zhe simvoly. On verit v pravil’nye, sushchestvuiushchie s nachala vremen sootnosheniia mezhdu mirom mysli i vneshnei prirodoi, tak chto poetu stoit tol’ko napomnit’ o nikh, chtoby oni poiavilis’ v chelovecheskom soznanii, ne nuzhdaias’ ni v kakikh ob’’iasneniiakh”[8]. Of particular interest were reflections of the French themselves, e.g. Remy de Gourmont or H. de Régnier, on the revolution in their national poetry carried out by Verlaine.

Russian symbolists (Briusov, Sologub, Annenskii, Minskii, Ellis, Voloshin) not only translated the texts of their French forerunners and paid tribute to them by choosing the lines from their poems as epigraphs or dedicating own poems to them (Briusov, in particular, had poems devoted to Mallarmé, Baudelaire, Verhaeren and Maeterlinck or ones written in their style), but also actively and creatively assimilated their experience. It was creative perception of Verlaine’s works that turned out to be most productive. Russian poets used stylistic devices which were typical for Verlaine — nominal constructions following each other, different kinds of repetitions and anaphoras. They relied on the French poet’s experience in their persistent attempts to radically renew and enrich the metrical repertoire of Russian poetry. It was partly due to Verlaine’s influence that poets started, unlike those of the preceding period (e. g. Nadson and Apukhtin), mastering short, flexible rhythms and metres. Like Verlaine, Russian symbolists started including multi-syllable and multi-word rhymes (Gasparov 1984: 243—248) more frequently while using accurate rhymes and alternation of masculine and feminine rhymes less regularly, as well as introducing alliteration and enjambment. Their works integrated the range of colors that were typical for Verlaine and to which he attributed symbolic meaning — grey and black. Verlaine’s influence also manifested itself in a variety of moods (inclination for bleak colours, intimacy etc.). Late Verlaine was sometimes reminded of by the contrast between and at the same time the alloy of holiness and sin, which created a specific decadent atmosphere. So-called reverse comparisons, which were rare in the 19th-century Russian poetry, became a rather notable and bright element of Russian symbolists’ poetic language (Kozhevnikova 1986: 17). Still, they play a key role in Mallarmé’s poetry, which was indicated by popularizers of his works in Russia as well, with specific examples included. P. N. Krasnov, a man of letters, critic and translator, wrote about him: “On dopuskal sovershenno svoeobraznuiu i proizvol’nuiu rasstanovku slov, zastavliaia chitatelia myslenno vozvrashchat’sia k samomu nachalu stikhotvoreniia, kogda on dochel ego do kontsa. Eta rasstanovka slov, propusk nekotorykh sushchestvennykh chastits, strannye epitety, vrode “sinee odinochestvo” (solitude bleue), sovershenno neozhidannye sravneniia, prichem dazhe ne upominaetsia, chto chitatel’ imeet delo so sravneniem, a priamo vmesto odnogo predmeta staviatsia drugie, s kotorymi on sravnivaetsia (tak, vmesto togo chtoby, naprimer, skazat’ “solntse”, Mallarme govorit: “prekrasnaia golovnia slavy”, “zolotaia buria”), — delaet ego stikhi v kontse kontsov pokhozhimi na sharady, i on dostigaet v sushchnosti obratnogo rezul’tata: vmesto sosredotocheniia vnimaniia na predmete, ono raskhoduetsia na razgadyvanie zagadki”[9]. There is no doubt that not only Verlaine’s, but also Mallarmé’s experience was by no means useless for Russian symbolists.

Briusov was sincerely convinced that “podlinnoe i shirokoe znakomstvo s knigami frantsuzskikh poetov povysit trebovaniia, kakie u nas pred’’iavliaiutsia k sozdaniiam poezii, rasshirit krugozor nashikh pisatelei, vo mnogom usovershenstvuet tekhniku nashego stikha” (Briusov 1913a: XI). Based on this conviction and in spite of that of untranslatability of a poetic text (Briusov 1987: 99)[10], Briusov most actively popularized the works of not only Verlaine, Mallarmé, Rimbaud or H. de Régnier, but also poets of the “younger” generation, such as R. Ghil, F. Vielé-Griffin, S. Merrill, whose names did not mean much to Russian readers even after Briusov (Briusov 1909). In the drafts about symbolism created in 1890s Briusov stood up for publishing “korifeev frantsuzskogo simvolizma v russkom perevode” (Briusov 1937: 268). Alongside with Briusov but being a little inferior to him Sologub translated French symbolists from the first steps of his literary career.



Sologub’s acquaintance with Verlaine’s poetry, which opened the new French poetry to him, took place in late 1880s, approximately at the same time when Verlaine and Mallarmé’s works attracted Briusov’s attention[11]. Sologub started translating Verlaine in 1889 in Vytegra, being a teacher in the “strashnyi mir” of Russian province. His enthusiasm for Verlaine was fed by French studies, which he was doing not for reading poetry, but rather for work on geometry textbook. On May 18, 1890 Sologub wrote to V. A. Latyshev: “Tak kak ia ne perestaiu zanimat’sia fr. iaz., to chtenie uchebnika idet legko, k slovariu prikhoditsia pribegat’ redko, ne chashche raza na protiazhenii neskol’kikh stranits”[12]. Yet, it is unlikely that the poet was able to master the language well enough by early 1890s. In one of the most famous “Romans bez slov” (“Romances sans paroles”) “II pleure dans mon coeur”, which is by the way one of the most transparent in terms of vocabulary, really almost “without words” from the point of view of translation, he still had to write out four words (écœurer, langueur, Quoi, Haine) and check possible translations in the dictionary (1, 38, 335 ob.).

Considering all conditions that accompanied Sologub’s nascent interest to Verlaine, it is easier to understand the idea of “mystical irony” (to be discussed further) of the French poet, whose works helped him to stay strong and possibly reminded of his own existence by seemingly incompatible combination of gloomy everyday routine and turpitude of provincial life on the one hand and outbursts of a reflective person towards lofty and inspiring spirituality.

Sologub’ perception of contemporary French literature was facilitated by the proximity of some of the distinctive features of French culture to the peculiarities of his creative personality. This undoubted closeness did not remain unnoticed by contemporaries. “Odnorodnost’ literaturnykh iavlenii inogda rozhdaetsia ne iz obez’ianstva i mody, no ot odnorodnogo bieniia serdets <...>. Nekotorye nashi sovremennye pisateli ne proizveli by dissonansa, rodivshis’ vo Frantsii. Kak vekhi oni sblizhaiut strany. V nikh soshlis’ luchi tekh solnts, kotorye iarche vsego goriat dlia sovremennogo mira. Odin iz takikh pisatelei u nas — Sologub” (Izmailov 1911: 297).

A more subtle and shrewder observation belongs to Viach. Ivanov: ““Kniga rasskazov” F. Sologuba, russkaia po obaiatel’noi prelesti i zhivoi sile iazyka, zacherpnutogo iz glubin stikhii narodnoi, russkaia po veshchemu proniknoveniiu v dushu rodnoi prirody, — kazhetsia frantsuzskoiu knigoi po ee, novoi u nas, utonchennosti, po masterstvu ee izyskannoi, v svoei khudozhestvennoi prostote, formy” (Ivanov 1904: 47).

Yielding to Briusov in the amount of materials translated from French symbolists and poets that he introduced into the scope of reading in Russia, Sologub still embraced almost all possible genres. Apart from widely known translations from Verlaine (the archive contains several unpublished versions — 1, 38) he was translating Rimbaud’s poems, the most part of which are still unpublished (1, 44), his prose poetry (a part of “Ozareniia” (“Illuminations”) also remained unpublished — 1, 44), as well as that of Mallarmé (1, 42). In his archive there are also unfinished translations of R. de Gourmont’s play “Lilit” (“Lilith”) and H. de Régnier’s novel “Dvazhdy liubimaia” (“La Double Maîtresse”) (1, 561). While translations from Mallarmé and Remy de Gourmont are typescripts with occasional handwritten corrections, and in case of H. de Régnier’s novel there is only an autograph, there remained separate translations from Verlaine and Rimbaud, both clean copies and drafts, some of which are dated, as well as typescripts.

The reasons for addressing particular texts obviously differed. The poems written by Verlaine, who was particularly close to Sologub, accompanied him during his whole life. It can be supposed that Sologub got interested in the play by R. de Gourmont, who insisted on “zakonnosti chuvstvennogo naslazhdeniia” and sensuality of any “dukhovnogo” pleasure (Lunacharskii 1925: 283), and the novel by H. de Régnier, who unlike anyone else could depict exquisite sophistication of emotional dramas in carefully measured form.

Sologub’s attitude to Rimbaud’s “Illuminations” and Mallarmé’s “Poèmes en prose” was probably ambiguous. He would never have missed the outstanding poetic virtues of the great French poets’ works; still, his own aesthetic views did not match those that dominated Rimbaud and Mallarmé in their complicated texts that can not be interpreted unambiguously. M. Dikman seems to be right in her assumption (regarding “Illuminations”) that Sologub was appealed to this stylistically and rhythmically alien poetic phenomenon by his necessity of “preodoleniia trudnostei” (Dikman 1975: 70). At the same time, apparently, the wish to enrich national literature by the equivalent of such impressive and productive genre in France as a “prose poem” played a really significant role, coupled with an attempt to save as many as possible of its original French features.

Considering that Sologub addressed Verlaine’s poetry between 1880s and 1890s and was actively translating it for a number of years (his translations from Mallarmé are dated 1898[13], in 1905—1908 he was working on Rimbaud’s “Derniers vers”, in 1908 he was preparing for print the first edition of his translations from Verlaine; work on R. de Gourmont’s play took place in 1910, in 1915 were published Sologub’s versions of Rimbaud’s “Illuminations”, in 1918 he was trying to print a collection of his own and Briusov’s transpositions of Verlaine’s poems and, finally, in 1923 he published the second edition of those in his own translations), one can not miss the constant interest of the Russian poet to transplanting the legacy of French symbolists into Russian national ground.

First translations from Verlaine made by Sologub appeared in 1893—1894 in “Severnyi vestnik” magazine[14]. New translations were published in 1896—1898 in “Nasha zhizn’” newspaper[15] and “Peterburgskaia zhizn’” magazine[16], in 1904—1905 — in “Novyi zhurnal inostrannoi literatury, iskusstva i nauki”[17], in 1907 — in “Obrazovanie”[18]. Finally, in 1908 Sologub’s translations were published as a separate edition that included 37 poems from collections “Poèmes saturniens”, “La bonne chanson”, “Fêtes galantes”, “Romances sans paroles”, “Sagesse”, “Jadis et Naguère” and “Chansons pour elle”. 16 translations were published for the first time, while part of the poems appeared in several versions.

In 1918 Sologub had an idea to publish Verlaine in his own and Briusov’s translations, based on the fact that they were perceived by readers as the most impressive attempts to present a poetic version of the French poet’s works in general[19]. He wrote to Briusov on September 17, 1918: “Ia slyshal, chto Vy v Moskve stanovites’ u bol’shogo dela po izdatel’stvu perevodnoi literatury. Nadeius’, Vy vspomnite, chto ia — userdnyi perevodchik. Mezhdu prochim my s Vami soshlis’ na Verlene. Soedinenie nashikh perevodov moglo by byt’ polezno”[20]. In February 1919 he sent a list of these translations to chief editor of “Vsemirnaia literatura” A. N. Tikhonov, but the plan was not realized. However, Sologub did not give up the idea to republish his old translations, as well as present Verlaine in new versions that correlated with his contemporary views on translation as an activity. The second edition of translations from Verlaine, which significantly differed both in volume and principles, appeared in 1923. It contained 53 poems, 10 of which were corrected, 15 were translated anew and 16 were published for the first time. The “Versions” section included 22 old translations of 16 poems, while in the first editions different versions followed each other in the main text, truly coexisting and complementing one another.

As for other translations marked by relentless interest to French symbolism, Sologub considered it possible to publish only a substantial part of Rimbaud’s “Illuminations”. Almost all of them are included in the first collection of futurist edition entitled “Strelets” (1915) (Rembo 1915: 173—190). Here were published Rimbaud’s 15 prose poems, and a year later (in the second “Strelets” collection) one more — “Poklonenie” (Rembo 1916: 113).

Such distinct preference among other French symbolists given to Verlaine by both Sologub and, obviously, publishing houses is quite easy to explain. It was Verlaine who, being to a certain extent only a predecessor of symbolism, a poet, whose mature and late poetry most clearly incorporated early symbolist tendencies, became in Russia a center of the new literary school, its quintessence and delegate, who had outshone all his contemporaries and successors. Among all French symbolist poets only Verlaine became a real literary phenomenon in Russia. Like “younger” symbolists in France, those in Russia realized that the poetic individuality of Rimbaud, who was long ahead of his time, was not an appropriate example to rely on in their own literary quests, so they treated his works rather coldly, yet respectfully[21]. Alchemic retorts, magical crystals and algebraic formulas, within which, according to Voloshin (Voloshin 1988: 55), Mallarmé locked his ideas, were so generally different from Russian symbolists’ aims that the indisputable authority of the French poet made them suspect some kind of inner alienation. This condition, resulting from the absence of underlying impulses towards active creative adoption of his legacy, by no means prevented sympathetic and rather deep articles about Mallarmé’s works and noticeable translations of his poems by Annenskii, Voloshin and Briusov from appearance in Russian print or Briusov’s acceptance of his dependence on aesthetic edifice of the French poet (Briusov 1976: 202).

