Eugene Onegin: A Romance of Russian Life in Verse, by Aleksandr Pushkin

Canto the Eighth

The Great World

‘Fare thee well, and if for ever,

Still for ever fare thee well.’— Byron

[St. Petersburg, Boldino, Tsarskoe Selo, 1880–1881]

I

In the Lyceum’s noiseless shade

As in a garden when I grew,

I Apuleius gladly read

But would not look at Cicero.

’Twas then in valleys lone, remote,

In spring-time, heard the cygnet’s note

By waters shining tranquilly,

That first the Muse appeared to me.

Into the study of the boy

There came a sudden flash of light,

The Muse revealed her first delight,

Sang childhood’s pastimes and its joy,

Glory with which our history teems

And the heart’s agitated dreams.

II

And the world met her smilingly,

A first success light pinions gave,

The old Derjavine noticed me,

And blest me, sinking to the grave.78

Then my companions young with pleasure

In the unfettered hours of leisure

Her utterances ever heard,

And by a partial temper stirred

And boiling o’er with friendly heat,

They first of all my brow did wreathe

And an encouragement did breathe

That my coy Muse might sing more sweet.

O triumphs of my guileless days,

How sweet a dream your memories raise!

78 This touching scene produced a lasting impression on Pushkin’s mind. It took place at a public examination at the Lyceum, on which occasion the boy poet produced a poem. The incident recalls the “Mon cher Tibulle” of Voltaire and the youthful Parny (see Note 42). Derjavine flourished during the reigns of Catherine the Second and Alexander the First. His poems are stiff and formal in style and are not much thought of by contemporary Russians. But a century back a very infinitesimal endowment of literary ability was sufficient to secure imperial reward and protection, owing to the backward state of the empire. Stanza II properly concludes with this line, the remainder having been expunged either by the author himself or the censors. I have filled up the void with lines from a fragment left by the author having reference to this canto.

III

Passion’s wild sway I then allowed,

Her promptings unto law did make,

Pursuits I followed of the crowd,

My sportive Muse I used to take

To many a noisy feast and fight,

Terror of guardians of the night;

And wild festivities among

She brought with her the gift of song.

Like a Bacchante in her sport

Beside the cup she sang her rhymes

And the young revellers of past times

Vociferously paid her court,

And I, amid the friendly crowd,

Of my light paramour was proud.

IV

But I abandoned their array,

And fled afar — she followed me.

How oft the kindly Muse away

Hath whiled the road’s monotony,

Entranced me by some mystic tale.

How oft beneath the moonbeams pale

Like Leonora did she ride79

With me Caucasian rocks beside!

How oft to the Crimean shore

She led me through nocturnal mist

Unto the sounding sea to list,

Where Nereids murmur evermore,

And where the billows hoarsely raise

To God eternal hymns of praise.

79 See Note 30, “Leonora,” a poem by Gottfried Augustus Burger, b. 1748, d. 1794.

V

Then, the far capital forgot,

Its splendour and its blandishments,

In poor Moldavia cast her lot,

She visited the humble tents

Of migratory gipsy hordes —

And wild among them grew her words —

Our godlike tongue she could exchange

For savage speech, uncouth and strange,

And ditties of the steppe she loved.

But suddenly all changed around!

Lo! in my garden was she found

And as a country damsel roved,

A pensive sorrow in her glance

And in her hand a French romance.

VI

Now for the first time I my Muse

Lead into good society,

Her steppe-like beauties I peruse

With jealous fear, anxiety.

Through dense aristocratic rows

Of diplomats and warlike beaux

And supercilious dames she glides,

Sits down and gazes on all sides —

Amazed at the confusing crowd,

Variety of speech and vests,

Deliberate approach of guests

Who to the youthful hostess bowed,

And the dark fringe of men, like frames

Enclosing pictures of fair dames.

VII

Assemblies oligarchical

Please her by their decorum fixed,

The rigour of cold pride and all

Titles and ages intermixed.

But who in that choice company

With clouded brow stands silently?

Unknown to all he doth appear,

A vision desolate and drear

Doth seem to him the festal scene.

Doth his brow wretchedness declare

Or suffering pride? Why is he there?

Who may he be? Is it Eugene?

Pray is it he? It is the same.

