John Milton’s Iambic Pentameter in Russian Translations: The Problem of Equirhythmic Correspondence to the Source Text




poetic rhythm, J. Milton, Paradise Lost, translation strategy


The author of this article compares two Russian poetic translations of J. Milton’s Paradise Lost by O. Chyumina (1899) and A. Steinberg (1976). The comparison is based on the rhythmic specific features of the introduction to the poem. The article aims to identify the translators’ strategies when working with the rhythmic structure of each poetic line as a peculiar case of meter (iambic pentameter) realisation. Obviously, preserving iambic pentameter does not mean making the text sound the way it does in the original in the target language. Consequently, when comparing two poetic variants of the text, it is necessary to consider the individual characteristics of each verse: pyrrhic feet, rhythmic italics, etc. The author proposes the term “equirhythmicity” for the degree of approximation to absolute rhythmic equality of the original. It is assumed that “equirhythmicity” can serve as a qualitative and quantitative characteristic of a translation and, therefore, as a basis for comparing translations. This assumption is tested with reference to the introduction to Paradise Lost, which occupies 26 lines in the English original and 35 (O. Chyumina) and 28 (A. Steinberg) lines in the Russian translations. This increase in text volume is not only due to the fact that Russian words are longer than those in English but also the absence of rhyme and regular stanzas and different translation strategies in general. The table of lexical correspondences proposed by the author demonstrates that O. Chyumina cares about rendering all words as fully as possible, thus not seeing any problem in syllabic inequality and, consequently, in the extension of the text. This occurs in the number of her lexical additions, which is 2.5 times higher than A. Steinberg’s. On the contrary, the latter tries to compensate for the syllabic expansion using lexical omissions and choosing the shortest possible equivalents. Based on the calculated average coefficients of syllabic correspondence and qualitative equirhythmic analysis, the author draws a conclusion about a more considerable formal correspondence of Steinberg’s translation to the original (as compared to Chyumina’s), with minimal lexical and semantic losses. Both Russian versions come to be “equirhythmic” and reflect the corresponding trends in the history of Russian translation.

Author Biography

Vladislav Bortnikov

PhD (Philology), Associate Professor, Ural Federal University named after the first President of Russia B. N. Yeltsin.

19, Mira Str., 620002, Yekaterinburg, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0002-3001-840X


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How to Cite

Bortnikov, V. (2023). John Milton’s Iambic Pentameter in Russian Translations: The Problem of Equirhythmic Correspondence to the Source Text. Quaestio Rossica, 11(4), 1166–1181.



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