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My Russian teacher, whom you know by his tough approach to teaching the language, strongly pushed me to try to translate English poems into Russian, and we agreed I'd have a look at Hymn to the Wild Boar by Grenfell and see what I can do. So here I am, sitting at home in the evening and desperately trying to come up with some good lines.

The original English text starts with:

God gave the horse for man to ride, ⁠

And steel wherewith to fight,

And wine to swell his soul with pride, ⁠

And women for delight:

But a better gift than these all four

Was when He made the fighting boar.

My current translation of the first four lines is:

Бог дал коня верхом скакать,

И сталь рубиться без пощады,

Вино, чтоб душу заливать,

И женщин для услады.

It sounds fine and dandy so far, but what do I do with the fighting boar? I'm totally stuck at this point in my pursuit of perfection. Боевой кабан sounds weird and, in particular, implies that the boar is a kind of fighting unit. Воинственный кабан, in turn, is an imprecise translation and, more importantly, unavoidably breaks the rhythm. Бойцовский кабан causes a smile and thereby undermines the seriousness of the poem. Боевитый кабан is plain laughable. The choice is critical because the expression the fighting boar is repetitively used in the poem.

Seeing no good choice available, I omitted fighting altogether and wrote in a desperate impulse:

Но милость та была превзойдена,

Когда создал Он кабана.

I can't get rid of the feeling that I am doing injustice to the original text.

My question: How should I translate the expression the fighting boar in Grenfell's poem into Russian?

I humbly hope that you, wise native Russian speakers, could kindly come up with some good suggestions to help a desperate Japanese student overcome the above difficulty in her naive attempts to translate English poetry into your rich and wonderful language.

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    "that I am doing injustice to the original text." - any translation does. Stick with just "кабан", do not try to translate the "fighting" adjective directly, this won't work in Russian. Think of a way to express the "fighting" bit implicitly. Don't use вепрь or you'll have to change the style of the whole verse towards the more archaic one... – tum_ Mar 1 at 0:21
  • Your translation is not doing injustice to the original text, and I say it as someone who does translations for a living. – svavil Mar 1 at 10:35
  • your translation is very good! however, judging by your teacher's previous feedback, I think I can anticipate some criticism from his part, do you wanna hear it? – Quassnoi Mar 2 at 21:05
  • @Quassnoi : I always read your posts and comments with great interest, so you're very welcome to write what you think my teacher might say or how my text can be improved. – Mitsuko Mar 3 at 9:53
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    Коня - для верховой езды, тесак - врагу давать пизды, вино - бухать, кляня судьбу, жену, которую ̶е̶б̶у̶ люблю, вино, которое я пью, а также дикую свинью. – Headcrab Mar 6 at 5:48
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I support your idea that just кабан is fine, and probably the best you can do. More often than not, it already implies дикий (its English equivalent is 'wild boar' rather than just 'boar'). For this poem, it will invariably imply a hunting context.

In a domestic context, the generic свинья is usually used, or when 'maleness' is important, the specific хряк or боров.

Вепрь is good (and common enough), but it's more difficult for verses, and is basically the same thing anyway. It feels a bit dated, but this would not be a concern for this poem.

I would rule out any other words such as the aforementioned секач: that is indeed uncommon, and it would be wrong to use a peculiar word in place of a common English boar.

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You might want to look at the word "вепрь" - which literally means "wild boar" in Russian - and try to use it in your rhyme.

P.S. - your translation is amazing by the way! I am native Russian speaker and I'm amazed by your beautiful rhyme structure. Although the word "милость" seems slightly out of place here to me, but I'm in no way an expert in literary translation of poems, so I won't criticize.

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  • Wow, that's a fantastic idea! I am curious, however, as to what proportion of Russians actually know that word. – Mitsuko Feb 29 at 14:52
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    @Mitsuko - Every native Russian speaker knows well the word "вепрь". But since "fighting boar" is the refrain in that poem by Grenfell, "вепрь" can pose a problem for you, since there are no exact rhymes for "вепрь" in Russian... – Yellow Sky Feb 29 at 15:29
  • @YellowSky I did not know that word before Quora. I would assume it is a kind of insect, lol. – Anixx Mar 1 at 10:56
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I think the word you're looking for is секач:

СЕКАЧ: … 2. Взрослый, с сильными нижними клыками самец кабана, морского котика.