This point of view that belonged to intellectuals and delicate connoisseurs was absolutely different from attitude to Verlaine, who became, like Goethe, Byron and Hugo, an indispensable part of Russian literary process.

Similarly to their French counterparts, Russian symbolists felt quite an obvious wish to “tailor” Verlaine into a “symbolist” and thus have an opportunity to refer to him as an authority, who was artistically indisputable and, obviously, distant from terminological arguments. Briusov wrote: “Slovu simvolizm chasto pridaiut slishkom shirokoe znachenie, oznachaia im v tselom vse dvizhenie v iskusstve, voznikshee v kontse XIX veka. Eto nevernoe slovoupotreblenie, potomu chto nikakikh opredelennykh “simvolov” ne naidem my v proizvedeniiakh tselogo riada poetov, nesomnenno prinadlezhashchikh k etomu dvizheniiu i byvshikh v nem vidnymi deiateliami, kakov, naprimer, Verlen” (Briusov 1976: 183). More frequently, however, one addressed Verlaine’s authority without any stipulations. In one of his few theoretical articles Sologub wrote: “Eto mnogoobrazie vpechatlenii i opytov, eta zhivaia zhizn’ obrazov iskusstva v nashikh dushakh sposobstvuet osnovnoi zadache simvolicheskogo iskusstva — prozreniiu mira sushchnostei za mirom iavlenii. Prozrevaem mir sushchnostei ne razumno i ne dokazatel’no, a lish’ intuitivno, ne slovesno, a muzykal’no. Ne naprasno zavetom iskusstva postavil Pol’ Verlen trebovanie: “Muzyka, muzyka prezhde vsego”” (Sologub 1915: 41). Such easy digestibility of Verlaine’s poetic novelty in Russia, as always in such cases, may be explained by different reasons, one of which being the proximity of his works to the basic elements of Russian poetry, surprisingly, including the one that his Russian adepts were to overcome. This largely superficial proximity of Verlaine’s poems to those of Fet, Fofanov and their imitators, such common features as musicality, reticence and melancholic tone concealed many dangers, as we are to witness later while analyzing translations from Verlaine made by poets who were remote from symbolist attitudes. At the same time, this proximity shortened the distance, fulfilling the aesthetic need which was a little later expressed by Mandelstam: “I sladok nam lish’ uznavan’ia mig” (Mandel’shtam 1974: 110). However short was the “mig uznavan’ia” in Fet’s translation of Verlaine’s poem:

Eto — nega voskhishchen’ia,

Eto — strastnye tomlen’ia,

Eto — trepety lesov,

Svezhim veian’em ob’’iatykh,

Eto — v vetkakh serovatykh

Khor chut’ slyshnykh golosov[22]... —

it fully met this natural need to understand the unknown through the known.

Sologub had special reasons to single out Verlaine among other French symbolists, backed by the originality of his creative personality. In the introduction to 1908 edition the Russian poet confessed: “Ia perevodil Verlena, nichem vneshnim k tomu ne pobuzhdaemyi. Perevodil potomu, chto liubil ego” (Verlen 1908: 7). On the copy presented then to Blok and kept in the Pushkin House, he inscribed: “Aleksandru Aleksandrovichu Bloku. Milyi i prekrasnyi poet, ia dariu vam etu knigu s takoiu zhe liuboviiu, s kakoiu perevodil sobrannye zdes’ stikhi”[23]. There is no doubt that not only among all French symbolists was Verlaine closest to Sologub, but it is also to Sologub among all Russian symbolists that Verlaine was closest. Sologub may not have been called Russian Verlaine, but the “affinity of souls” between the poets was to attract the contemporaries’ attention. For instance, a reviewer from “Russkoe bogatstvo” magazine wrote the following about the first edition of Sologub’s translations from Verlaine: “Est’ kakoe-to skhodstvo mezhdu Verlenom i Sologubom; ne sluchaino nash poet zanialsia perevodami iz frantsuzskogo lirika. Ta zhe tragicheskaia grimasa iskazila oba eti litsa, to zhe odinochestvo okruzhaet ikh kharakternye figury v literature, to zhe spletenie isstuplennoi chuvstvennosti s mistikoi potustoronnego iskaniia otmechaet ikh tvorchestvo”[24]. The Russian poet apprehended the musicality of Verlaine’s poems, which were perceived not only by mind and sight, but also by ear, and sometimes more by ear, than mind and sight. Verlaine’s poetry appealed to Sologub by the combination of seeming simplicity and sophistication and perfection of verse (“Verlen, otvazhivaiushchiisia sochetat’ v svoikh stikhakh samye raskhozhie formy i samye obikhodnye recheniia s ves’ma izoshchrennoi poetikoi Parnasa <...>” (Valeri 1976: 485)), which was the feature observed in his own lyric poetry (“Odnako prostota F. Sologuba — imenno prostota pushkinskaia, nichego obshchego ne imeiushchaia s nebrezhnost’iu <...> Takaia prostota v sushchnosti iavliaetsia vysshei izyskannost’iu, potomu chto eto — izyskannost’ skrytaia, dostupnaia lish’ dlia zorkogo, ostrogo vzgliada”) (Briusov 1975: 284).

Sologub not just accepted, but rather was attracted to by the undisguised eroticism of late Verlaine’s collections. The motives of sadness, anguish and languor, which run through all his works and can not be compared to anything in all French literature[25], were to evoke a response from Sologub, although, using S. Velikovskii’s opinion, we can see a certain discrepancy between the two poets. While the nature of Verlaine’s poetry was melancholy, dimness and languor, that of Sologub was often viscous horror, gloom and torment (Velikovskii 1987: 84). Not everything, of course, appealed to Sologub in Verlaine’s poetry. Sologub’s creative aspirations were distant from the “Parnassian” period of the French poet, even though he had translated some individual poems from early collections. He stayed indifferent to Verlaine’s religious conversion as well (“Zdes’ net stikhotvorenii katolicheskikh — oni kazhutsia mne malo interesnymi, malo kharakternymi dlia Verlena” (Verlen 1908: 7)), to which readers are obliged for numerous masterpieces from “Mudrost’” (“Sagesse”) collection, although, again, treating them somewhat indifferently, Sologub masterly translated some poems from this collection.

In the introduction to the 1908 collection, Sologub provided readers with a key to his interpretation of both the French poet’s works and the principles he had followed when choosing particular poems for translation. M. I. Dikman was right when noting: “V garmonii, melodii stikha Sologub nakhodit dushevnoe osvobozhdenie, “ochishchenie”, “katarsis”. I eto tot esteticheskii katarsis, kotoryi prisushch ego bezyskhodno zhestokoi lirike. Garmoniia stikha protivostoit zloi, disgarmonichnoi deistvitel’nosti i khudozhestvenno preodolevaet ee” (Dikman 1975: 56). Apparently, Sologub had the same opinion about Verlaine’s works, considering him to be the pure manifestation of what may be called “misticheskaia ironiia”. In the Russian poet’s understanding, Verlaine’s mystical irony was both aesthetic and life position, whose essence was to accept the world, yet, not in the down-to-earth and mundane, but transformed way, when “v kazhdom zemnom i grubom upoenii tainstvenno iavleny krasota i vostorg”. He wrote: “Samyi redkii uklon, — i eto — uklon Polia Verlena, — kogda priniata Al’donsa, kak podlinnaia Al’donsa i podlinnaia Dul’tsineia: kazhdoe ee perezhivanie oshchushchaetsia v ego rokovykh protivorechiiakh, vsia nevozmozhnost’ utverzhdaetsia, kak neobkhodimost’, za pestroiu zavesoiu sluchainostei obreten vechnyi mir svobody” (Verlen 1908: 7, 9). For an experienced reader, who had been following Sologub’s creative quests, the myths of Dulcinea and Aldonza included into the introduction to the collection of translations from Verlaine helped realize what exactly the poet meant under the term mystical irony. The myth of Dulcinea, produced by Don Quixote’s creative imagination from a rude, “kozlom pakhnushchei” peasant girl Aldonza, started forming as an alternative to transformation of the world. Don Quixote’s attitude towards reality is perceived as the only one worthy an artist. Sologub expounded his conception in the article “Mechta Don-Kikhota (Aisedora Dunkan)”, creating later its numerous versions in other articles, novels and plays. He claimed that “liricheskii podvig Don-Kikhota v tom, chto Al’donsa otvergnuta kak Al’donsa i priniata lish’ kak Dul’tsineia. Ne mechtatel’naia Dul’tsineia, a vot ta samaia, kotoruiu zovut Al’donsa. Dlia vas — smazlivaia, grubaia devka, dlia menia — prekrasneishaia iz dam” (Sologub 1913: 160). By the way, what is stated indirectly is the necessity of radical turn towards rough prose, intrusion into reality and rejection of transcendent aims: “ Voistinu prekrasneishaia, — potomu, chto v nei krasota ne ta, kotoraia uzhe sotvorena i uzhe zakonchena i uzhe klonitsia k upadku, — v nei krasota tvorimaia i vechno poetomu zhivaia. Kak istinnyi mudrets, Don-Kikhot dlia tvoreniia krasoty vzial material, naimenee obrabotannyi i potomu naibolee svobody ostavliaiushchii dlia tvortsa” (Sologub 1913: 160). Therefore, Verlaine as an advocate of mystical irony, who accepted Aldonza as genuine Aldonza and genuine Dulcinea, is opposed to both “lyrical” poets who acknowledge the existence of only Dulcinea, i.e. the new poetic world created by the poet, but not Aldonza, and rough “ironic” ones, who accept Aldonza with all her contradictions and reject Dulcinea as “nelepuiu i smeshnuiu mechtu”. Obviously, the principles of mystical irony understood in this way correlated with the frame of mind of Sologub himself, who really managed, even though through the imaginary shade of a bit obtrusive myth, to define the peculiarity of Verlaine’s poetic world more successfully than many Russian and French contemporaries. In the introduction to the new edition of his translations from Verlaine in 1923 Sologub mentioned that the thoughts presented in the introduction to the 1908 edition, were later reflected in his principal work “Iskusstvo nashikh dnei” (Sologub 1915: 52—53). This is rather demonstrative evidence of how significant the conception of mystical irony was, and in most general sense, not only as regards to the French poet.

Verlaine, whom Sologub offered to the reading public, prepared for the appearance of the book by numerous magazine publications, became a real event of the literary life. Briusov, Annenskii and Voloshin, who were delicate connoisseurs, judges and, more importantly, competent translators of French poetry, unanimously welcomed the appearance of Sologub’s translations. The most euphoric review printed in the “Rus’” newspaper on December 22, 1907 belonged to Voloshin. In his opinion, “perevody Sologuba iz Verlena — eto osushchestvlennoe chudo” as the Russian poet managed to “osushchestvit’ to, chto kazalos’ nevozmozhnym i nemyslimym: peredat’ v russkom stikhe golos Verlena”, the poet that possesses a voice most heartfelt and is loved for that ineffable tinge of voice, which makes readers shiver. According to Voloshin, “s poiavleniem etoi nebol’shoi knizhki <...> Verlen stanovitsia russkim poetom” (Voloshin 1988: 441, 144). This conclusion inevitably discredited all other attempts, which were simultaneous to Sologub’s, including Briusov’s, to introduce Verlaine into the circle of “Russian poets”. While preparing a new edition of translations form Verlaine, Briusov could not but consider both the existence of those made by Sologub and the attitude to them in the literary circles. That is why he included into the introduction his own assessment of Sologub’s versions, a highly positive one, even though interpreting this successful experience as one of the possible approaches. Briusov claimed that Sologub’s translations were “zamechatel’neishei popytkoi” and noted that Sologub managed to “nekotorye stikhi Verlena v bukval’nom smysle peresozdat’ na drugom iazyke, tak chto oni kazhutsia original’nymi proizvedeniiami russkogo poeta, ostavaias’ ochen’ blizkimi k frantsuzskomu podlinniku” (Verlen 1911: 7). From Annenskii’s point of view, stated in his article “O sovremennom lirizme” (1909), Sologub was a careful and skilful translator of Verlaine (Annenskii 1979: 355). His own and Briusov’s principles of translation differed considerably, while Sologub’s translations, pulling out subjectively transparent, but at the same time very typical elements of Verlaine’s poetry, and smartly built upon them, “suited” both. Hence, synchronous recognition of success of Sologub’s experience is especially momentous.

