Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2009 All Rights Reserved
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Moscow, Russia’s darling daughter,
Where shall we find your like?
How can we not love our Moscow?
Scorn Moscow? Is the world so marvellous?
Where could be better? – Where there are none of us!
From the neighbouring hills, the snow
Driven by the springtime sun,
Flows in turbid streams that run
Down to the flooded fields below.
Nature wakes from dream, lightly,
Greets the new season, brightly.
A brilliant azure lights the sky,
And still transparent to the eye
The naked woods show downy green.
Out of its waxen cell, the bee
Goes to raid nature’s treasury.
The valleys show a dappled sheen;
The cattle low; a nightingale,
In night’s deep silence, tells its tale.
And yet how sad you seem to me,
Spring, ah Spring! The time of love!
With what strange languid agony,
You fill my soul, and my blood!
How heavy the emotion weighing
On my heart, to feel the straying
Breath of spring caress my face,
In some peaceful rural place!
Are all such things quite alien
To me – joyous things that shine,
All that is glad, lives, never mine –
Bringing boredom, anguish, then,
To a soul that perished long ago;
And all this world dark below?
Or un-consoled by the return
Of leaves that vanished in the fall,
Do we recall those doomed to burn,
Hearing fresh whispers sigh and call?
Or finding Nature re-awaken,
Our past forever dead, forsaken,
Perhaps the troubled soul remembers
Years long gone, now faded embers?
Or some poetic reverie
A memory to the mind may bring
Of another, older spring,
And, in the aching heart, set free
Dreams of a country, lost too soon,
O magic night, enchanted moon…
It’s time, you inveterate idlers,
Whom Epicurean maxims rule,
You fortunate philosophers,
You acolytes of Levshin’s school,
You rustic Priams, elemental,
And all you ladies sentimental –
Spring calls you to the fertile soil,
Warmth, growth and outdoor toil,
And to those seductive nights,
Long walks, and fresh inspiration,
To the fields, my friends! Run, run!
In coaches, burdensome or light,
Drawn by post-horses, or your own,
Forgo the city’s ceaseless drone.
And you, my dear indulgent reader,
In foreign gig that you employ,
Flee the metropolis, its bother,
That all last winter gave you joy;
Join me and my capricious Muse,
And listen to the forest news,
Beside that nameless river shore,
That our Yevgeny found a bore,
And where he spent those icy days,
As a recluse, idle, gloomy,
Near young Tatyana, whom we
Know lives in a dreamy haze;
Where he’s no longer to be found,
Though sad echoes still resound.
Deep in the hill-encircled valley,
We’ll take the trail towards the stream,
Through meadows, down a lime-tree alley,
To where the silent shallows gleam,
Where the nightingale, spring’s lover,
Sings all night, wild roses cover
Bank and brake, sweet waters flow –
Where two shadowy pine trees grow,
The passer-by can read the legend
On the stone, with his own eyes
‘Here, young Vladimir Lensky lies,
Who met with an untimely end,
At such and such a date, and age;
Rest, poet, from your pilgrimage.’
On a pine-branch bending there
Over the simple urn below,
When morning breezes filled the air,
A wreath once swayed to and fro.
And dark beneath the branches’ cover,
Their arms entwined about each other,
Two girls, when the moon shone clear,
Would haunt the grave, and shed a tear.
Today…no wreath hangs on the bough,
The woodland path is overgrown,
The tale forgotten and the stone;
Only the shepherd, aged now,
Sits there as he’s accustomed to,
And sings, and plaits a lime-bark shoe.
Poor Lenksy! Not for long did Olga
Pine for you, and mourn your fate!
Alas! Young girls are faithless ever,
The dove will soon forget its mate.
Another captured her attention,
Another star had its ascension,
Flattery soon soothed her pain,
A Lancer, who was loved again,
A Lancer, with undying devotion…
Soon, beneath the bridal crown,
At the altar, head bowed down,
She stands, blushing with emotion,
Lowered eyes their gleams eclipse,
While a soft smile adorns her lips.
Poor Lensky! In the grave’s far bourn,
Beyond the voiceless boundary,
Did the singer sadly mourn
His knowledge of her frailty?
