“The Song of Prophetic Oleg”

Maceochi's Language Learning

Below is my translation of Pushkin’s Песнь о вещем Олеге. The title itself raises a question: вещий means “prophetic” or “knowing”, but in the poem, as you will read, it is not Prince Oleg himself who prophesies the future, but someone else. I have still kept the title as a literal translation, because as I see it Oleg is prophetic in his fulfilment of the prophecy.

The metre is a gallop sustained enough to carry a long narrative like this. There are 17 six-line stanzas, each consisting of lines of amphibrachs. In the first and third lines there are three amphibrachs and an iamb (11 syllables); in the second and fourth, three amphibrachs; and in the fifth and sixth, an iamb is followed by three amphibrachs. The rhyming scheme is AbAbCC (uppercase = masculine, lowercase = feminine). When I was translating it, though, I imagined the metre differently, as…

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