I am attempting to translate the sentance is but an image from Fausts Chorus Mysticus. So far I have это но копия but I am wondering if it should be just но копия as the literal translation of the first sentance is it is but an image. How should the sentance be written? Does the meaning of это change depending on the context in which it is used so as to effectivey be a Russian equivalent of is? Thanks.
This is quite strange to translate English translation(!) into Russian, isn't it?
In Deutsch this excerpt sounds like:
Ist nur ein Gleichnis
That is "All the transient is only similitude". And in Russian: "Всё преходящее есть только подобие". In Pasternak's translation: "Всё быстротечное - символ, сравненье".
So what's the use to translate "is but an image"? If it stood completely without context I'd translate it as: "есть только образ".
First of all, но is just the "but" as in "however". "But" as in "only" is лишь (and "but" as in "not X but Y" is а).
Depending on the exact phrase, you may not even need the это. Or even the dash.
The exact equivalent of is is есть, but it's mostly used to say "there is". It's the same for all persons and numbers in modern Russian.
Also, just in case, beware of суть; most Russian speakers nowadays use it incorrectly, mistaking it for some super-bookish equivalent of есть; in fact, it's merely its obsolete plural form ("they are"), and a sad case of a bastardised archaism.