Or by Lethe blissfully
In deep forgetfulness, does he
Sleep soundly, in oblivion,
The world to him both sealed and dumb? ...
So be it! Neutral nothingness
Awaits us all, at the end,
Voice of lover, foe and friend,
Falls silent. Only heir, heiress,
Are heard, perverse, insatiate,
Quarrelling over our estate.
And soon our Olga’s chiming voice
Was heard at the Larin’s no more:
Back to his regiment, her choice
Must go, a slave to army law.
The old mother, broken-hearted,
Wept for her daughter; as they parted
It seemed she could barely breathe;
Yet Tanya scarcely seemed to grieve;
Only a strange sad pallor clouded
Her face, like one about to die.
When on the porch they said goodbye,
Kissed, and fussed about, and crowded
Round the carriage, she was there,
To say her farewells to the pair.
And for a long while Tanya stood
Eyes misted, as they sped away…
Alone, alone it seemed for good!
Alas! Her friend of many a day,
Her confidante, her own sweet dove,
The ally she was born to love,
Is carried far from her by fate,
Forever now, they separate.
She wanders, purposeless, a shade,
Gazes at the empty garden,
Seeing nothing there to gladden,
No solace in the silent glade:
By melancholy tears oppressed,
Her aching heart can find no rest.
Now, in her cruel isolation,
Her silent passion’s more intense,
Onegin, in this desolation,
Far off, invades her every sense.
She knows she must not see him, ever
That she should hate him now forever,
The murderer of their dear friend;
The poet is no more…the end
Of all, oblivion; this too,
His darling to another wed;
All memory of him swiftly fled
Like smoke dispersing in the blue;
Two hearts there are, two that grieve
Perhaps, for him…And yet, why grieve?
Dusk falls. The sky is dark. The river
Quietly flows. The beetle drones.
The rural dancers now retire
From the field, with hushed tones.
On the far bank, the smoky flare,
A fisherman’s fire: Tanya there,
Alone, where the meadow gleams
In the silvery moonlight, dreams,
Walks on forever: on and on.
Then from the heights she sees
A village, a house among the trees,
A glittering stream beside a garden!
She gazes – feels a throbbing start,
While faster, stronger pounds her heart.
She hesitates, is filled with doubt:
‘Should I turn back now, or go on? ...
I’m not known; he’s not about…
Why not view the house, or garden?
So scarcely breathing, she descends
The hill slope and where it ends
Looks about her…fate has brought
Her to the wide deserted court:
The dogs run towards her, barking,
But swiftly, at her nervous cry,
From the yard the serf-boys fly,
A noisy crowd; and fighting, larking,
Drive the dogs off, to ensure
That Tanya can reach the door.
‘Could I, perhaps, just see inside?’
Tatyana asks: And instantly
The lads run to find a guide:
‘Where’s Anisya with the key?’
The old crone comes at their call,
Ushers Tanya through the hall,
Echoing in its emptiness:
Our hero’s previous address.
She gazes: a discarded cue
Lies on the billiard table’s top,
On the divan, a riding-crop.
The housekeeper nods her through:
‘By the fireplace, there’s his chair,
The master often brooded there.’
‘And here with our neighbour, Lensky,
Before the young man’s death, he’d dine,
In winter-time. Please, follow me:
Here’s his study, he’d recline
On that very couch, and rest;
Sip coffee; or at his request
The steward came; he’d read a book…
See here too, my old master’s nook;
He’d sit here of a Sunday,
Don his spectacles to see
The cards, and play whist with me,
By that window: now I pray
His soul’s at peace, his bones at rest:
That they by Mother Earth are blessed!
Tatyana with deep emotion,
Gazes, painfully, around her;
Each object is, to her notion,
A priceless treasure, here to stir
The soul with torment and delight;
The desk with its shaded light,
The pile of books, then the bed
With a Persian fabric spread,
The twilit view beyond the glass,
The clouded moon, and on the wall
Lord Byron’s portrait, by a small
Cast-iron statue which they pass,
Napoleon, arms crossed, with that
Wide gloomy brow and bicorn hat.
In this fashionable monk’s cell,
Tatyana lingers: she’s spell-bound.
