Emily Dickinson's poems in translation/Polish/Hope is the Thing with Feathers/Analysis of Ludmiła Marjańska's translation

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An analysis of the translation[edit]

Ludmiła Marjańska in her translation does not preserve the original capitalization of words, depriving them of their metaphorical meaning, but she uses dashes quite extensively. She saves all the dashes that Dickinson put at the end of the verses and introduces a few which were not intended by the poet, that are the ones at the end of the last two verses. The initial word “hope” is not placed between quotation marks, which also like in the case of the capitalization of particular words, prevents the non-literal reading of it. The first verse of the first stanza “Hope – the feathered creature –“ is elliptic, for it lacks the verb “is”. Elliptic structure is one of the characteristics of Dickinson’s poetry, but the use of it in the lines where it is not originally used unnecessarily breaks the flow of the story told by the speaker in the poem. The bird, like in Iłłakowiczówna’s translation, is most probably a chicken, for it “snugs in the roost in the soul”. The image of a flightless bird is not the one commonly associated with lightness and fastness. The concept of hope requires a symbol which embodies aforementioned traits. What Marjańska did and the other two translators fail to do is the attribution of the quality of endlessness not to the tune, or “a song without words” in the case of Marjańska’s translation, but to the bird’s duty, which as a result emphasizes the fact that its service will always be available for those who need it, for it “will always sing”.


The second stanza, like the first one, opens with an elliptic verse, which also interrupts the continuity of the story the poem reveals. Unlike Dickinson, Marjańska uses a natural order of words in the line “A harsh storm would have to break-“. The poet places the word “storm” at the very end of the line and by this puts an emphasis on it – the word along with its meaning of a serious weather condition has a chance to strike the reader with its harshness. Marjańska like the rest of the translators failed to render the image of a fearless bird. Though her rendition implies that a storm must be very harsh “to startle the little bird”, it still suggests that it may fly away if the storm is even more than harsh. Dickinson by the use of the word “abash”,the one usually used to describe a human being, shows that hope embodied in the bird is virtually deprived of any kind of fear. In the last line Marjańska uses Past Continuous verb form “was keeping”, unlike Dickinson, who uses Past Simple form “kept”. It may be suggest that the bird in the translator’s version was fulfilling its duty as a hope bringer, but never succeeded in completing its task, hence the continuous verb form. In Dickinson’s original poem the reader can draw a conclusion that the bird comforts the ones that need its help.


In the third stanza Marjańska uses the phrases “the chill land” and “the sea strange and deaf” as translations of “the chillest land” and “the strangest Sea” respectively. By using positive forms of adjectives she does not imply that these places are the ones in which one experiences the most intensive chillness and feeling of strangeness. Though the placing of the adjectives “strange” and “deaf” in a postpositive position, that is after the noun they describe, may in a way substitute the lack of superlative forms of the adjectives, the two phrases in Marjańska’s translation are still not as evocative as the original ones. The translator manages in the third line of the last stanza to avoid narrowing down the interpretations of the original phrase “in Extremity” to dying out of hunger, like the other two translators do. She renders it as “in the biggest need” , which may imply the bird being in the state of starvation, but may also be interpreted as any other situation which involves a great hardship the bird has to overcome, in order to be able to serve people who are in the need of hope.