It also rhymes with a lot of words in Russian, including verbs, adjectives and adverbs.

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  • Вино, чтоб хвастать на пиру. Красивых баб (я их деру). Коня, чтоб я на нём скача. Стальной клинок - рубить сплеча. И, напоследок - СЕКАЧА!!! (Увидел - задал стрекача.) – Headcrab Mar 6 at 5:36
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"The fighting boar" in this context is a beast that defends itself against attacks by a hunter. In the figurative sense, "boar" acts as some kind of difficulty that a brave and courageous man can face. The man gets much more pleasure from overcoming this difficulty than from all other entertainment. In Julian Grenfell's poem, difficulty is compared with "the fighting boar". It becomes obvious if you read the whole poem. The last line - "True men do ride the fighting boar." - explains the meaning of the word "fighting" used to the poem. A true man should not be afraid of difficulties. He must "tame" them.

Based on the above, I would translate the word "fighting" as "неукротимый" and the expression "the fighting boar" as "неукротимый зверь". This may be at the expense of the accuracy of the translation, but for the sake of greater expressivity, because "неукротимый кабан/вепрь" sounds a little redundant.

The use of the word "свирепый" suggested by Александр Кравченко, by the way, is quite appropriate, as it seems to me.

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I am VERY impressed with your translation.

You may want to continue like this:

Но схватка с вепрем в дикой чаще
Любых желаний будет слаще.

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    Возможно, это только мои проблемы, но первая мысль почему-то о свиноложестве... – Headcrab Mar 11 at 15:10
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    @Headcrab Дабы не вводить людей в соблазн, я изменил предложенный мною перевод: "Но с̶л̶у̶чк̶а̶ схватка с вепрем в дикой чаще..." – Michael_1812 Mar 11 at 19:38
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    Спасибо, полегчало. – Headcrab Mar 11 at 23:35
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I guess, дикий кабан is usually свирепый

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Бог дал коня верхом скакать,
И сталь рубиться без пощады,
Вино гордыню поливать,
Прелестных женщин для услады.

Но пятый дар ценней их всех -

То сотворенный дикий вепрь.


Really, this is the difficult task; As you yourself have already noted, most adjectives are laughable here; But well - the concept itself makes me laugh. I laughed at the original. Кабан... дар небес. And in general there is no obeisance for all these ... to the idea of this poem and its "heroes".

The thing that can still be offered here is a few synonyms (or so) for "воинственный" (and this is probably the best semantically option) - яростный,ярый, дикий, мятежный, драчливый, грозный, свирепый ...ну, отважный :>, буйный... жестокий, неукротимый..

Idiom that would fully and absolutely accurately translate the meaning of "fighting boar" in Russian I don't know. Anything closer to "fighting" - нападающий, сражающийся, геройский, боевой, доблестный, etc., and those that you have already noted -I think, will be sounds funny in Russian. Obviously, the point is in our stereotypes about boars (and this is only about them yet :> ..) But... сражающийся... "Сражающий" - может быть ?

Гарцует благородный конь

В сердцах поёт свобод огонь

Меч рассекает небеса

И слепит алчные глаза.

Не жил б в лесу секач свирепый -

Господь бы выглядел нелепо ! :>>

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  • эти феодалы такие феодалы ... .. –  Пилум Feb 29 at 21:59
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    Тогда уж: "Им сотворённый дикий вепрь", но надо ведь весь текст перевести. Вот тут-то проблемы и начинаются :) – tum_ Mar 1 at 0:27
  • да нет, не надо. Зачем. :> Смысл надо передать. –  Пилум Mar 1 at 9:07
  • А под конец создал вепря, нас этим круто одаря... – Headcrab Mar 6 at 5:34

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