‘feelin in his banes able to dree the darg and the downie for the life that’s worth it aa.’

Edwin Morgan, though hugely influenced by the city and country of his birth was very much an internationalist and translated many poets from across the world. It’s probably apposite that Morgan, who grew up in the industrial city of Glasgow would feel kinship with the futurist-inspired poetry of Vladmir Mayakovsky,  and we present here, from his Collected Translations, two of his Scots translations from Wi the Haill Voice.


Extracts taken from Collected Translations
By Edwin Morgan
Published by Carcanet Press


From his introduction to Wi the Haill Voice, Morgan writes of Mayakovsky:

‘When Mayakovsky read ‘With the Full Voice’ in the House of the Komsomols in Moscow in March, 1930, the poem was well received, and he obviously felt encouraged at that moment that such a complexly-textured poem should have broken  through the audience barrier. He commented: ‘The fact that it got across to you is very very interesting. It shows that we must, without impoverishing our technique, work devotedly for the working­ class reader.’ In the more-proletarian-than-thou word-battles of the later 1920s, Mayakovsky was often under attack for his diffi­culty, or for what was regarded as the lingering bad legacy of futurist extravagance in his work, or for what seemed to some an insufficient identification with workers’ problems and aspira­tions. Many of the attacks were unjust, and distressed him greatly; the philistines, gaining confidence and power, certainly contributed to his eventual suicide, whatever more personal causes were at work. Resilient, if not resilient enough in the end.’


To the Bourgeoisie

Stick in, douce folk. – Pineaipple, feesant’s breast:
stuff till ye boke, for thon is your last feast.

[‘Yesh’ ananasy. . .]


A Richt Respeck for Cuddies

Horse-cluifs clantert
giein their patter:

Bleezed in the blafferts,
wi ice-shoggly bauchles,
the street birled and stachert.
The cuddy cam clunk,
cloitit doon doup-scud,
and wheech
but the muckle-mou’d moochers werna lang
in makin theirsels thrang,
gawpus eftir gawpus, aa gaw-hawin
alang the Kuznetsky in their bell-bottom breeks.
‘Aw, see the cuddy’s doon!’
‘Aw, it’s doon, see the cuddy!’ And aa Kuznetsky gaffit.
Aa but me.
I didna jyne the collieshangie.
I cam and kest a gliff in til
the cuddy’s ee…

The street’s owrewhammelt
in its ain breenges …

I cam and I saw
the muckle draps that scrammelt
doon the cratur’s niz-bit
to coorie in its haffits …

And oh but the haill
clamjamfry o craturly
cares cam spillin and splairgein
fae ma hert wi a reeshle!
‘Ned, Ned, dinna greet!
Listen to me, Ned –
ye think thae buggers are the saut o thr erd?
My chiel,
neds are we aa, to be honest wi ye;
nae man’s unnedlike, in his ain wey.’
Aweel, it micht be
the beast was an auld yin
and had nae need for a fyke like me,
or was my thochts a wheen coorse for a cuddy?

gied a loup whaur he liggit,
stoitert to his feet,
gied a nicher
and the flisk
o his tail doon the street.
My chestnut chiel!
Back hame to his stable
lauchin like a pownie
staunin by the stable-waa
feelin in his banes able
to dree the darg and the downie
for the life that’s worth it aa.

[Khoroshee otnoshenie k loshadyam]


Collected Translations by Edwin Morgan is published by Carcanet Press, priced £14.95

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