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Original scientific paper

Ovid Metamorphosed: Four Translations of Đurđević's Poem Bijeljaše se izdaleka

Irena Bratičević ; Filozofski fakultet Sveučilišta u Zagrebu, Zagreb, Hrvatska

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page 189-266

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At the beginning of his collection of love poetry Ignjat Đurđević placed a poem entitled "Bijeljaše se izdaleka", which apart from certain established love motifs – such as the presence of the beloved woman and thoughts on how to gain her favours – contains an ode to the Slavic language, delivered by the Roman poet Ovid. This generic hybridity opens the text up to new interpretations, evident in the six translations of the poem made in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries: two into Italian, three into Latin and one into English. This essay considers Đurđević's poem both in relation to its reliance on Ovid's oeuvre and with regard to the contemporary ideas about the glorifi cation of the antiquity and scope of the Slavic languages to which Đurđević contributed in his pseudo-scientifi c works as well. The essay then proceeds to study the four extant translations of the poem, with special attention paid to their origin and the relations they have to the original text. The most ancient translation is that by Sebastijan Slade, dating back to 1754 and done in Latin hexameters. By completely removing the love motifs and introducing other changes Slade created an encomium to the "Illyrian" language with a prominent ideological message and an obvious pragmatic purpose. The translation was published as an appendix to his prose treatise On the Antiquity and Scope of the Illyrian Tongue. At the end of the eighteenth century or at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Baldassare Odescalchi rendered the poem in Italian on the basis of the English translation produced by Cornelia Knight. Odescalchi’s paraphrase similarly elides the amorous verses while adding a lengthy and elevated ode to Dubrovnik, not present in Đurđević’s original. At about the same time, Luko Stulli produced an Italian translation in unrhymed hendecasyllables, which shows an equally free treatment of the original but preserves its fundamental ideas. Around 1793 another Latin translation was made by Marin Zlatarić, who rendered the poem in elegiac couplets. Like Slade, Zlatarić foregrounds the praise of the language and its reach, but on the formal level he deploys the kind of diction characteristic of the Roman love elegy. All four translations – regardless of their different motives, aesthetic or patriotic – show that faithfulness to the original, in accordance with the pre-Romantic traditions of translation, is not the most important aim in the translation process. The Italian translation by Marko Antun Vidović has probably been lost, but we know of its existence from his extant correspondence with Stulli and Tommaseo. The English translation of Cornelia Knight is likewise unavailable. Odescalchi mentions it in the title to his translation and it could very well be the fi rst English translation of a text originally written in the Croatian language. The comparison between Odescalchi’s translation, made on the basis of Knight’s English version, and Slade’s, Stulli’s and Zlatarić’s renderings shows that the latter three translations were probably not the source text for Cornelia Knight. She seems to have worked from a Latin or Italian text, most likely another translation that is worth looking for if we are to provide a complete account of the reception which Đurđević’s extremely popular poem enjoyed.


Ignjat Đurđević, Bijeljaše se izdaleka

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