Due to a typographical negligence, an extensive review by Iu. Verkhovskii “lost” its most interesting and meaningful idea: “<...> esli inogda vneshnost’ p’esy, kazalos’ by, mozhet byt’ peredana tochnee, — vse-taki ne gorazdo li vazhnee zvuchashchaia v etikh perevodakh muzyka Verlena? Poet, v tom svoem aspekte, kotoryi on iavil perevodchiku, predstaet pered nami vo vsei neprinuzhdennoi iasnosti i tonkoi prostote originala. V svetlom iazyke perevoda i v nezavisimosti vsego stikhotvornogo sklada chuvstvuetsia inogda chto-to rodstvennoe pushkinskoi svobode” (the missing part of the review is printed in italics)[26].

The appearance of Sologub’ translations was also welcomed by the reviewer of the “Tovarishch” newspaper: “Iziashchnaia v samoi neukliuzhesti svoei, grustnaia, raznoobraznaia, “kak tot zavetnyi sad, gde skhodiatsia izyskannye maski”, poeziia Verlena gluboko vospriniata perevodchikom i peredana im russkomu iazyku pochti bez poteri osobennostei i dostoinstv podlinnika”[27]. The general benevolent tone is contradicted by the assessment given by “Russkoe bogatstvo” reviewer, who considered Sologub’s translations to be literal, as the poet “ishchet tochnosti bukvy, a teriaet tochnost’ dukha”. Instead of “poryvistoi dushi bednogo Leliana”, instead of his ethereality and delicacy, in the translations “vse sukho, kategorichno, bez vdokhnoveniia”. Finally, as the reviewer sternly concludes, even if the congenial Verlaine failed to be made clear to the Russian reader by Sologub, he could by no means be a translator; he is too engrossed in his “self” to adapt to another one’s[28].

Sologub’s translations were surely taken into account by the reviewers of other attempts to introduce Verlaine into Russian poetry. For example, as early as 1986 the reviewer of “Severnyi vestnik” claimed (based on several publication printed, however, in the same magazine) that Sologub translated Verlaine “ochen’ khudozhestvenno”[29].



Sologub’s innovative initiative to print different versions of the same poem in the main part of the book was perceived differently, but always with great interest. In general, this attempt was challenged as the one undermining readers’ trust to a translator’s work. Sologub’s “focuses” were most clearly rejected by the reviewer of “Russkoe bogatstvo””. “Nikak ne mozhem priznat’ etu svoeobraznuiu vydumku udachnoi. Perevod ved’ ne proba sil perevodchika, a samostoiatel’noe khudozhestvennoe sozdanie: inache on ne nuzhen. Perevod dolzhen ne tol’ko davat’ izvestnoe predstavlenie o podlinnike; on dolzhen zameshchat’ podlinnik v soznanii chitatelia <...> No i tam, gde net protivorechii, eti sochetaniia stikhotvorenii-sinonimov sovershenno neumestny; vmesto togo, chtoby sgushchat’ vpechatlenie, oni ego razzhizhaiut”[30]. Giving three translations, he does not seem to be satisfied with any of them; otherwise he would have picked one. This disappoints the reader, as claims the “Tovarishch” newspaper. The reviewer from “Birzhevye vedomosti” echoes this opinion: “Eto novyi priem. I edva li dostoinyi sochuvstviia”[31]. It was only Iu. Verkhovskii, who not only supported Sologub’s initiative, but also provided its thoughtful interpretation: “Osobenno pouchitel’ny perevody, daiushchie v dvukh ili trekh variantakh odnu i tu zhe p’esu. Inogda neskol’ko variantov i khudozhestvenno ravnotsenny i odinakovo nuzhny: cherta sluchaino oslablennaia v odnom, otteniaetsia drugim”. Verkhovskii is doubtlessly right, with the only reservation that it was not accidental, but rather inevitable that not all features of the original can be reflected in any translation, even a most brilliant one. The idea of inevitability of losses in translation and the method that accepts the whole fact of this inevitability was most clearly expressed by Briusov: “Vosproizvesti pri perevode stikhotvoreniia vse eti elementy polno i tochno — nemyslimo. Perevodchik obychno stremitsia peredat’ lish’ odin ili v luchshem sluchae dva (bol’sheiu chast’iu obrazy i razmer), izmeniv drugie (stil’, dvizhenie stikha, rifmy, zvuki slov). <...> Vybor togo elementa, kotoryi schitaesh’ naibolee vazhnym v perevodimom proizvedenii, sostavliaet metod perevoda” (Briusov 1975: 106).

Sologub’s innovation did not strike root, and in this respect the reviewers that relied on a real reader’s perception, for whom every translation is as unique as the original, were right. A combination of successful translations, which modern authors, editors and publishers occasionally resort to, by no means reflects the process of creative perception of a text by the reader who, as a rule, does not know the original. Even so, getting back to Sologub’s experience, we will try to define the motives that made him venture to such a daring experiment. To begin with, it is completely wrong to suppose that Sologub had some “hesitations”. In his archive there are a substantial number of examples of both Verlaine’s poems which were represented in the collection in different versions and those that he considered possible to publish in a single translation. Still, not all versions satisfied Sologub, and some of them remained unpublished.

Proving the unacceptability of variation in translations, the reviewers relied on the fact that original works supposedly do not tolerate variation. It is known that Sologub did not like to alter his original poems claiming that “vsiakii avtor, kogda pishet, napriagaet sebia do poslednei stepeni, daet maksimum khudozhestvennosti i iasnosti <...> Kak zhe on mozhet skazat’ eshche chto-to luchshee i bol’shee, kogda napriazhenie ego proshlo, kogda on i vo vremeni otoshel ot svoego sozdaniia? <...> etim, v chastnosti, ob’’iasniaetsia moia lichnaia cherta, chto ia nichego sushchestvennogo ne mogu ni pribavit’, ni izmenit’ v zakonchennoi veshchi, potomu chto etomu predshestvuet dlinnyi period obrabotki, popravok, perechityvanii, perepisyvanii”[32]. However, Sologub’s contemporary Paul Valéry held an absolutely different opinion on this: “Stikhotvorenie s variantami — nastoiashchii skandal dlia soznaniia obydennogo i khodiachego. Dlia menia zhe — zasluga. Sila uma opredeliaetsia kolichestvom variantov” (Valeri 1976: 586). In Russia the same “force of mind” was demonstrated by L. Andreev, who had published two versions of the last (5th) chapter of “Zhizn’ cheloveka” (Andreev: 121—147). The poems of a particular poet which contain similar thoughts, feelings and moods can at a certain stretch be called versions of one poem. However, leaving behind the problem itself, it is impossible to miss the fact that, according to Sologub and the observations of his contemporaries, he constantly repeated himself, endlessly varying the same themes. For instance, Blok wrote to Briusov on April 25, 1906: “<...> mne nraviatsia nekotorye stikhi Sologuba, khotia i ne novye dlia nego. No ved’ on prinadlezhit k nestareiushchim v povtoreniiakh samogo sebia” (Blok 1963: 152). Among Sologub’s materials there is a note: “Metod — beskonechnoe var’irovanie tem i motivov” (quoted by: Dikman 1975: 27).

That is why there is nothing surprising in the fact that the same method of variation was used by Sologub, who did not like to change his original poems, in case of translations. His versions of Verlaine’s poems often literally complement each other, even though not always well. This detail was noticed by the reviewer of “Russkoe bogatstvo”, who gave a completely false interpretation of it. He was outraged at the coexistence of such lines as “Shumu prolivnia vnemliu” and “Dozhdika tikhie zvuki”, which both are translations of Verlaine’s line (“О bruit doux de la pluie”), because, having seen them together, the reader “ne znaet, s chem emu sviazat’ tikhuiu grust’ poeta: s grokhotom potokov prolivnogo dozhdia ili s tikhoiu tosklivoiu kapel’iu osennego dozhdika”[33]. In the meantime, it is obvious that this is not about the “pouring rain”: having failed to simultaneously convey the monotonous sound of the drops in this key Verlaine’s line and its meaning, Sologub tried to express the music (almost identically, from the phonetic point of view) in one translation and the idea in another.

Of particular interest are Sologub’s metrical experiments. He rather often tried to estimate, within an intuitively perceived semantic halo, how well different lyrical moods (as mood is still the starting point) will “fit into” various metrical forms. For one of the versions of the poem “L’ombre des arbres dans la rivière embrumée” Sologub chose the alternating lines of iambic hexameter and trimester, while for another he opted for those of trochaic heptameter and tetrameter, the third being completely iambic tetrameter, and the latest one — a combination of iambic hexameter and trochaic tetrameter. The poem “Le ciel est, par-dessus le toit” experienced the following melodic changes: one version features iambic tetrameter and dimeter, for another one Sologub chose trochaic trimeter, while the third version seems to be most successful, including an alternation of trochaic and iambic tetrameter. If we compare different translations of the first stanza:

Nad krovlei nebo lish’ odno, —

Lazur’ iasneet.

Nad krovlei derevo odno

Vershinoi veet.

(S. 75)


Nebo tam nad krovlei

Iasnoe sineet.

Derevo nad krovlei

Gordoi sen’iu veet.

(S. 104)


Sineva nebes nad krovlei

Iasnaia takaia!

Topol’ vysitsia nad krovlei,

Vetvi nakloniaia.

(S. 104)


The alternation of different iambuses and trochees is one of Sologub’s translation discoveries, who, by switching readers’ rhythmic expectations in every line, did not let them drown into monotony, which considerably dulls the acuity of perception.

 A great metrical range can be seen in three different versions of translation of Verlaine’s poem “Il pleure dans mon coeur”. Sologub chose anapaestic dimeter for the first one (Slezy v serdtse upali), dactylic trimeter for the second one (Na serdtse slezy upali) and iambic trimeter for the third one (V slezakh moia dusha). With so clearly declared metrical search, all reproaches to Sologub that he could not choose the best among his translations and thus misguided his readers turn out to be absolutely groundless. The translations coexist, to say nothing of the fact that after all the reader can choose just one version, which is in tune with his own metrical camertone.

There is one more circumstance that draws attention. It was not by accident that Sologub published different versions of “Romansy bez slov”, i.e. the poems in which the word component plays a lesser role than the element of music. Essentially, what he offers the reader are musical variations on the given topics, a genre that does not damage the “theme” and enriches the listener at the same time.



The existence of different versions of Sologub’s translations from Verlaine, including unpublished ones that are kept in his archive, as well as the fact that many of these poems were translated by other poets, provides a rare opportunity to look into the creative laboratory of the poet and define the main features of his translation method.

I. Annenskii, whose translation principles were in many respects similar to those of Sologub, defined the aims set to translators of poetic texts: “Perevodchiku prikhoditsia, pomimo lavirovaniia mezhdu trebovaniiami dvukh iazykov, eshche balansirovat’ mezhdu verbal’nost’iu i muzykoi, ponimaia pod etim slovom vsiu sovokupnost’ esteticheskikh elementov poezii, kotorykh nel’zia iskat’ v slovare. Leksicheskaia tochnost’ chasto daet perevodu lish’ obmanchivuiu blizost’ k podlinniku, — perevod ostaetsia sukhim, vymuchennym, i za detaliami teriaetsia peredacha kontseptsii p’esy. S drugoi storony, uvlechenie muzykoi grozit perevodu fantastichnost’iu. Sobliusti meru v sub’’ektivizme — vot zadacha dlia perevodchika liricheskogo stikhotvoreniia” (Annenskii 1979a: 153). “To balance the subjectivism” and, more importantly, “verbality and music” — this is the task that Annenskii, Sologub, Briusov and other translators of Verlaine faced.

Verlaine in Sologub’s translations perfectly well illustrates Pasternak’s idea that the music of word consists not in its sonority, but “v sootnoshenii mezhdu zvuchaniem i znacheniem” (Pasternak 1944: 166). The musicality of Sologub’s poetry was his undoubted advantage, from his contemporaries’ point of view. For example, L. Shestov wrote: “Ia ne znaiu sredi sovremennykh russkikh poetov, ch’i stikhi byli by blizhe k muzyke, chem stikhi Sologuba. Dazhe togda, kogda on rasskazyvaet samye uzhasnye veshchi — pro palacha, pro voiushchuiu sobaku, — stikhi ego polny tainstvennoi i zakhvatyvaiushchei melodii”[34].

The musical saturation of his “Chanson d’automne” is rare even for Verlaine. The mood is created in the first line, virtually built on a single vowel “o” and a similar “eu”:


Les sanglots longs

Des violons

De l’automne

Blessent mon coeur

D’une langueur



The feeling of mortal anguish is already expressed in the first two lines, which phonetically represent one word extended on a single note. The first two lines of the last stanza are arranged even more elaborately:


Et je m’en vais

Au vent mauvais.