But it grows late; the wind as well
Blows chill; the sleeping groves, around
The darkened river, vapours fill;
The moon is hidden by a hill;
And as for our young votaress,
It’s time to leave. Feigning calmness,
Our Tanya, not without a sigh,
Departs the room, yet asks Anisya
If she might return to see her,
And, if permitted, by and by,
Though the house is empty, use
That room to sit in, read, and muse.
She parts then, from the housekeeper,
At the gate, says her goodbyes,
Yet at dawn the restless sleeper
Wakes, and to the house she flies.
Lost in her own deep reverie,
Enters the study silently,
Oblivious of the world around her,
She weeps. The books surround her,
And at long last claim attention,
Though, in her indifference,
At first they make but little sense,
Then, intrigued by the collection,
She samples them, and as if called
To an unknown world’s enthralled.
Onegin’s love for books, we know,
Had vanished long ago, and yet
Among the many doomed to go
There were some favourites he kept;
Poet of the Giaour and Don Juan,
Byron was there – and novels, one
Or two, the age drawn with élan,
A profile of contemporary man
Penned with unerring accuracy,
A creature heartless and amoral;
His spirit egotistical,
And lost in endless reverie;
An embittered mind that seethes
With vain ideas the brain conceives.
On many pages could be seen
The imprint of his fingernail,
And Tanya all attention, keen
To follow him, pursued the trail,
Trembling too, with her intent,
To see what fresh enlightenment,
Eugene had found, with what word
He’d agreed, what found absurd.
In the margins where, with care,
He’d made pencil marks, his soul
Was revealed, recorded whole,
Unconsciously, apparent there:
Now an underline; now a dark
Comment; now a question-mark.
And so my Tanya began
– Thank God – bit by bit, to learn
His nature, comprehend the man,
For whom her heart was made to burn,
By fate’s implacable decree.
That sad and dangerous mystery,
Was he from Heaven or from Hell,
A devil in pride, or yet an angel,
Which was he? Mere imitation,
An empty phantom, or a joke,
A Muscovite in Childe Harold’s cloak,
A poor second-hand illustration,
A fashionable glossary,
A lexicon, a parody?
Had she solved the conundrum,
Had she found the word at last?
The clock runs swiftly on and on,
The guests have come, the hour is past,
At home they’re already waiting,
She’s the subject they’re debating:
‘What’s to be done? She’s not a child.’
Her mother’s scarcely reconciled:
‘Olga’s younger, yet she’s wed,
Tanya should be married too.
But what on earth is one to do?
She turns them all down, instead
It’s: “I won’t.” Then on her own
She’ll brood, or roam the woods alone.’
‘She’s not in love then?’ ‘Tell me who!
Buyanov’s asked her: she refused.
And Petushkov – spurned him too.
That Hussar, Pykhtin, she confused,
He was quite infatuated,
Flattered her, smiled, ingratiated
Himself! I thought: “He’s the one,”
But no! Not a bit of it, he’s gone.’ –
‘You must widen the net, my dear.
Moscow’s a better market-place!
The setting for a pretty face.’ –
‘But oh, the expense, not like here!’ –
‘You could afford a winter season,
Come, borrow from me, within reason.’
Her mother always valued greatly
Advice both sensible and sound.
The accounts were done, and swiftly
Funds for a Moscow winter found.
Tanya had news of the decision.
To face society’s derision,
Present the clearest evidence
Of shy provincial innocence,
Of fashions always out of date,
Of simple speech and rural ways
And let the proud and mocking gaze
Of beaus and Circes speak her fate! ...
Oh, horror! Better safely hidden
Deep in the woods, than do as bidden.
Rising with the morning light,
She rushes to the open fields,
Her sad eyes tearful and bright,
And to deep emotion yields:
‘Farewell, you valleys, peaceful, dear,
You too, familiar hills, I fear;
And you, familiar woods I love,
Farwell beauty of skies above;
Farewell nature, my joy, adieu;
I leave such quiet haunts as these
For a noisy world of vanities…
Farwell to you, my freedom, too!
And why? What am I striving for?
What future does fate hold in store?’
All her daily walks grow longer,
There is a stream, and here a hill,
That with sheer beauty charms Tatyana
Arresting her against her will.
