Abstract and keywords

Ritið 2/11 - 2011

Ástráður Eysteinsson og Eysteinn Þorvaldsson: A Visitor Arrives: On Edgar Allan Poe's „The Raven“ and Seven Icelandic Versions of the Poem

This article focuses on various aspects of Edgar Allan Poe's poem „The Raven“ as they appear both in the original and in seven Icelandic translations of the poem. The history of the poem in Iceland spans more than a century, the first two translations, both from 1892, being by two of Iceland's most important poets at the time, Einar Benediktsson and Matthías Jochumsson. Two more translations emerged in 1934 and 1941, by Sigurjón Friðjónsson and Skuggi (pen name of Jochum Eggertsson), and two more again in the 1980's, by Þorsteinn frá Hamri (a leading contemporary poet) and Gunnar Gunnlaugsson. A seventh translation, by Iceland's most prominent literary translator of the second half of the 20th Century, Helgi Hálfdanarson (1911–2009), stems from the mid–20th Century but is published for the first time in the present issue of Ritið. It was found among his posthumous papers and is given special attention in this article.

Leaning on an Icelandic metric tradition, all seven Icelandic translators opt for an eleven–line stanza for the original's six lines. Given this change in form, however, the Icelandic versions stay close to the rhyme pattern and rhythmic structure of the original (two lines in Icelandic corresponding to the octameter of Poe's longer line). Following an analysis of the poem's rhyme pattern and emotive structure, the different translations, pointing out how certain aspects get enhanced (such as the horror element in Skuggi's translation), while others become less pronounced. The translation (cf. the ore–rhyme which is threaded through Poe's whole poem, amplifying the keyword "nevermore"). But by sacrificing the lead–rhyme, supposedly the poem's key sign of formal continuity, Hálfdanarson in fact creates space for himself to pursue other thematic, figurative and formal features that engage and strengthen the structural continuity of the poem.

Keywords: "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe in Icelandic; translation and literary history; translation of verse forms, comparative analysis.

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