Not only are final words of each line rhymed, but also the first of them includes a deep rhyme that takes its most part (m’en vais) and echoes in the second one (Аu vent). Being repeated and voiced, it moves to the word which performs the immediate function of the rhyme (mauvais). It would be wrong to translate this poem by overfilling it with homogeneous parts of the sentence, as was done by I. I. Tkhorzhevskii (“Nezhnyi, tiaguchii / Skripki pevuchei / Plach monotonnyi; Blednyi, bezvol’nyi / Zvon kolokol’nyi; V vetre sukhie / List’ia tsvetnye ”) (Verlen 1911a: 29). The original does not contain even a pair of epithets. Twinning them makes the poem sound plaintive, not melodically, but rather semantically, at the same time simplifying its emotional contents. N. Minskii’s translation has its virtues, yet, apart from other shortcomings, it is absolutely neutral phonetically. The musicality of Sologub’s translation is supported in different ways, above all by metrical means, as the alternation of two iambic lines and one trochaic line is also applied. If we look ant listen to the first stanza more closely:


O, strunnyi zvon,

Osennii ston,

Tomnyi, skuchnyi.

V dushe bol’noi

Napev nochnoi


(S. 17)


The last four lines are connected not only by end rhymes, but also internal assonances. Moreover, the whole first stanza turns out to be phonetically isolated as in terms of vowels the last line is a reflection of the first. In the last stanza both the first and the fourth lines include two rhyming words next to each other (which corresponds with the phonetic system of the original, noticed by Sologub already in the first line of Verlaine’s poem): “Dushoi s toboi”, “Moi mechty”. It is noticeable that, like Verlaine’s poem, Sologub’s translation is based on “o” sound. It plays the leading role, which to a certain extent lies in the dominant role of the word “osen’” in both languages, i.e. the vowel that bears the stress and is therefore a euphonic camertone of the lyrical autumn mood.

Understanding that his translations are harmonically inferior to Verlaine’s originals, Sologub compensates for losses of musicality at any possible moment. For example, the first lines of Verlaine’s poem “Simples fresques. I” are rather neutral: “La fuite est verdatre et rose / Des collines et des rampes”. In early versions already Sologub tried to play on the consonance of words “dolinakh” and “dali”. Late Sologub enriched the game of assonances and alliterations by including another pair into the second line:


I kholmy, i dolov dali

V rozy, v prozelen’ odety. (s. 55)


It is perfectly natural that Sologub conveys the richness of Verlaine’s poem in inner assonances and alliterations, in which lies one of the secrets of aesthetic effect, according to the principle of “shifted equivalent”, i.e. recreating some features that go missing in the process of translation in another part of the poem. An example of it is the line “I pesniu ikh s luchom svoim svivaia” from the poem “Lunnyi svet”, which is composed of the assonance “ikh—im” preceding the stress and the alliterations of three “v”-sounds, three “s”-sounds and two “m”-sounds within three iambic feet.

We can find highly sophisticated structures in many lines of Sologub’s translations: “Mukoi osypany, kak pyl’iu smertnykh muk”; “Prozrachnost’ voln, i vozdukh sladkii”; “Kak rokochet solovei, / Kak ruch’i struiatsia” (in the last two lies one can easily discover the elements of the anagram kkrkchtslv/kkrchstrts). Following the principles of phonetic adequacy, Sologub also tries to achieve stylistic adequacy (it may have happened in the opposite way, however). The key line of the song “A poor young Shepherd”, which is repeated four times during the poem opening and closing it, — “J’ai peur d’un baiser” — was first rendered as “Ia lobzan’ia boius’” (1, 38, 5), but later changed for stylistically and phonetically more successful “Potseluia boius’”, based on the combination ts—s“”, which aptly breaks the mirrored vowels “o—u/o—u”.

There is no doubt that contemporaries were keenly aware of the euphonic merits of Sologub’s translations. It is no coincidence that any jarring phonetic failures of other translators evoked such critical reaction. V. L’vov-Rogachevskii, who was a reviewer of the book “Frantsuzskie liriki XIX veka” prepared by Briusov, reproached him that Verlaine, “poeziia kotorogo sotkana iz luchshikh i edva ulovimykh shepotov”, in Briusov’s translations has such ponderous and clumsy phrases as “Net na tverdi mednoi ni mertsan’ia sveta” or “Chto zh ty sdelal, ty, chto plachesh’, / S iunost’iu svoei”[35].

As K. I. Chukovskii emphasized, Sologub’s equi-rhythmic principles were extremely valuable for his time (Chukovskii 1968: 349—350). Most of Sologub’s translations from Verlaine are equi-rhythmic, but this was often achieved at the expense of certain losses. Alongside and almost simultaneously with Sologub was Verlaine’s poem “II pleure dans mon coeur” translated by Briusov, Annenskii, D. Ratgauz, N. Novich (N. N. Bakhtin), S. Rafalovich, A. Kublitskaia-Piottukh, S. Frenkel’, I. Erenburg[36]. Annenskii, Briusov and Sologub’s versions stand out sharply in comparison with others, as a rule, translating Verlaine’s romance in a stylistically alien register of Fet and Fofanov’s imitators. Equi-rhythmic irregularities are also important; e.g. because of an improperly chosen meter, not that of a song, but a lengthier one than in the original (Gor’ko ne znat’, otchego i zachem / Ia pred toskoiu bessilen i nem. / Kak bez liubvi i bez zloby stradat’? / Kak bez prichiny v toske iznyvat’?), a fine and poetic, yet wordy, prosaic and too explanatory translation of Verlaine’s impressionist poem made by Blok’s mother A. Kublitskaia-Piottukh does not reach its aim. Sologub managed to achieve equi-rhythmicity at the cost of abruptness, rhythmic-syntactical disunity, when the division into lines practically matches that into sentences. However, the original gives a flexible and natural combination of long and short sentences, most of which include two to four lines. A more careful and “composed” Briusov-translator tried to approach the original in this respect. The striving for rhythmic-syntactical naturalness allowed Annenskii as well to feel the necessity to embrace several lines on one sentence.

In other cases, for example, in the translation of the poem “Dans l’interminable” Sologub managed to achieve equi-rhythmicity by keeping the breath free, without artificially breaking the phrase at the end of each line or two, and cover the whole stanza (in three cases out of four) with one sentence, considering that four out of eight words which usually make up each line are rhymed. Verlaine chose a pentameter for his romance. We can remember that he considered a meter with an odd number of feet to own increased musicality (I potomu predpochti stikh nechetnyi (1, 38, 19) — “Iskusstvo poezii”).

The specificity of this Verlaine’s impressionistic landscape, whose all images are ephemeral and volatile, is achieved not only by the pentameter, which is so rare for French poetry, but also by continuous female rhymes coupled with various rhyming schemes throughout the stanzas; as well as the dominating sounds in each of them — the open “e” in the 1st, 3rd and 5th stanzas creating a feeling of melancholy monotony and despondency, and the “i” vowel in the 2nd; and also a great number of words which create the feeling of hopelessness and grief dominating that (5—6) of object words that could be counted there (Etkind 1961: 114—116). Here are two first stanzas of this poem.


Dans l’interminable

Ennui de la plaine

La neige incertaine

Luit comme du sable.


Le ciel est de cuivre

Sans lueur aucune.

On croirait voir vivre

Et mourir la lune.


Sologub’s translation, not being completely adequate to the original, still rather correctly reflects its mood and rhythmical pattern, and at the same time, apart from some obviously unsuccessful “subrhymes” (Chto zhdet vash polk), the Russian poet generally follows the author’s concept and conveys it closely to the original text, without significant losses and replacements.

V poliakh krugom

V toske bezbrezhnoi

Sneg nenadezhnyi

Blestit peskom.


Kak pyl’ metalla,

Lazur’ tuskla.

Luna bluzhdala

I umerla. <...> (53)


Briusov’s translation is less successful, first and foremost because already the first stanza makes the reader wait for resolution to the given mystery.


Po toske bezbrezhnoi,

Po ravnine snezhnoi,

Chto blestit neverno

Kak pesok pribrezhnyi? (Verlen 1894: 14)


However, Verlaine’s poem is only about the snow shining like sand. While in Briusov’s version the original flaw makes other individual merits less valuable, in that of N. Novich the first stanza sets the tone, which corresponds with the original.


Skukoiu v doline

Bezgranichnoi veet.

Sneg vo mgle beleet

Kak pesok pustyni. (Verlen 1912: 50).


But the eclectic stylistics of the following lines (like “Posle zhizni kratkoi / Umer mesiats blednyi” or “Dremlet les moguchii, / Golovoi kachaia”) depreciates these achievements.

What is really illustrative is work on translations done by Sologub, who was relentlessly rejecting various ideas — whether they be metrical, lexical, syntactic, phonetic — and trying to adequately reflect the features of the original. In one case the changes were justified by the wish to remove the elements of the lofty style that was not intrinsic to Verlaine (in the poem “Menia ne veselit nichto v tebe, Priroda” the line “Bogatstvo, ni krasa pechal’nogo zakhoda” (1, 38, 204) was changed into “Zaria, ni krasota pechal’nogo zakhoda”), an another one — Sologub eliminated syntactic formlessness (in the poem “Aleiut slishkom eti rozy” the lines “V tvoikh dvizheniiakh ugrozy, / O, dorogaia, mne izmen” (1, 38, 387) are changed into “O, dorogaia, mne ugrozy / V tvoikh dvizheniiakh vidny”). Originally, when Sologub was translating the poem “Grotesques” in chase of formal equivalence he tried to express the phonetic play in the second line of the first stanza at the expense of losses in meaning: “No mrachnyi lik ikh liudiam likh” (1, 38, 39) (in the original — Pour tous biens l’or de leurs regards). Later he refused to use this pun and translated the stanza more neutrally and closely to the original. In the early version the first line of Verlaine’s poem “II faut, voyez-vous, nous pardonner les choses” was translated completely word for word: “Nado, vidish’ li ty, koi-chemu i proshchat’” (1, 38, 351). All three final version, in a way deviating from the original (“Vozlagat’ ne budem drug na druga puty”; “Nauchisia, moi drug, zabyvat’ i proshchat’”; “Znaite, nado miru darovat’ proshchen’e”) are either more poetic, or closer to the original idea. Another wonderful example of how Sologub was consistently improving the original by introducing corrections is his work on Verlaine’s “Kaléidoscope”, whose final version was Sologub’s undoubted translation success. Here are the original 5th and 6th stanzas:


Buket uvialyi — rech’ minuvshikh dnei!

Publichnyi bal opiat’ shumlivym stanet.

Vdova kokoshnikom svoi lob zatianet,

I zameshaetsia mezh svolochei,


Chto tam brodiat s tolpoiu zabubennoi

Mal’chishek i parshivykh starikov.

Publichnyi prazdnik treskom burakov

Poteshitsia na ploshchadi zlovonnoi. (1, 38, 415)


The final version is:


Buket uvialyi, drevnii perepev!

Narodnyi bal opiat’ nazoiliv stanet.

Vdova poviazkoiu svoi lob zatianet,

Da i poidet v srede prodazhnykh dev,


Chto shliaiutsia s tolpoiu razvrashchennoi

Mal’chishek i poganykh starikov,

I rotozei treskom burakov

Poteshatsia na ploshchadi zlovonnoi (s. 80)


An instance of when the poet did not succeed in spite of persistently improving the translation may be Sologub’s version of the poem “Bon chevalier masqué qui chevauche en silence”, which opens the “Sagesse” collection. The only Sologub’s achievement in comparison with Annenskii and Briusov, who were more successful in translating the poem, is probably that he scrupulously rendered the repetitions, especially “mon vieux coeur”, which is reiterated thrice within the first six lines. The richness of French symbolist poetry in various sorts of repetitions (of stanzas, separate phrases, words, catch-up repetition, anaphoric repetition etc.) created particular difficulties for rendering it into other languages. Poets-translators from outside the symbolist movement not only ignored these repetitions but, probably, quite often deliberately excluded them as elements which damage the artistic impression. Annenskii sometimes compensated for them using other stylistic means. Briusov frequently sacrificed them, especially complicated repetitions, in order to retain other features of the original. On the other hand, careful attentiveness to such element of French symbolism as repetitions could not guarantee success. The translation of the first poem from the “Sagesse” collection seems to be too rhetorical and contain too much odd vocabulary:


Menia v tishi Beda, zloi rytsar’ v maske, vstretil,

I v serdtse staroe kop’e svoe umetil.

Krov’ serdtsa starogo bagrianyi mechet vzmakh,

I stynet, dymnaia, pod solntsem na tsvetakh (s. 67)


The reason for this failure is pretty clear. This parabolic poem was rather alien to Sologub’s poetics and at the same time rather organic to Briusov’s poetry. As to Annenskii, the reason for success lies most probably in the specificity of his talent of a translator, which, according to A. V. Fedorov, made the poet recreate on Russian soil both what was close to him and distant from his creative individuality (Fedorov 1983а: 200—201). Annenskii was, again, appealed to Verlaine’s long poems, as well as those with a plot, such as “Prestuplenie liubvi” and “Ia — maniak liubvi”, which typically did not attract the attention of other translators.