Seeking their charms she goes to meet
The groves and meadows at her feet,
And speaks to them, as to old friends.
Yet all too soon the summer ends,
And here is autumn golden-browed,
Then nature trembles, deathly pale,
A victim, decked out for the gale…
And now the north wind drives the cloud,
Blows and howls – and presently,
The Enchantress, Winter: here is she!
Scattering herself abroad, she flies,
Whitening the oak boughs, and fills
With her carpet, billowing where it lies,
The meadows and the slopes of hills;
Levels the borders of the stream,
Covered with sheets of downy gleam;
The frost glitters. We give thanks,
Welcome with joy the winter’s pranks.
But Tanya’s spirit is unmoved,
Indifferent to wintry delights;
Breathing the frosted air of nights;
Washing, with fresh snow, removed
From the roof, face, shoulders, breast.
By winter her mute heart’s oppressed.
The long-delayed departure day
Is here at last, the journey planned,
The sledded coaches, stored away,
Re-upholstered, there they stand,
Three large kibitkas, by tradition.
Their loads are placed in position;
Chairs, chests, and watering-cans,
Jars of jam, and frying-pans,
Featherbeds, cockerels in cages,
Pots and basins, jugs; the kind
Of things none dare leave behind;
Then the servant’s noise presages
Loud farewells, with many a tear;
And eighteen nags now appear.
They’re harnessed to the master’s sleighs,
While the breakfast is preparing,
The load on each kibitka sways,
Wenches and coachmen swearing;
The bearded outrider’s astride
His nag: it’s ill, it nearly died.
The servants gather by the gate,
To call a last farewell: it’s late;
The ladies seated; then away:
‘Farewell now, you haunts of peace,
Farewell, lonely sanctuaries.’
In procession, sleigh by sleigh.
‘Is this forever’, sadly cries
Tatyana, with tear-stained eyes.
When progress and enlightenment
Have had sufficient time to act
(And philosophic sentiment
Now estimates we need, in fact,
A mere five hundred years) our roads
Will be improved to take such loads:
Russia will be one great highway,
Unifying every by-way.
Cast-iron spans will leap the river,
And stride in arches every way,
We’ll move the mountains, and pay
To drive bold tunnels underwater,
And godly folk will institute,
Fine inns too, all along the route.
But as it is, our roads are bad;
Our neglected bridges crumble,
The fleas at halts drive you mad,
Force you to lie awake, and mumble.
Inns, there are none. In some hut,
Freezing cold, a menu’s put
Before you, simply to excite,
In vain, your growing appetite;
Meanwhile the village Cyclops toils,
Slowly, by his slumbering fire,
With Russian hammer, he’ll aspire
To mend Europe’s dainty coils,
Blessing Russia’s ruts and ditches
Made by sorcerers and witches.
Yet in frozen winter time
Travel’s easy, a delight;
Like modern verse, our empty rhyme,
The roads are smooth, the burden light.
So lively are our charioteers,
Our troikas fit to run for years,
The mile-markers soothe the eye,
Like fence-posts swiftly flashing by.
But then Larina crawled along;
To avoid the usual expense
Of post-horses, it made sense
To use their nags, and so prolong
The tedious halts that, with delays,
The journey took them seven days.
Yet now they’re near. Before them lies
White Moscow, stone and blazing fire
Where cupolas raise to glowing skies
Their golden crosses, lifted higher.
Ah, friends! How often joyous, too,
I suddenly beheld that view,
Of park and palace, spire and dome,
With all its mysteries of home.
How often, dumb with separation,
In my nomadic exile, then,
Moscow, I dreamed of you again!
Moscow….what depths of fascination
Live in that name, what echoes start,
And sound in every Russian heart!
Surrounded by its ancient trees
There the Petrovsky palace rises,
Proud, in its glorious memories,
For here, elated by the prizes
Fate had granted, Napoleon,
Waited on Moscow’s submission,
Crawling to him on her knees,
To offer up the Kremlin keys.
But there was no capitulation,
My Moscow chose not to bow;
No gift, no feast she gave him now,
Only a mighty conflagration.
From here, plunged in thought, he saw
The threatening flames skyward soar.
