Wi the Haill Voice


Vladimir Mayakovsky; Edwin Morgan

25 poems by the great Russian futurist translated into Scots by Scotland’s first Makar

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Forty-four years after their first publication, Edwin Morgan’s versions of the great twentieth-century Russian futurist Vladimir Mayakovsky are back in print. Wi the haill voice collects twenty-five of Morgan’s translations into Scots, accompanied by his own introduction and glossary.Writing in a letter to Daniel Weissbort in 1971, Morgan explained: ‘I took up the translation of Mayakovsky primarily because I was strongly taken by his poetry and felt impelled to try to convey the quality and pleasure and power of his work to others. I felt I was sufficiently near his wavelength to understand him sympathetically, and in translation that is half the battle. But I soon discovered that the problems of making straight English versions of Mayakovsky are formidable, and it was almost as if the spirit of the language was against me. The Mayakovskian exclamatoriness, the abrupt changes of tone, the unusual mixture of fantasy, lyricism, and direct civic and moral concern – all seemed recalcitrant to the English medium and to English models. But with the use of Scots, I found that many of the problems quickly dissolved. It is possible to tap a Scottish tradition of both grotesque exaggeration and fantasy and of linguistic extraversion and dash that goes back through MacDiarmid, Burns, and Dunbar. And at the same time, it may be that the linking of the fantastic / wild / grotesque with the moral / political / social comes more easily to the Scottish than to the English poet. […] Scots as a language can get closer than English to the “barbarian lyre” of the revolutionary spirit.’

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