It is fairly natural that the programme poem from the “Sagesse” collection that signified the new period in Verlaine’s creative biography, did not interest Sologub in the 1890s. Still, when republishing the extended version of the book, the poet did not consider it possible to leave the poem out. But a slightly abstract character of this poem recounting the religious conversion of the French poet turned out to be alien to the lyrical element of Sologub’s talent. In Sologub’s interpretation the poem acquired a pathetic and at the same time melodramatic tint, which was not present in the original. It is difficult to recognize Verlaine in such lines as: “Glaza mne gasit mrak, upal ia s gromkim krikom, / I serdtse staroe mertvo v drozhan’i dikom”.

Hence, even when he was translating such close Verlaine, Sologub, who finely felt the musicality of his poetry and cared for its other levels and elements, did not always succeed. He did not manage, as well as other contemporary Russian poets-translators, to create an adequate Russian version of one of the most tragic poems from the “Sagesse” collection “Un grand soleil noir”:


Ia v chernye dni

Ne zhdu probuzhden’ia.

Nadezhda, usni,

Usnite, stremlen’ia!


Spuskaetsia mgla

Na vzor i na sovest’.

Ni blaga, ni zla, —

O, grustnaia povest’!


Pod ch’ei-to rukoi

Ia — zybki kachan’e

V peshchere pustoi...

Molchan’e, molchan’e! (s. 74)


The mood of inevitability that gradually intensifies in the original fades away in Sologub’s translation. The astounding image of an infinite black dream falling upon the life is gone (Un grand sommeil noir / Tombe sur ma vie); “Tout espoir” and “toute envie” are rendered less intensely, just as “nadezhda”, “stremlen’e”. Verlaine is more definite than Sologub at expressing the loss of ideas and memory of the good and the bad. Briusov also failed at retaining both the equivalence of impression and the musicality of the poem. The last line in the translation significantly weakens Verlaine’s conception: “O tishe, tishe, tishe!” The original contains not a call, but a mournful statement of silence accompanying the impenetrable darkness — “Silence, silence!” However, like in other examples, the merits of Sologub and Briusov’s translations stand out in comparison with other versions created by contemporaries. For instance, P. N. Petrovskii lost essentially all key features of the poem. “Ogromnyi, chernyi son” turned into just a “son”. The next stanza contains a clear and definite statement of immorality: “I zabyvaet sovest’ / Gde gran’ dobra i zla” (Verlen 1912: 61); the enjambment (“Nezrimaia ruka / Kachaet. Tishe, tishe!”) destroys the impression of the last line, whose two identically heavy accents are used to musically emphasize the finale of this lyrical requiem. Even feebler is Rafailovich’s translation, where everything is poor, from the chosen metre (trochaic tetrameter) to outrageous deviations from the original and at the same time stylistic truisms.

Sologub, Annenskii and Briusov started sort of a creative competition when translating another Verlaine’s masterpiece — “Je devine, a travers un murmure”. Annenskii condemned his own and Sologub’s versions: “Sologub perevel ego plokho, a ia sam pozorno” (Annenskii 1979: 356). It seems, however, that if all three lost this competition, even so, the experience of splendid translators that approached the original from different viewpoints was really enlightening, to say nothing of numerous individual virtues of each version. Apparently, Sologub should have yielded to the anapaestic trimeter, suggested from the first line, as did Annenskii (“Nachertaniia vetkhoi triode”) and Briusov (“Pozabytoe v ropote chuiu”). The combination of interchanging iambic hexameter and pentameter (“Mne krotko grezitsia pod shepotom vetvei / Bylykh besed zhivoe ochertan’e”) left too much “free” space in the poem, which was inevitably filled with redundant epithets (“zvuchnoe mertsan’e”, “bredom zharkim”, “prizyvom iarkim”).

The specificity of Annenskii’s translation method enables to raise the question of whether the impressionist translation exists and what its principles are. In essence, these principles, which the poet was successfully putting into practice, had already been defined by Briusov, even though he did not specify that it was about Annenskii’s translations in general: “Manera pis’ma I. Annenskogo — rezko impressionisticheskaia; on vse izobrazhaet ne takim, kakim on eto znaet, a takim, kakim emu eto kazhetsia, prichem kazhetsia imenno seichas, v dannyi mig. Kak posledovatel’nyi impressionist, I. Annenskii daleko ukhodit ne tol’ko ot Feta, no i ot Bal’monta; tol’ko u Verlena mozhno naiti neskol’ko stikhotvorenii, ravnosil’nykh v etom otnoshenii stikham I. Annenskogo” (Briusov 1973b: 336). Apart from other things, what disappeared from a charmingly fine Annenskii’s translation is a lyrical hero, who was directly calling for death, encapsulating the final stanza with his appeal. In his version:


O, razveiat’sia v shepote elei...

Ili zhdat’, chtob mechty i pechali

Eto serdtse sovsem zakachali

I, zasnuvshi... skatit’sia s kachelei?                                     (Annenskii 1988: 215) —


the name of the Death is tabooed, which amplifies the feeling of mysteriousness, apparently, that very impression which drew Annenskii’s attention and recreating which he sacrificed many other elements of the text. Sologub is much closer to the original in his early translation:


O, esli by teper’ prishla ty, smert’ moia,

Poka liubov’ kolebletsia s toskoiu

Mezh starykh snov i zhizn’iu molodoiu!

O, kak by v zybke toi neslyshno umer ia! (s. 96)


Briusov’s translation, which seems to be inaccurate at first sight, is very accurate in essence as it rather adequately reflects the mood and thus supports the opinion that the poet had on his early translation principles[37]. It is noteworthy that when choosing the metre for his later version Sologub followed Annenskii and Briusov, yet, having opted for trochaic pentameter rather than anapaestic trimeter, in so doing failing readers’ metrical expectations, as the first line is ambiguous: “Ia ugadyvaiu skvoz’ sheptan’ia”. In accordance with the semantic halo of the trochaic hexameter compared to a more melodic and “languorous” anapaestic trimeter, Sologub’s translation is more energetic.

It would be strange to expect Sologub (as well as other Russian translators) to keep many specific characteristics of Verlaine’s poetry, such as, for example, his obvious liking for assonance rhyme or, as was observed by A. Adam, preference to a most insignificant, insipid and “passive” verb “être” (Adam 1953: 95). The need to shatter the traditional rhyming system was less important both for Sologub and other elder symbolists than for the poets of next generations. Still, later, in the 1900s, when translating Rimbaud Sologub tried to introduce assonances into his translations[38]. As for Verlaine’s inclination to the verb “être”, with all the intentional scarcity of Sologub’s vocabulary, he did not perceive this feature of the French poet’s poetics, whose spontaneous childish interest to the world made it look like he was describing it for the first time. This apparent and seeming a little primitive Verlaine’s simplicity was either missed out by Russian translators, or alienated and made them diversify their language.

The late versions are generally very different from early ones. Preparing the 1923 collection for print, Sologub did not accept any polyphony and readers’ orientation to interaction of different versions and in all cases when there is a new translation he published it in the body text, while an old version or versions — in the Appendix. The general difference between new and old translations was correctly described by I. Dikman: “Novyi perevod, verbal’no tochnyi, bukval’no peredaiushchii risunok podlinnika, ustupaet pervym redaktsiiam v poeticheskoi vernosti” (Dikman 1975: 70). We may compare one of the earlier versions of the poem “L’ombre des arbres dans la rivière embrumée” with the later one.

The original:

L’ombre des arbres dans la rivière embrumée

Meurt comme de la fumée,

Tandis qu’en l’air, parmi les ramures réelles,

Se plaignent les tourterelles.

Combien, ô voyageur, ce paysage blême

Te mira blême toi-même,

Et que tristes pleuraient dans les hautes feuillées

Tes espérances noyées!


Early version:

Vstaet tuman s reki, i ten’ derev’ev tonet,

Kak v dymnye strui,

A naverkhu v vetviakh roi gorlits grustno stonet

Pro bedstviia svoi.

O, strannik, bleden ty, bledna vokrug dolina,

Kak zdes’ na meste ty!

Kak plachet nad toboi v vetviakh tvoia kruchina

Pro mertvye mechty! (s. 99)


Late version:

Derev’ev ten’ v reke upala v mrak tumannyi,

Slovno v savan, dymom tkannyi,

I plachet v vozdukhe tam, s vetok nastoiashchikh,

Pesnia gorlinok nespiashchikh.

Tak metko otrazhen v kartine etoi blednoi

Ty, sam blednyi, strannik bednyi,

I vysoko v listve zaplakali, tak zhalki,

Vsekh tvoikh nadezhd rusalki! (s. 54)


A later translation of the poem, which is more rational and precise, demonstrates another thing: careful attention to the original may often have been formal. Trying to render the inner rhyme in the second line of the second stanza, which, in addition, echoes that in the previous line (Combien, ô voyageur, ce paysage blême / Te mira blême toi-même), Sologub exploits an obviously feeble and even a little comic grammatical rhyme. Like in the first stanza, where he kept “nastoiashchie” branches, which is, however, not a very proper name, Sologub tried, at the expense of obvious losses, to reflect the features of the original which had not been included in any of the three early versions. The translation of this Verlaine’s poem exemplifies the fact that late Sologub not only was striving for greater lexical and formal precision than before, but also tried as much as possible to decipher and interpret the poem. Verlaine’s “Tes espérances noyées”, i.e. sunken hopes, and even drowned and choked in tears, since they were shedding tears high in the leaves, were interpreted by Sologub as “rusalki nadezhd”.

Nevertheless, it would be wrong to claim that while addressing translations from Verlaine again Sologub only made them worse. He had to eliminate quite a few inaccuracies or pretentiously sounding lines. For example, the first line of the poem “Je ne t’aime pas en toilette” in 1908 edition was rendered “Ia vrag obmanam tualeta”, while in that of 1923 — “Ia ne liubliu tebia odetoi”. Finally, among late versions some were undoubtedly successful, such as the translation of the poem “Spleen”:


Aleiut slishkom eti rozy,

I eti khmeli tak cherny.

O, dorogaia, mne ugrozy

V tvoikh dvizheniiakh vidny.

Prozrachnost’ voln, i vozdukh sladkii,

I slishkom nezhnaia lazur’.

Mne strashno zhdat’ za laskoi kratkoi

Razluki i zhestokikh bur’.

I ostrolist, kak losk emali,

I buksa slishkom iarkii kust,

I nivy bespredel’noi dali, —

Vse skuchno, krome vashikh ust. (s. 58)


The early translation was rather rough and a bit “pulp”.


Rozy byli slishkom krasny,

Byli tak pliushchi temny!

Dorogaia, kak opasny

Eti prelesti vesny!

Nebo sine, nebo nezhno,

V more bleshchet radost’ dnia.

Ia stradaiu beznadezhno, —

Vdrug pokinesh’ ty menia!

Eti nivy bez predela,

Eti iarkie tsvety, —

Vse mne strashno nadoelo,

Ne naskuchila lish’ ty. (s. 102)


Early 1890s, when Sologub was actively translating Verlaine, coincided with his persistent aspirations to define his own place in literature and an amazingly fast improvement of his poetic skills. In a way translations from Verlaine helped him to perfect his literary skills, as well as metrical and stylistic devices. This circumstance seems to be another reason for the variety of translation approaches. It is no coincidence that the folder with translations from the French poets also contains original poems created at the same period. It is fairly natural that certain Sologub’s poems were suggested by the motives from Verlaine’s poetry. In 1909, in his article “O sovremennom lirizme” Annenskii supposed that Sologub’s “Chertovy kacheli” originated from a line in Verlaine’s poem “Je devine, а travers un murmure” — “O mourir de cette escarpolette”. The motives of this poem were really reflected in Sologub’s poems, but, as it seems, not in “Chertovy kacheli” (1907), but rather in another one, dated by the way July 9, 1894, which is just a year after Sologub’s work on translations (August 6—7, 1893). If we compare the poem “Kacheli” with the above given Verlaine’s stanza in Sologub’s early translation:


V istome tikhogo zakata

Grustilo zharkoe svetilo.

Pod krovlei vetkhoi gnulas’ khata

I ten’iu sad priosenila.

Berezy v nei ugomonilis’

I nepodvizhno plameneli.

To v ten’, to v svet perenosilis’

So skripom zybkie kacheli.

Pechali vetkhoi zloiu ten’iu

Moia dusha poluodeta,

I to stremitsia zhadno k tlen’iu,

To ishchet radostei i sveta.

I pokoriaias’ vdokhnovenno

Moei sud’by prednachertan’iam,

Perenoshus’ poperemenno

Ot beznadezhnosti k zhelan’iam (Sologub 1975: 122)


The image of swings on which “liubov’ kolebletsia s toskoiu” was caught up by the Russian poet, who felt closeness to the mood of the shift “poperemenno ot beznadezhnosti k zhelan’iam”, from joyous acceptance of life to rapture in death.

It may be supposed that Sologub’s poem “Dozhd’ neugomonnyi”, also written in 1894, at the same period of most intense work on translations from Verlaine, was directly inspired by his “II pleure dans mon coeur”:


Dozhd’ neugomonnyi

Kak vsegda sluchaen

Shumno v stekla b’et,

Vot i etot den’,

Tochno vrag bessonnyi,

Koe-kak promaen

Voia slezy l’et.