Proud witness of that fallen glory,
Farewell! No lingering here,
Drive on! And, to resume our story,
The city gates gleam white; they’re near;
Then down Tverskaya Street they bump,
Stalls flash by, and urchins jump,
Lamp-posts, mansions, monasteries,
Sleighs and shacks and boulevards,
Cossacks, Bokharans, merchants,
Pharmacies, towers, and peasants,
Fashionable shops, and yards,
Lions on gates, with frozen roars,
And church-crosses black with daws.
This whole exhausting journey takes
Two hours at least, but then, once past,
St Chariton’s, the carriage brakes;
A gateway in a lane: at last!
They’ve come to an old aunt who’s ailing
Consumptive, four years past, and failing.
A Kalmuck, in a ragged smock,
Flings wide the door, he holds a sock
He darns, old spectacles adorn
His face, the princess, in the parlour,
Calls her welcome from the sofa;
Her plight indeed is most forlorn;
The two old women weep, embrace,
Then rattle on at lightening pace.
‘Princess, mon ange’ – ‘Pachette!’ – ‘Alina!’
‘Who’d have though it?’ – ‘What an age!
Darling, how long can you stay here?’
– ‘Dear Cousin!’ – ‘Sit: it’s like a page
From a novel, yet here you are…!’ –
‘And this is my own Tatyana.’ –
‘Ah, Tanya, dear! Come, let me see –
Cousin, it’s like a dream to me…
Do you recall your Grandison?’
‘My Grandison? …Oh, Grandison! Yes!
Where is he, now?’ ‘You’ll never guess,
In Moscow, he’s near St Simeon,
He visited at Christmas…Oh!
His son was wed not long ago,’
‘And he…but we’ve time tomorrow
For all of that now, have we not?
We’ll show off Tanya, a pity though
I can’t go out: my legs they’re what
Betray me, while you poor thing
Must be worn out with travelling;
Oh, I’ve no strength…it’s my chest…
We both should take a little rest…
It’s all too much such happiness,
And as for trouble…well, I’m done for,
No use it seems, any more:
Old age is pain and wretchedness…’
With that her weary voice gave out;
She wept, endured a coughing bout.
The invalid’s kind words must fill
Tanya with gratitude, and yet
She finds all unfamiliar, still,
Her former room she can’t forget.
Behind the strange bed’s silken drapes,
She lies for hours, while sleep escapes
Her eyes: the bell towers chime,
And wake her many and many a time,
Calling Moscow to its labours;
Seated by the window pane
As the shadows slowly wane,
No fields prove to be her neighbours,
But only a yard, strange, immense,
Stables, kitchens, and a fence.
They dine out at the relatives
Every day, both near and far;
Despite the pallor languor gives,
Grandmamma and grandpapa
Welcome her with open arms,
With exclamations at her charms,
Greet her enthusiastically,
With copious hospitality.
‘How Tanya’s grown! Your christening
Last year was it? I dandled you!
And boxed you ears, a time or two!
And fed you cake!’ Tanya’s barely listening
To the old dears’ perennial cry:
‘Goodness how the years speed by!’
But none of them have changed a bit,
They keep to their habitual ways:
There’s Princess Helena’s tulle bonnet,
The one she wore in former days;
Powder-white Lukerya Lvovna;
A liar yet, Lubov Petrovna;
Ivan Petrovich, none the wiser;
Semyon Petrovitch, still the miser;
With Aunt Pelageya Nikolevna
Her same friend Monsieur Finemouche,
The same husband, the same pooch,
Her spouse the club’s most loyal member,
As meek, as deaf, who, nothing new,
Still eats and drinks enough for two.
Their daughters offer their embraces,
Then gaze at Tanya, silently,
They, dear Moscow’s living graces,
Survey provincial mystery;
They find her strange, somewhat affected,
Unfashionable, but that’s expected,
A little pale and thin, but all
In all, not unacceptable,
And soon reveal their better nature,
Invite her home, too, in the end,
Squeeze her hand, kiss their friend,
Fluff her hair to suit, dear creature,
And in a sing-song voice confide,
Some girlish secret that they hide.
Tell of their conquests, others’ too,
Their hopes, their pranks, their reveries;
The guileless stories, not a few
Embellished by their jealousies.
