Published: Shmiher T. Identity of Translation (Ivan Bunin – Panas Myrnyi – Oleksandr Oles’ Translation Triad of Henry Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha”) // TEFL Innovations and Challenges: Materials of the 8th National TESOL-Ukraine Conference, January 23-25, 2003. – Khmelnytskyi: TUP, 2003. – P.145-149.



Ivan Franko National University of Lviv



(Ivan Bunin – Panas Myrnyi – Oleksandr Oles’ Translation Triad

 of Henry Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha”)

The binary plane of a word, as stated I.Hrytsiutenko, is rooted in the existence of a plane of a national language base with its mighty experience of recognizing and reordering the reality through the artist’s textual production [Грицютенко 1972:24]. To put it another way, a word is the borderline between a people’s conventional worldview, and that of the author’s affective agenda. A successful literary text reflects the established language beliefs on the one hand, and fits the author’s license on the other. Even if the author wants to go beyond the limits of semantic space of a lexeme, language provides the necessary resources. Language is in a constant interaction with the native speaker, who is raised up in this language and thinks through its categories, but whose worldview can shift, when a relevant language segment is superceeded by a newer collocation, image, or motif. However, it is something more than just a linguistic change, as noted E.Coseriu: “what is interpreted as “linguistic change” is not a process of change in language products (a does not become e!) but rather the creation of language traditions, the historical objectivization of what has been produced in speech” [Coseriu 1982:149]. A literary text is a more powerful, but frozen, form of speech.

            The general plot of a text can be easily reexpressed in translation, but the expressive language means and their functions in a source language overlap only partially with those of their target language. Here we appeal to the term transtextuality and the identity of texts [Mróz 2001:4]. What connects an original and a translation is an intertextual invariant (correlating with the plot) or a metatext [Попович 1980:184]. But since simultaneously no identical translations exist, each acquires its own identity, i.e. the peculiarity of the conceptual fund, verbal images, and their realization in a national polysystem.

            H.Longfellow selected motifs from the North American Indian culture and transformed them into the verbal images of his poem through English-language tissue, and in this way created an American variant of Anglo culture (American reality in the English language). The task of the translator is to analyse the plane of a source language reality and the author’s worldview in the text, and then to restructure them for a target (lingual) culture. A translator’s worldview should have a minimal effect on the text. Thus, if an original is schematized in the way


An original  =


A language reality


An author’s worldview,

The translation will be formulated in the following way


The translation  =


(a source-language reality + a target-language reality)


(an author’s worldview + a translator’s view).

The most reasonable advice may be to pay as much attention as possible to a target-language reality and an author’s worldview. The ideal formula


The translation  =


A target-language reality


A source-language author’s worldview

does not look possible at all, since every native speaker is born in the conceptual fund of his/her native tongue which demands a high level of conventionalization in order that communication between  all native speakers be successful. In translation, the conceptual funds of a source language and a target language follow the procedures for the general restructuring of conceptualization and abstraction.


            The translations by I.Bunin, Panas Myrnyi and O.Oles’ form a triad, as they all are marked with Bunin’s talent (actually, these Ukrainian translations were done either on the basis, or under influence of the Russian translation by I.Bunin). The translations of the triad are mutually dependent in general: the omission of a literary detail (a lexeme or what) in Bunin’s text causes an analogical omission in those of Panas Myrnyi and O.Oles’. However, exceptions occurred, motivated either by contrasting the text with other translations (see the effects of the German translation on Panas Myrnyi) or by the intuitive expression of a translator’s license (perhaps this explains some facets of O.Oles’). But the coefficient of omissions in secondary translations is generally higher than in translations from the original. For example, I.Bunin’s translation contains 7 zero equivalents, Panas Myrnyi allowed 8 zero equivalents, while O.Oles’ text lacks 14 equivalents (the figure was arrived at according to a given corpus).

            Hiawatha’s mission is expressed by his names-substitutes: a Prophet [I 14:1]* and a Deliverer of the nations [I 14:2]. The prophetic abilities appear only in the last Canto of the poem, where Hiawatha shares his visions [XXI 21:5; XXI 24:1-3; XXI 23:5-6; XXI 25:1-2] about the future of the Indians. The larger part of the poem describes the protagonist as a participant of the “Enlightenment”. H.Longfellow figures Hiawatha as such an Enlightenment figure, and expresses this sense in the name interpretations “the Wise Man, the Teacher” (see the Vocabulary in the end of the poem).

            In the Russian translation, such semantic modeling is properly reflected, as the names orient our view from the larger mission of a prophet to the more specific behaviour of a teacher. The semantic dominant, which is firstly fixed in the lexeme наставник [I 13:3], is followed by the relevant associations советы [I 13:5] and actions научить иcкуcству письма [XIV 25:1-4] and поучать употребленью трав целебных [XV 30:4-5]. Another semantic activation, that of divine nature, is felt in his praying (постится и молится [O 8:5-6; V 1:2-3]) and his visions (виденье [XXI 21:5; XXI 24:1-3; XXI 23:4-5; XXI 25:1-3]). Considerations in this direction help us to construct a macroimage of Hiawatha the Redeemer, who guides and saves his people (указать путь к спасенью [I 13:1]). The translator sees Hiawatha as a binary personality, with a spiritual source and a material realization.