I otbroshen v ten’.


Veter, kak brodiaga,

No ne nado zlosti

Stonet pod oknom.

Vkladyvat’ v igru,

I shurshit bumaga

Kak lozhatsia kosti,

Pod moim perom.

Tak ikh i beru (Sologub 1975: 125)


In order to express the mood similar to Verlaine’s Sologub made use of trochaic trimeter, which was not the case in all three published translations. Still, it might as well have been chosen for translation, like in the one by S. Rafalovich. Sologub’s poem, like Verlaine’s, consists of four stanzas. Similarly, the first lines contain the analogy “rain” — “tears”. Finally, both have the same tone of melancholy and anguish. This poem was not published during Sologub’s lifetime. Apparently, the poet was aware of obvious correlation between his own and Verlaine’s texts and decided not to present the poem to the public as it echoed the latter, even though being absolutely organic and creatively self-sufficient.

In general, however, Sologub’s poetry has never been regarded as the one mirroring Verlaine’s. As Iu. Smaga observed, Verlaine’s type of symbolism was not reflected in the works of Sologub, who consciously avoided the lyrical “polnovodnost’ koloristicheskikh effektov i passivnogo rastvoreniia v krasote mira”. Such spontaneity was alien to the author of “Plamennyi krug” as his creative imagination was mostly “organized”, filled by “maniia tragicheskogo odinochestva i pechali, illiustrirovannoi odnimi i temi zhe obrazami i motivami” (Smaga 1980: 443—444).



Sologub did not possess the ability to “vseliat’sia v dushu raznoobraznykh perezhivanii” (Blok 1962b: 621), which Blok noted in Annenskii. Due to this his attempt to recreate most of Arthur Rimbaud’s legacy was not as successful as translating Verlaine’s poetry. In Sologub’s personal archive there have remained his translations of practically all of “Derniers vers” of the French poet: (“Larme”, “La Rivière de Cassis”, “Comédie de la soif”, “Chanson de la plus haute tour”, “L’Éternité”, “Age d’or”, “Bruxelles”, “Est-elle aimée? . . aux premières heures bleues”, “Qu’est-ce pour nous, mon coeur, que les nappes de sang”, “Michel et Christine”, “Honte”, “Ô saisons, ô châteaux”), as well as word-for-word translations of a big number of poems of the previous period (“Sensation”, “Vénus Anadyomène”, “Le Coeur volé”, “Rêvé pour l’hiver”, “L’Orgie parisienne ou Paris se repeuple”, “Le Buffet”). So, unlike other early (and few) translators of Rimbaud (see: Postupal’skii 1982: 478—484), Sologub not only supposed to embrace the works of the French poet as widely as possible, but also realized this intention, having translated his most “obscure” poems, which, according to Briusov, contain a “mozaiku slov i vyrazhenii, kotoraia dolzhna slit’sia v dushe chitatelia v odno tseloe vpechatlenie” (Briusov 1937: 272).

Sologub must have been appealed to the “romance”[39], musical basis of “Derniers vers”. In any case, of paramount importance was the fact that Sologub was in essence the only Russian man of letters who addressed the most “symbolic” works of French poets: in 1900s and 1910s —Rimbaud’s “Derniers vers” and “Illuminations”, in 1898 — to Mallarmé’s “Poèmes en prose”, while most Russian symbolists were either exploring the poetry of early Mallarmé and Verlaine, which was close to the Parnassian poetics, or impressionist “landscapes of soul” of same Verlaine, or early Rimbaud’s poems which are only distantly connected with symbolism.

Sologub was not, obviously, satisfied with his lyric translations from Rimbaud and did not consider it possible to publish them. The fact that Sologub concealed his translations allowed B. Livshits to state that “v tu poru malo kto chital Rembo v originale. Iz russkikh poetov ego perevodili tol’ko Annenskii, Briusov da ia” (Livshits 1989: 317).

The manuscripts of translations from Rimbaud kept in Sologub’s archive enable to reveal one of the secrets of his translation method, his ability to amazingly precisely recreate the imagery and meaning of the original and render the original text “s tochnost’iu bukval’noi” (Voloshin 1988: 442), which his contemporaries admired. The reason for this closeness and at the same time complexity of certain lines and stanzas compared to the transparency of the original, which may not be unambiguously interpreted, is explained by the poet’s creative laboratory. Formal closeness is achieved through verse translation, which is based on the materials of the word-for-word translation, i.e. rhymed verse written above the line of the draft typescript of the word-for-word translation. This method held numerous dangers, which Sologub occasionally failed to avoid, but even so, enabled him to accurately and adequately recreate and even mirror important elements of the original. To illustrate this point we may examine the first stanzas of the poems “Qu’est-ce pour nous, mon coeur, que les nappes de sang” and “Chanson de la plus haute tour” in word-for-word translation and final version:


Chto dlia nas, moe serdtse, skaterti krovi,

I zhara, i tysiachi ubiistv, i prodolzhitel’nye kriki

Iarosti, rydan’ia vsego ada, povorachivaiushchie

Poriadok; Akvilon eshche na oblomkakh;

(1, 44, 300)


Chto nam, dusha moia, krovavyi tok,

I tysiachi ubiistv, i zlobnyi ston,

I znoi, i ad, vzmetnuvshii na porog

Ves’ stroi; i na oblomkakh Akvilon.

(Rembo 1982: 401)


Prazdnaia iunost’,

Ko vsemu poraboshchennaia


Ia poterial moiu zhizn’,

A! Puskai pridet vremia,

Kogda serdtsa pleniatsia!

(1, 44, 304)


Iunost’ bespechnaia,

Voliu slomivshaia,

Nezhnost’ serdechnaia,

Zhizn’ pogubivshaia, —

Srok priblizhaetsia,

Serdtse pleniaetsia!

(Rembo 1982: 412)


The national specificity of Russian symbolism resulted in the fact that not only Rimbaud’s “Derniers vers” with their fragmentary and highly irrational metaphoric system, but also geometrically aligned associative strata of Mallarmé’s “Poèmes en prose”, as well as Rimbaud’s “Illuminations”, which were one of the top achievements of French symbolism, did not arouse any particular interest among translators and publishers. Sologub’s bold attempt to recreate them on Russian soil only partially succeeded as just the lesser part of translated “Illuminations” was published, besides, during the new literary epoch, in 1915, in a futurist edition, when the aesthetic quests of Rimbaud, who was much ahead of his time, finally started to find their reader in European avant-garde circles. At the same time, in theoretical views, especially those of Briusov, who was most experienced in French symbolism, the virtues of both Rimbaud’s “Illuminations” and “Derniers vers” and Mallarmé’s “Poèmes en prose” were highly valued. Briusov claimed, using Fet’s image: “No my ne zamknuty beznadezhno v etoi “goluboi tiur’me”. Iz nee est’ vykhody na voliu, est’ prosvety. Eti prosvety — te mgnoveniia ekstaza, sverkhchuvstvitel’noi intuitsii, kotorye daiut inye postizheniia mirovykh iavlenii, glubzhe pronikaiushchie za ikh vneshniuiu koru, v ikh serdtsevinu. Istinnaia zadacha iskusstva i sostoit v tom, chtoby zapechatlet’ eti mgnoveniia prozreniia, vdokhnoveniia. Iskusstvo nachinaetsia v tot mig, kogda khudozhnik pytaetsia uiasnit’ samomu sebe svoi temnye, tainye chuvstvovaniia” (Briusov 1973b: 86). The ecstasy, the hypersensitive intuition, insights on the one hand and mysteriousness of uncertainty on the other as principles of the new poetry, as the background of creative work — all of those are also found in Rimbaud and Mallarmé’s statements, which resulted, however, unlike Briusov’s, from their creative work, were nourished by it and actually were one of its manifestations at times. Rimbaud confessed in “Une Saison en Enfer”: “J’écrivais des silences des nuits, je notais l’inexprimable”[40]. “Ia pisal molchanie i noch’, vyrazhal nevyrazimoe, zapechatleval golovokruzhitel’nye mgnoveniia” (Rembo 1982: 168). One of Mallarmé’s most well-known precepts is: “Nommer un objet, c’est supprimer les trois quarts de la jouissance du poème qui est faite du bonheur de deviner peu à peu ; le suggérer, voilà le rêve. <…> Il doit y avoir toujours énigme en poésie, et c’est le but de la littérature, — il n’y en a pas d’autres, — d’évoquer les objets (Mallarmé 1945: 869). “Nazvat’ predmet — znachit unichtozhit’ na tri chetverti naslazhdenie ot poemy, kotoraia sozdaetsia iz postepennogo ugadyvaniia: vnushit’ ego obraz — vot mechta <...> V poezii vsegda dolzhna byt’ taina, i naznachenie literatury — a drugikh u nee net — navevat’ obrazy predmetov” (Mallarmé 1945: 869). The following Sologub’s theoretical contemplation seems to reflect this thesis: “Poetomu v vysokom iskusstve obrazy stremiatsia stat’ simvolami, t. e. stremiatsia k tomu, chtoby vmestit’ v sebia mnogoznachitel’noe soderzhanie, stremiatsia k tomu, chtoby eto soderzhanie ikh v protsesse vospriiatiia bylo sposobno vskryvat’ vse bolee i bolee glubokie znacheniia. V etoi sposobnosti obraza k beskonechnomu ego raskrytiiu i lezhit taina bessmertiia vysokikh sozdanii iskusstva. Khudozhestvennoe proizvedenie, do dna istolkovannoe, do kontsa raz’’iasnennoe, nemedlenno zhe umiraet, zhit’ dal’she emu nechem i ne zachem”[41]. However, the resemblance between these aesthetic manifests should not misguide us as regards the features of poetics and style: in their creations Rimbaud and Mallarmé would rather be “dark” poets, while Sologub — the “light” one. But for Russian culture of late 19th — early 20th century it was highly important that Sologub was the only Russian symbolist (apart from certain versions of Briusov, who was translating a lot from new French poetry “to complete the picture”) who addressed those Rimbaud and Mallarmé’s works which are built on the principles of suggestive art and include “insights” and metaphorical entwinement of associations as integral elements.

Apparently, Sologub translated Mallarmé’s “Poèmes en prose” using one of the two editions of “Divagations” (1896, 1897), a collection that included chosen prose works, as well as “Poèmes en prose”. The reason for this assumption is both the time of work (1898) and what was translated: all twelve “Poèmes en prose” that compose the first section entitled “Acecdotes ou poèmes”. Sologub also translated the opening introduction, prosaic “Conflit”, also incorporated in “Acecdotes ou poèmes”; the whole second section “Volumes sur le divan” that included two miniatures — “Autrefois en marge d’un Baudelaire” and “Morceau pour résumer Vathek”; from the third section (“Quelques médaillons et portraits en pied”) appeared the second piece dedicated to Verlaine and representing a funeral speech. Some of “Poèmes en prose” had been translated before Sologub[42] (among others by Briusov, who published his translation of “Plainte d’automne” and “La pipe” under the pen name “M.”) choosing those that corresponded with his idea of lyrical prose.

Of undoubted interest is Briusov’s attention to Mallarmé’s “Poèmes en prose” back in 1894. This translation is more likely to be an act of communion with the name and associations surrounding it, rather than a sign of interested and truly creative attitude. Voloshin noticed the secret estrangement of the “Roman” Briusov from Mallarmé’s decadence sophistication: “Znamenatel’na eta priviazannost’ Briusova k Rimu. V nei nakhodim my kliuchi k silam i uklonam ego tvorchestva. Emu chuzhdy izyskannyi estetizm i utonchennye vkusy kul’tur iznezhennykh i slabeiushchikh. V etom otnoshenii nikto dal’she, chem on, ne stoit ot idei “dekadansa” v tom smysle, kak ego ponimali i priznavali sebia “dekadentami” Mallarme i ego gruppa” (Voloshin 1988: 415). As far the genre of prose poem is concerned, later Briusov, after becoming a “maître” and having long got confidence in the self-sufficiency of his aesthetical program, expressed undisguised aversion to them (although the specimens from among Mallarmé’s works were singled out as “original”): “Ne pomniu, kto sravnil “stikhotvoreniia v proze” s germafroditom. Vo vsiakom sluchae eto — odna iz nesnosneishikh form literatury. Bol’sheiu chast’iu — eto proza, kotoroi pridana nekotoraia ritmichnost’, t. e. kotoraia okrashena chisto vneshnim priemom. Govoria tak, ia imeiu v vidu ne printsipy, a sushchestvuiushchie obraztsy. Podlinnye “stikhotvoreniia v proze” (takie, kakimi oni dolzhny byt’) est’ u Edgara Po, u Bodlera, u Mallarme — ne znaiu u kogo eshche” (Briusov 1973b: 352).