And then demand an expression
Of her own heartfelt confession,
In exchange, her hopes and fears;
But Tatyana, scarcely hears
Dreaming, understanding nothing,
Guarding with unconscious art
The deepest secret of her heart,
The joy and pain she’s cherishing,
Hoarding her treasure silently,
Concealing its reality.
The chatter, and the conversation,
She feels are things she should share,
But drawing-room pre-occupation
With vulgar tales is coarse and bare.
All is so pale and colourless,
Even their slanders meaningless,
Their questions pointless, dry and dull;
Stale gossip, news, of that they’re full,
But never a fresh thought all day,
Not even just by accident,
Not even a joke half-innocent,
Lights the mind with its bright ray,
Not even plain idiocy redeems,
Their empty world, or so it seems.
Fashionable Record Office clerks,
Quite rarefied, review my Tanya,
Comparing notes, like circling sharks,
And pass sarcastic judgement on her.
One melancholy jester leaning
In the doorway, idly preening,
Finds her Ideal, and fitfully
Rhymes her, in an elegy.
Once calling on an aunt, the bored
Prince Vyazemsky sat beside her,
Was for a while her entertainer;
And an old man whom she’d ignored
Asked her name, straightened his wig,
And gave his neighbour’s ribs a dig.
And there, where bold Melpomene,
Wailing aloud her tragic part,
Waves her mantle, somewhat tawdry,
Grants an indifferent crowd her art;
Where Thalia is quietly napping,
Heedless of their friendly clapping;
Where only fair Terpsichore,
Awakes a young man’s loyalty,
(As was the case in times gone by,
Our days of youth, now past and done)
No lorgnettes were trained upon
Our Tanya, no discerning eye,
No connoisseur with opera glass,
From loge or parterre, saw her pass.
She graces the Assembly Rooms:
The crush, the stir there, and the heat.
The blare of music, and the fumes
Of candlelight, the dancers fleet,
Proud beauties’ in their flimsy dresses,
The balcony, whose throng oppresses,
Marriageable girls there, in a crescent,
Muddling the wits of all those present.
Here acknowledged dandies strut
Display their vests, or form a set,
And dangle the careless lorgnette.
While Hussars, on leave, have but
To show themselves, twirl, and jingle,
Shine, conquer, and retreat, still single.
The glittering night holds many a star,
The Moscow belles are many too,
Yet brighter shines the moon by far
Than they, in that celestial blue.
Yet the one whom I set higher,
Beyond my importunate lyre,
Like the majestic moon serene
Among the wives and daughters seen,
With what heavenly grace, advances,
Touching the earth with her light feet,
What languor fills her breast, my sweet!
What languor’s in her magic glances!…
But enough, enough: you’ve paid
The tribute that to folly’s made.
Noise, laughter, curtsey, bow,
Mazurka, gallop, waltz…they dance.
Unnoticed, Tanya seated now,
By a pillar, between two aunts,
Gazes unseeing at the swirl,
Detesting all the social whirl,
It stifles her…her spirit yearns
For rural life, and memory turns
To her village, despite its hovels,
The lonely grove where a stream
And its attendant rivulets gleam,
Her garden, her romantic novels,
Or the lime-tree alley’s shade,
Where he his visitation made.
So far away her visions wander;
The world; the ball, are left behind,
Yet one keen gaze has settled on her,
A General’s, noble, to my mind.
The aunts, unsure what to think,
Nudge each other, slyly wink,
Then poke Tatyana, whispering:
‘Look to the left, now, there’s a thing.’ –
‘To the left? Where? What’s to see?’ –
‘Never you mind that, just look…
Two, in uniform; he hardly took
His eyes from you…there now, quickly,
He’s walking off…he’s sideways on…’
‘What that fat general?’ – ‘He’s gone!’
And now I must congratulate
Tanya on her luck, but swiftly
Turn to my hero, lest his fate
Should be forgot…so, opportunely,
I’ll set a few words echoing:
It is of my young friend, I sing,
And of his every caprice,
May this, my epic, if you please,
O Muse, receive your blessing now;
With your staff point out the way,
Lest from the chosen path I stray.
Enough. My shoulder’s from the plough!
I’ve bowed to classicism: you,
Though late, have the exordium too!