            Ukrainian пророк refers to the high-flown layer of the language as it speaks about the nucleus of Ukrainian spirit, i.e. the spirituality and the religious system of a worldview. Although the 19th-century American worldview was grounded in Biblical values, and it was the Bible that regulated a national literature, the Indian religious system was not a part of the all-American one. Indian Gods stayed exotic and barbaric, and remained situated beyond the bounds of Christian humanism. For that reason the associative complex of Hiawatha is more eloquent in Panas Myrnyi’s than it would sound in the exact sounding: мудра порада [I 13:6] and речі премудрі [I 13:10]. Such equivalents fit the general mood of the poem where Hiawatha always acted in his wisdom [XIV 23:2-4] and in his wise [IX 9:2]. Sometimes this side of his activities is deliberately exaggerated as in [O 8:5-6] where the hero пісникав, молився, працював як без міри (he fasted, prayed, worked as if without limits). The interesting equivalents of the English lexeme vision are found in the text by Panas Myrnyi, i.e. привиденьки [XXI 21:6-7; XXI 24:1-3; XXI 25:1-3]. A contemporary reader would call it too funny and specifically Ukrainian, while in the 19th century P.Kulish actuated the lexemes привидки, привиддя in his Ukrainian translations of the Biblical texts [see: Грінченко т.3, 1996:408]. This might naturally lead our thoughts to the target culture-oriented translation model of Panas Myrnyi.

            Contrasting two translations by Panas Myrnyi and O.Oles’, we can see the domesticating nature of the former, while the latter stays more unintrusive, making Hiawatha less divine and earthier. Being пророк [I 14:1], the hero жив, молився, з сили вибивався [O 8:5-6] and постився і молився за долю всіх народів [V 1:2-3,6-7], he is connected with покута and спасіння [I 14:2-3]. But his mission materializes through the physical strength and the fight as in [O 8:6-7]. Concerning the equivalent of the vision, the lexeme видіння [XXI 22:5; XXI 25:1-3; XXI 24:4-5; XXI 27:1-3] might have been in use at the time, but its metaphorical extension and emotional expression is less wide that in the lexeme привиденьки, modified by the diminutive suffix.

            In the nexus of Hiawatha’s internal attributes, his noble behaviour [IX 7:2; XIX 24:1; XXII 9:1; XIX 9:7; XIX 24:6] keeps a key position. In the translations of the triad the key position is shifted to:

          Courage (отважный [IV 8:1; IX 7:3],  бесстрашный [IX 9:1]) (Bunin). The nobleness of благородный [XIX 25:2; XIX 25:7] occupies the second place in the system of Bunin’s texts when in the original it is the obverse: nobility remains his dominant feature, and courage is secondary.

          Persistence (завзятий [IV 8:1; IX 9:1; IX 7 :2]) (Myrnyi). We can see the translator’s motivation here to transform Hiawatha into a superman, a master of triumph (the term звитяга still remains untranslatable). Nobility (шляхетний [XIX 25:2; XIX 25:7]) delineates another duty of the protagonist.

          In Oles’s translation the capacities of nobility (благородний [XIX 25:2], шляхетний [XIX 25:8]) and courage (відважний [IV 9:1; IX 9:1]) are balanced so that they may signify the interrelatedness of the two concepts. These attributes function as two parts of one entity.

            The locus of the action in the text calls for a mental setting and guarantees a successful realization of a mental form within spatio-temporal coordinates of the reader. The village in The Song of Hiawatha is a North American realia, i.e. “an encampment or community of North American Indians or Eskimos: permanent, or sometimes temporary, during a migration or for a season” [Webster 1996:1401]. A village comprises a group of unique, specifically North American architectural buildings, called wigwams. Such a set of vivid signs of special mental experience is a good test for the application of translation models. I.Bunin once employed the word деревня [XVII 1:2] which expresses the specificity of Russian spirit but was neutralized by his next choice, the too abstract and hyperonymic кров [XIX 11:8] and жилище [XXII 14:2]. In Bunin’s text one can meet some ethnosemantic components or ethnically specific concepts (грези [X 2:2-6], добро и правда [O 8:7-8], спасение [I 13:2]), but the context neutralizes their fit for the North American reality. O.Oles’ applies to a high level of abstraction, thus, finding those common philosophical features of two (or even three) cultures: оселя [XXII 14:2] and повернутися додому [XVII 1:2] are specific mostly on the subjective level of a separate reader’s perception. Panas Myrnyi keeps to his policy of domesticating the original: the concepts село [XVII 1:2] and хата [XIX 11:10; XXII 15:1] are decorated with such traditionally Ukrainian symbols of hospitality as bread and salt (хліб і сіль [XIX 11:10]).

            Thus, according to their inner essence, the translations refer to the single original, but they have separate identities, motivated by the personality of the translator (his/her worldview) and the developmental stage of the target language (its reality).



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Longfellow 1994: Longfellow H.W. The Works / With an Introd. by A.Glover and bibliogr. – S.l.: Wordsworth Poetry Library, 1994. – 886p.

Bunin 1988: Лонгфелло Г. Песнь о Гайавате. [Пер. с англ.: И.А. Бунин]. // Бунин И.А. Собрание сочинений: В 4 т. М.: Правда, 1988. Т. 4. С.235-379.

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Oles’ 1999: Longfellow H. The Song of Hiawatha. = Лонгфелло Г. Пісня про Гаявату. [Пер.: О.Олесь]. К.: Веселка, 1999. 224с. – Текст англ. та укр. мовами.



* The Roman numeral signifies a number of a Canto in the poem, the first Arabic numeral signifies a number of a verse in the Canto, the second Arabic numeral signifies a number of a line in the verse.