On a par with Rimbaud and following in the footsteps of Aloysius Bertrand and Baudelaire, Mallarmé was one of creators of the French prose poem phenomenon. In Verlaine’s texts their narrative-logical level is ultimately undermined by associative inclusions, while the orderly and rigid syntax of the French language is haphazardly and intricately broken. As a result, even traditional imagery gets refreshed. In Mallarmé and Rimbaud’s works the prose poem became a genre, which to a large extent was opposed to “poetic”, “rhythmic”, “lyrical” prose[43]. In S. Velikovskii’s opinion, “odnu iz samykh dlia sebia podkhodiashchikh poiskovo-ispytatel’nykh ploshchadok, takoe beskonechno vozobnovliaemoe izobretatel’stvo otkrylo v tom oksiumoronnom zhanrovom obrazovanii, kakim utverdilos’ v poslednei treti XIX veka frantsuzskoe stikhotvorenie v proze. Pri perevode na russkii slovosochetanie poème en prose nado by brat’ v kavychki: u frantsuzov stikha-to zdes’ net i v pomine. Net ni povtoriaiushcheisia odnorazmernoi plavnosti, ni khotia by legkoi, vremia ot vremeni daiushchei o sebe znat’ versetnoi ritmizatsii, ni okkazional’noi rifmizatsii. Naoborot, stikhotvorenie v proze zachastuiu protivopolozhnost’ tomu, chto imenuetsia “poeticheskoi prozoi” za svoe bolee ili menee ochevidnoe metricheskoe blagozvuchie” (Velikovskii 1987: 171—172).

Sologub was creating an analogue of Mallarmé’s prose poems relying on the tradition of Russian rhythmical prose and trying to follow the recommendations which, due to the specificity of the language reform accomplished by Mallarmé, he could get from the articles about the French poet printed in Russian magazines[44] and those noted by himself in the process of reading. The specific features of the word order in Sologub’s original prose, which he not only did not refuse, but actively emphasized, served as an analogue of Mallarmé’s individual syntax, which can not be automatically transplanted from one language into another (as well as Rimbaud’s). A well-known literary critic N. F. Chuzhak claimed: “Spetsificheski zhe sologubovskoe — v fraze: “grustnye nakhlynut vdrug verenitsy”. V poriadke traditsionnogo sintaksisa sledovalo by skazat’ tak: “vdrug nakhlynut grustnye verenitsy” <...> Sovsem inoe — v rasstanovke Sologuba. Prilagatel’noe “grustnye”, ne davaia tochnogo poniatiia o chem-libo opredelennom, tem ne menee nastraivaet nas zaranee na sootvetstvuiushchii ton, rozhdaia nastroenie i zastavliaia tvorcheski predvoskhitit’ ves’ obraz “grustnye vospominaniia””[45]. We can compare the phrase from “Staryi dom” short story quoted by Chuzhak with that from “Le phénomène futur” by Mallarmé in Sologub’s translation, built on the principles of his own syntax: “…ia pochuvstvoval, chto moia ruka, otrazhennaia vitrinoiu lavochki, laskaiushchii delala zhest…” (1, 42, 44)[46].

While recreating Mallarmé’s “Poèmes en prose” (as well as translating Rimbaud’s “Illuminations” later) Sologub was guided by respect to the will of the author coupled with some sort of confusion. The intricate entwinement of associative images and words fastened rather by sound than meaning makes the translator face a problem of choice: to either decipher the logic of this entwinement and thus acquire the creative ability to write in your native language (as did the authors of translations published in 1890s, having reduced Mallarmé’s “Poèmes en prose” to rather banal and a little pretentious lyrical prose[47], the texts being chosen in accordance with the very notion of “poetic” prose) or, trusting the author and sacrificing the “freedom”, follow him almost blindly, if not “in his steps”, then at least really close in lexical and rhythmic-syntactical respect. Sologub definitely realized that, adhering to the second principle, he was risking losing both associative and phonetic naturalness of the original, yet being right in his assumption that unconditioned decryption may cause equal damage. Accepting the irrational passages in the original, Sologub did not rationally “filter” the translations, especially when he was satisfied with them phonetically. Still, in general he seemed to be unhappy about the result and did not dare to print his work or failed to find a publisher who would be able to trust his poetic intuition.

There is no doubt that Sologub used the 1896 edition to translate Rimbaud’s “Illuminations”[48], which included those of “Derniers vers”, whose versions he had also accomplished. It is equally important that he translated all “Illuminations” from 1896 edition, whereas he only started translating three out of five “Illuminations” (“Fairy”, “Guerre”, “Génie”) first published only in 1895 dropping them afterwards. Only a part of translated poems were published — 14 out of 21.

In Rimbaud’s “Illuminations” French prose poems completely distanced from narrative or descriptive “foundations” and finally acquired “chistotu sobstvennogo liricheskogo smysloizlucheniia” (Velikovskii 1987: 172). N. I. Balashov noted: “V “Ozareniiakh” Rembo otkhodil ot peredachi soderzhaniia sintaksicheski organizovannym slovom i soznatel’no namerevalsia (ne to delaia eto nevol’no v rezul’tate “rasstroistva vsekh chuvstv”) kosvenno podskazyvat’ idei zritel’nymi assotsiatsiiami, zvukovymi sochetaniiami, ritmom i samoi razorvannost’iu logicheskoi i sintaksicheskoi bessviaznost’iu otryvkov” (Rembo 1982: 271—272). Like the poet himself, the translator of “Illuminations” “arrive à l’inconnu” “dostigaet nevedomogo”[49].

When translating “Illuminations”, Sologub remained loyal to the principles which he was following working on Mallarmé’s “Poèmes en prose”. The amount of stylistic, syntactic and logical organization was minimal, as well as that of interpretation, intrusion and transformation. Like translations from Mallarmé, Sologub’s versions of “Illuminations” own a certain element of literalism, which was the reverse side of his attempts to avoid smoothness and deciphering and achieve maximum expression. In a number of cases tracing and literalism even emphasized the detachment and poetic unpredictability of Rimbaud’s capricious fantasy. The word order (“Volnistye tsvety gudeli. Sklony vala ikh ubaiukivali. Zhivotnoe skazochno-iziashchnoe kruzhilos’”), intentional solecism (“Zachem prosvetu okoshechka poblednet’ v uglu svoda”; “…kogda alye okraski opiat’ podnialis’ na domakh”), striving to create poetic images not through connection, but juxtaposition between the adjacent words, (“Glukhie, prud, — pena, katis’ po mostu…”; “Ia tvoril po tu storonu polei, peresechennykh poviazkami redkoi muzyki, fantomy budushchei nochnoi roskoshi”; “…zvony vrashchaiutsia v tvoikh svetlykh rukakh”), rich and refined phonetic text organization, refuting, by the way, possible accusations of “total” literalism (“Kak voiut shakaly v pustyne tmina, — i kak pastorali v sabo vorkochut vo fruktovom sadu”; “On vzdragivaet pri prokhode okhot i ord”), lexical whimsicality of style (“Vetki i dozhd’ mechutsia v okno biblioteki”; “Potom v fialkovoi chashche, nalivaiushchei pochki…”), overfilling the text with pronouns owing to literal translation of possessive pronouns: moi, moiu, menia, moei, — all these together helped recreate the original poetic effect.

With his unpublished translations of Mallarmé’s “Poèmes en prose” and partly published Rimbaud’s “Illuminations”, which were rather distant from aesthetic quests of Russian symbolists, Sologub paved the way for Russian avant-garde, experiments of Russian futurists (it is no coincidence that “Illuminations” were printed in “Strelets” published by Burliuk, who was translating from Rimbaud), as well as OBERIU writers. Such features of avant-garde trends of 1920s as “automatic writing”, surrealistic “sub-reality”, “stream of consciousness” to a large extent originated from aesthetic discoveries of Mallarmé and especially Rimbaud. Therefore, translating French symbolists, Sologub was in a way ahead of the literary school he belonged to[50].



The significance of Sologub’s translations from Verlaine and, to a certain extent, Rimbaud and Mallarmé in the history of recreating French poets’ works in Russia is really great. The statement of imitative nature of Sologub’s translations (in comparison with those made by Briusov, O. Chiumina, A. Kublitskaia-Piottukh and others) is deeply wrong[51]. Equally unjust is Iu. Orokhovatskii claming that “nikogda ne bylo tak ochevidnym prevoskhodstvo etogo iskusstva (of poetic translation. — V. B.) nad samoi poeziei, kak na rubezhe minuvshego i nyneshnego stoletii”[52]. The level of translation was defined by the level of poetry, rather than dominating it, being cut off and opposed to it. The superiority of symbolist translations from Verlaine above those of imitators of the previous literary generation was supported not only by the fact that symbolists translated symbolist poetry, but also the scale of their poetic talents.

The principle of “the golden mean”, the wish to “sobliusti meru v sub’’ektivizme” were the foundations upon which Sologub, Briusov and Annenskii were creating their translations — each in his own way. However, if we consider not the principles of translation, but the results of their efforts towards familiarization of Russian readers with Verlaine’s poetry, we will have to admit that Sologub was most successful (whereas the principles of formal equivalence were more probably met in Briusov versions and those of dynamic equivalence — in Annenskii’s)[53] and in this respect his translations are bequeathed to the future generation of Russian readers. On December 2, 1907 Blok wrote to Sologub concerning his translation of Verlaine’s poem “Sineva nebes nad krovlei” (“Le ciel est, par-dessus le toit…”): “Vy znaete, chto eto poslednee stikhotvorenie popalos’ mne ochen’ davno i bylo dlia menia odnim iz pervykh ostrykh otkrovenii novoi poezii. Ono sviazano dlia menia s muzykoi kompozitora S. V. Panchenko <...> S tekh por noshu eto stikhotvorenie v pamiati, ibo ono nerazluchno so mnoiu s tekh dnei, kak postigal ia pervuiu liubov’. I v eti dni, kogda ia muchitel’no somnevaius’ v sebe i vizhu mnogo liudei, no v sushchnosti ne umeiu uvidet’ pochti nikogo, — motiv stikhotvoreniia i slova ego so mnoi” (Blok 1963: 219). It seems that many Russian readers could support Blok’s idea that they “nosili v pamiati” Sologub’s translations from Verlaine. His poetry in Sologub, Briusov and Annenskii’s versions doubtlessly played a role in the “noise” of poetic early 20th century. When I. Severianin wrote in 1926 in his sonnet dedicated to Verlaine:


V utonchennostiakh neperevodimyi,

Ni v chem glubinnyi, v chuzhdosti rodimyi.

Ni v kom nepovtorimyi Pol’ Verlen, (Severianin 1988: 241) — his generation was aware of “utonchennostiakh” of “rodimyi” Verlaine mainly from translations, especially those made by Sologub.


[1] To generally address the issue of an international character of literary schools see V. M. Zhirmunskii’s “Literaturnye techeniia kak iavlenie mezhdunarodnoe” (Zhirmunskii 1979: 137—157).

[2] There are quite a few deep and valuable yet mostly individual observations on Sologub’s translations from Verlaine in M. I. Dikman’s introduction to the edition of Sologub’s original works and translations in the Grand series of “Biblioteka poeta” (Sologub 1975) and G. Donchin’s monograph (Donchin 1958) dedicated to reception of Verlaine and his French successors’ ideas and creative achievements by Russian symbolists. The theme “Verlaine and Russian symbolism” is examined in K. N. Grigor’ian’s article “Verlen i russkii simvolizm” (Russkaia literatura. 1971. № 1. S. 111—120) and Iu. Orokhovatskii’s “Russkie perevodchiki Polia Verlena” (Tezisy mezhvuz. nauch.-teor. konf. “Problemy russkoi kritiki i poezii XX veka”. Erevan, 1973. S. 47—49). The problem of Verlaine’s impact on Sologub is raised in Iu. Smaga’s work (Smaga 1980: 441—445).

[3] On January 2, 1893 Briusov made the following note in his diary: “Mezhdu prochim sdelaiu probu. Poshliu perevody iz Verlena v “Novosti inostrannoi literatury”, “Teni” v “Artist” i “Nikolaia” v “Rebus”” (Briusov 1927: 10—11).

[4] See an interview on translation of von Kleist’s plays (Birzhevye vedomosti. 1913. 28 okt., vech. vyp.).

[5] See: Russkaia literatura XX v. (1890—1910). Moscow, 1914. Vol. 1. S. 23.

[6] N. N. Russkie simvolisty i koe-chto o simvolizme voobshche // Russkoe obozrenie. 1895. Sent. S. 366.

[7] See: Medvedskii K. P. Simvolizm na russkoi pochve // Nabliudatel’. 1894. № 1. S. 314.

[8] Vestnik Evropy. 1893. Apr. S. 861—862.

[9] Krasnov P. Glava dekadentov. Stephane Mallarmé. Vers et prose // Knizhki Nedeli. 1898. Okt. S. 133—134.

[10] According to A. V. Fedorov, such opinion completely correlated with general views of Russian symbolists (Fedorov 1983: 67).

[11] In 1909 Briusov remembered: “Znakomstvo, v nachale 90-kh godov, s poeziei Verlena i Mallarme, a vskore i Bodlera, otkrylo mne novyi mir. Pod vpechatleniem ikh tvorchestva sozdany te moi stikhi, kotorye pervymi poiavilis’ v pechati (1894— 95 gg.)” (Kniga o russkikh poetakh poslednego desiatiletiia. SPb.; M., 1909. S. 63).

