Emily Dickinson's poems in translation/Polish/Success is Counted Sweetest/Analysis

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Analysis of the translations[edit | edit source]

The following analysis is based on Franklin Variorum Edition of 1998. The text below:
F112C - Success is counted sweetest

Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne'er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.

Not one of all the purple Host
Who took the Flag today
Can tell the definition
So clear of Victory

As he defeated - dying -
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Burst agonized and clear!

At first glance, we can see significant variations between the three versions. One aspect of these variations includes punctuation. In this respect Marjańska's rendition is the most faithful to the original. She uses full stops, dashes and exclamation marks only in the places where they appear in the original. She adds, however, many comas to comply with the rules of Polish grammar. Barańczak, in turn, floods his rendition with dashes whreas he spares full stops. In fact, there are only two full stops in the original text, and one full stop in Barańczak's version. The extensive use of dashes may be explained by the translator's attempt to be as concise as possible. Finally, Iłłakowiczówna seems not to follow the original punctuation at all, missing even the final exclamation mark. Barańczak was the only translator who focused on the capitalization of the original phrases such as "Host", "Flag" and "Victory".

As far as the images are concerned, it is Barańczak who uses the most powerful images. In his rendition of the second line of the first stanza, "By those who ne'er succeed" becomes "Tym - co ugięli kark" [ENG: By those - who broke their neck]. The imagery he uses is significantly more vivid, but also more violent. The same applies to "spieczone wargi" [ENG: parched lips] which is simply "sorest need" in the original.

Proceeding to the second stanza, we can see that an interesting variations occurs in the third and fourth line. "The definition of Victory" is rendered as "złoty lauru liść" [ENG: the gold laurel wreath] in Iłłakowiczówna's version, whreas Barańczak's "Definicja Zwycięstwa" is a faithful reproduction of the original idea.

The last stanza is even more intriguing from a translational point of view. Here our translators used a different procedures to create the same effect. The very first line of the third stanza reads "As he defeated - dying -". Marjańska and Iłłakowiczówna employed here a modulation procedure, as "defeated" in their renditions becomes "zwyciężony" [ENG: victorious]. They clearly rendered this line from a different point of view to that of the original.