[12] IRLI. Arkhiv Sologuba F. K. F. 289. Op. 2. Ed. khr. 30. L. 20. The link on Sologub’s archive below are given directly in the text with reference to the inventory number, unit of storing and page. I was pointed at Sologub’s letter to Latyshev by M. M. Pavlova, to whom I would like to express my sincere gratitude.

[13] Sologub’s archive holds several dated drafts of translations from Mallarmé’s “Poèmes en prose”, e.g., “Blednyi malysh” — September 27, 1898, “Trubka” — September 28, 1898.

[14] Verlen P. Sineva nebes nad krovlei / Per. F. Sologuba // Severnyi vestnik. 1893. № 9. (Otd. I). S. 202; Verlen P. Byl vecher tak nezhen i dal’ tak iasna / Per. F. Sologuba // Severnyi vestnik. 1894. № 6. Otd. I. S. 218.

[15] Verlen P. Eto — nega voskhishchen’ia // Nasha zhizn’. 1896. № 205. S. 1739.

[16] Verlen P. 1) Derev’ev ten’ v reke upala v mrak tumannyi // Peterburgskaia zhizn’. 1896. № 291. S. 1739; 2) Serenada; Poka eshche ty ne ushla; Toska // Peterburgskaia zhizn’. 1897. № 236. S. 1982; 3) Ochag, i tesnoe nad lampoiu mertsan’e; Tak solntse, obshchnik radosti moei; V lesakh // Peterburgskaia zhizn’. № 244. S. 2247; 4) Splin; Ia v chernye dni; O, chto v dushe moei poet; Nikogda voveki; Ia ugadyvaiu skvoz’ mertsan’ia // Ibid. № 264. S. 2207; 5) Murava // Peterburgskaia zhizn’. 1898. № 205. S. 2280; 6) Nochnoi lunoiu; V poliakh krugom // Peterburgskaia zhizn’. № 291. S. 2426.

[17] Verlen P. 1) Zhenshchine // Novyi zhurnal inostrannoi literatury. 1904. № 10. S. 18; 2) V slezakh moia dusha // Novyi zhurnal inostrannoi literatury. № 11. S. 109; 3) Pesnia, uletai skorei // Novyi zhurnal inostrannoi literatury. 1905. № 4. S. 27.

[18] Verlen P. Lunnyi svet // Obrazovanie. 1907. № 5. S. 128.

[19] Briusov’s translations from Verlaine were published twice: Verlen P. Romansy bez slov / Per. V. Briusova. M., 1894; Verlen P. Sobr. stikhov v perevode V. Briusova. M., 1911. Some other “monologic” attempts to recreate Verlaine’s works on Russian soil were rather less successful, than Briusov and Sologub’s ones (see.: Verlen P. Stikhotvoreniia / Per. D. Ratgauz. Kiev, 1896. Vyp. 1; Iz Miusse i Verlena. Stikhotvoreniia / Per. Zinaidy Ts. SPb., 1907; Verlen P. Izbrannye stikhotvoreniia v perevode Sergeia Frenkelia. M., 1914). There were as well endeavors to present Verlaine’s poetry as a competitive anthology of creative achievements of Russian poets and translators: Verlen P. Izbrannye stikhotvoreniia v perevode russkikh poetov. SPb., 1911; Verlen P. Izbrannye stikhotvoreniia v perevodakh I. Annenskogo, Valeriia Briusova, V. A. Mazurkevicha, N. Minskogo, N. Novicha, P. N. Petrovskogo, D. Ratgauza, S. Rafalovicha, Fedora Sologuba, I. I. Tkhorzhevskogo, Zinaidy Ts., O. N. Chiuminoi (Mikhailovoi) i Ellisa / Sost. P. N. Petrovskii. M., [1912].

[20] RGB. F. 386. Kart. 103. Ed. khr. 28.

[21] In a descriptive and compilative article by V. A. Pesterev “Artiur Rembo v russkoi kritike” (XXVIII Gertsenovskie chteniia. Literaturovedenie. L., 1976. S. 73—77) are presented some of the few facts about the life of Rimbaud’s works in Russia. R. Etiemble’s work, dedicated mainly to the fate of his creative legacy in Poland, contains only most general facts about the French poet’s early perception in Russia (Etiemble R. Nouveaux aspects du mythe de Rimbaud: Rimbaud dans le monde slave et communiste. Fac. 1. Le mythe de Rimbaud en Pologne. Paris, 1964).

[22] Verlen P. Stikhi, vybrannye i perevedennye Fedorom Sologubom. 2-e izd. Pg.; M., 1923. S. 49. The links on this edition below are given directly in the text with reference to the page in parentheses.

[23] See: Biblioteka A. A. Bloka: Opisanie. L., 1984. Kn. 1. S. 122.

[24] Russkoe bogatstvo. 1907. № 12. S. 175.

[25] See, e.g.: Martino P. Parnasse et symbolisme. Paris, 1928. S. 118.

[26] The handwritten insertion is enclosed to Iu. Verkhovskii’s review placed in “Al’bom s retsenziiami na knigi stikhov F. Sologuba” (6, 17, 9). Quoted by: (Voloshin 1988: 732).

[27] Tovarishch. 1907. № 449. 19 dek.

[28] See: Russkoe bogatstvo. 1907. № 12. S. 170.

[29] See: Verlen P. Stikhotvoreniia / Per. D. Ratgauza. Kiev, 1896. Vyp. 1 / Severnyi vestnik. 1896. № 5. S. 326.

[30] See: Russkoe bogatstvo. 1907. № 12. S. 177.

[31] See: Birzhevye vedomosti. 1907. № 10260. 18 dek.

[32] Aiaks [A. A. Izmailov]. U F. K. Sologuba // Birzhevye vedomosti. 1912. 20 sent. Vech. vyp.

[33] Russkoe bogatstvo. 1907. № 12. S. 177.

[34] Rech’. 1909. 24 maia. S. 56.

[35] L’vov V. Rets. na kn.: Frantsuzskie liriki XIX veka. Perevody v stikhakh i biobibliograficheskie primechaniia Valeriia Briusova. SPb., 1909 // Sovremennyi mir. 1909, sent. Kritika i bibliografiia. S. 103.

[36] Links to translations made by Novich (Kak dozhd’ stuchit v okno // Russkie simvolisty. M., 1895. Vyp. 3. S. 42), Kublitskaia-Piottukh (Slezy bezmolvnye v serdtse moem // Vestnik inostrannoi literatury. 1897. № 4. S. 164) and Rafalovich (Verlen P. Izbrannye stikhotvoreniia v perevodakh russkikh poetov. M., [1912]. S. 48) are missing in the comments to Verlaine’s poem translated by Annenskii and Pasternak in an authoritative edition “Mastera russkogo stikhotvornogo perevoda” (L., 1968. T. 2. S. 413, 433).

[37] Afterwards Briusov characterized his early translations from Verlaine as to a certain extent free, because, as the meaning of Verlaine’s works lies in the mood, he “predpochital pozhertvovat’ slovom radi nastroeniia” (quoted by: Mirza-Avakian M. L. Rabota Briusova nad perevodom Romances sans paroles Verlena // Briusovskie chteniia 1966 goda. Erevan, 1968. S. 495).

[38] See, for instance, first stanzas of the poem “Bruxelles”.

[39] Rimbaud wrote about his “Derniers vers” in his book “Une Saison en Enfer”: “Je disais adieu au monde dans d’espèces de romances” (Rimbaud A. Une Saison en Enfer. Bruxelles, 1873. P. 32). “Ia proshchalsia s mirom, sochiniaia chto-to vrode romansov” (Rembo 1982: 170).

[40] Rimbaud A. Une Saison en Enfer. Bruxelles, 1873. P. 30.

[41] Sologub F. Iskusstvo nashikh dnei // Russkaia mysl’. Pg., 1915. Kn. 3. S. 41.

[42] Mallarme S. 1) Belaia kuvshinka / Per. P. Krasnova // Vsemirnaia illiustratsiia. 1893. T. 50. № 3. S. 46; 2) Osenniaia zhaloba / Per. P. Krasnova // Tam zhe. 1894. T. 52. № 17. S. 309; 3) Iz “Listkov”. Trubka / Per. M. // Russkie simvolisty. M., 1894. Vyp. 2. S. 49—50; 4) Osenniaia zhaloba / Per. M. // Tam zhe. 1895. Vyp. 3. S. 50—52; 5) Osenniaia zhaloba. Zimnii trepet. Fenomen budushchego // Severnyi vestnik. 1896. № 5. S. 45—51 (L. K. Poeziia upadka (Stephane Mallarme)) 6) Zimniaia drozh’ / Per. P. Krasnova // Knizhki nedeli. 1898. № 10. S. 135.

[43] On different possibilities of rhythmization in traditional literary forms (various kinds of repetitions, homogeneous parts of the prosodic-syntactical whole, twin groups of words, first syllable alliterations, anaphoric repetitions, syntactical parallelism) see: Zhirmunskii V. M. O ritmicheskoi proze // Zhirmunskii V. M. Teoriia stikha. L., 1975. S. 575—576.

[44] For instance, P. Krasnov wrote: “Mallarme vydumyvaet svoi slova, ne imeiushchie nikakogo smysla, propuskaet takie neobkhodimye vo frantsuzskom iazyke slova, kak chleny, perebivaet stroenie frazy vosklitsaniiami i dazhe tselymi vvodnymi frazami, proizvol’no stavit znaki prepinaniia, a poroi i vovse otritsaet ikh” (Krasnov P. Glava dekadentov: Stephane Mallarme. Vers et prose // Knizhki Nedeli. 1898, okt. S. 132—133).

[45] Chuzhak N. Tvorchestvo slova // O Fedore Sologube. Kritika. Stat’i i zametki / Sost. A. Chebotarevskoi. [SPb., 1911.] S. 247—248.

[46] Mallarmé’s syntax in this fragment is absolutely neutral: “…je sentis que j’avais, ma main réfléchie par un vitrage de boutique у faisant le geste d’une caresse…”

[47] However, Sologub’s translations can also be characterized by the prevalence of “writer’s technique”, whose absence R. Barthes regarded as one of the main advantages of Mallarmé’s poetry: “Le vocable, dissocié de la gangue des clichés habituels, des réflexes techniques de l’écrivain, est alors pleinement irresponsable de tous les contextes possibles; il s’approche d’un acte bref, singulier, dont la matité affirme une solitude, donc une innocence” (Barthes R. Le Degré zéro de l’écriture. Paris, 1972. P. 55). “Vyrvavshis’ iz obolochki privychnykh shtampov, osvobodivshis’ iz-pod iga refleksov pisatel’skoi tekhniki, kazhdoe slovo obretaet nezavisimost’ ot liubykh vozmozhnykh kontekstov; samo poiavlenie takogo slova podobno mgnovennomu nepovtorimomu sobytiiu, ne otdaiushchemusia ni maleishim ekhom i tem samym utverzhdaiushchemu svoe odinochestvo, a znachit, i bezgreshnost’” (Bart R. Nulevaia stepen’ pis’ma // Semiotika. M., 1983. S. 342).

[48] Rimbaud A. Illuminations. Paris, 1896.

[49] On May 15, 1871 Rimbaud wrote to Paul Demeny: “Car il arrive à l’inconnu! Puisqu’il a cultivé son âme, déjà riche, plus qu’aucun! Il arrive à l’inconnu, et quand, affolé, il finirait par perdre l’intelligence de ses visions, il les a vues!” (Rimbaud A. Oeuvres. Sommaire biographique, introduction, notices, relevé de variantes et notes par S. Bernard. Paris, 1960. P. 346). “Ibo on dostigaet nevedomogo! Tak kak on vzrastil bol’she, chem kto-libo drugoi svoiu dushu, i bez togo bogatuiu! On dostigaet nevedomogo, i pust’, obezumev, on zabudet smysl svoikh videnii, — on ikh videl” (Rimbaud A. Oeuvres. Sommaire biographique, introduction, notices, relevé de variantes et notes par S. Bernard. Paris, 1960. P. 346).

[50] About the limits of symbolism, to a large extent transcended by Sologub, even though not in connection with translations from French symbolists, see Nina Denisova’s work (Denissoff N. Fedor Sologoub. 1863—1927. Paris. 1981. P. 415).

[51] See: Mirza-Avakian M. L. Rabota V. Ia. Briusova nad perevodom Romances sans paroles Verlena // Briusovskie chteniia 1966 goda. S. 489—490.

[52] See: Orokhovatskii Iu. Russkie poety-perevodchiki Polia Verlena // Tezisy mezhvuzovskoi nauch.-teor. konf. “Problemy russkoi kritiki i poezii XX veka”. S. 47.

[53] See: Naida Iu. A. K nauke perevodit’ // Voprosy teorii perevoda v zarubezhnoi lingvistike. M., 1978. S. 118—120.