“And is it long since back he came?

VIII

“Is he the same or grown more wise?

Still doth the misanthrope appear?

He has returned, say in what guise?

What is his latest character?

What doth he act? Is it Melmoth,80

Philanthropist or patriot,

Childe Harold, quaker, devotee,

Or other mask donned playfully?

Or a good fellow for the nonce,

Like you and me and all the rest? —

But this is my advice, ’twere best

Not to behave as he did once —

Society he duped enow.”

“Is he known to you?”—“Yes and No.”

80 A romance by Maturin.

IX

Wherefore regarding him express

Perverse, unfavourable views?

Is it that human restlessness

For ever carps, condemns, pursues?

Is it that ardent souls of flame

By recklessness amuse or shame

Selfish nonentities around?

That mind which yearns for space is bound?

And that too often we receive

Professions eagerly for deeds,

That crass stupidity misleads,

That we by cant ourselves deceive,

That mediocrity alone

Without disgust we look upon?

X

Happy he who in youth was young,

Happy who timely grew mature,

He who life’s frosts which early wrung

Hath gradually learnt to endure;

By visions who was ne’er deranged

Nor from the mob polite estranged,

At twenty who was prig or swell,

At thirty who was married well,

At fifty who relief obtained

From public and from private ties,

Who glory, wealth and dignities

Hath tranquilly in turn attained,

And unto whom we all allude

As to a worthy man and good!

XI

But sad is the reflection made,

In vain was youth by us received,

That we her constantly betrayed

And she at last hath us deceived;

That our desires which noblest seemed,

The purest of the dreams we dreamed,

Have one by one all withered grown

Like rotten leaves by Autumn strown —

’Tis fearful to anticipate

Nought but of dinners a long row,

To look on life as on a show,

Eternally to imitate

The seemly crowd, partaking nought

Its passions and its modes of thought.

XII

The butt of scandal having been,

’Tis dreadful — ye agree, I hope —

To pass with reasonable men

For a fictitious misanthrope,

A visionary mortified,

Or monster of Satanic pride,

Or e’en the “Demon” of my strain.81

Oneguine — take him up again —

In duel having killed his friend

And reached, with nought his mind to engage,

The twenty-sixth year of his age,

Wearied of leisure in the end,

Without profession, business, wife,

He knew not how to spend his life.

81 The “Demon,” a short poem by Pushkin which at its first appearance created some excitement in Russian society. A more appropriate, or at any rate explanatory title, would have been the Tempter. It is descriptive of the first manifestation of doubt and cynicism in his youthful mind, allegorically as the visits of a “demon.” Russian society was moved to embody this imaginary demon in the person of a certain friend of Pushkin’s. This must not be confounded with Lermontoff’s poem bearing the same title upon which Rubinstein’s new opera, “Il Demonio,” is founded.

XIII

Him a disquietude did seize,

A wish from place to place to roam,

A very troublesome disease,

In some a willing martyrdom.

Abandoned he his country seat,

Of woods and fields the calm retreat,

Where every day before his eyes

A blood-bespattered shade would rise,

And aimless journeys did commence —

But still remembrance to him clings,

His travels like all other things

Inspired but weariness intense;

Returning, from his ship amid

A ball he fell as Tchatzki did.82

82 Tchatzki, one of the principal characters in Griboyedoff’s celebrated comedy “Woe from Wit” (Gore ot Ouma).

XIV

Behold, the crowd begins to stir,

A whisper runs along the hall,

A lady draws the hostess near,

Behind her a grave general.

Her manners were deliberate,

Reserved, but not inanimate,

Her eyes no saucy glance address,

There was no angling for success.

Her features no grimaces bleared;

Of affectation innocent,

Calm and without embarrassment,

A faithful model she appeared

Of “comme il faut.” Shishkoff, forgive!

I can’t translate the adjective.83

83 Shishkoff was a member of the literary school which cultivated the vernacular as opposed to the Arzamass or Gallic school, to which the poet himself and his uncle Vassili Pushkin belonged. He was admiral, author, and minister of education.

XV

Ladies in crowds around her close,

Her with a smile old women greet,

The men salute with lower bows

And watch her eye’s full glance to meet.

Maidens before her meekly move

Along the hall, and high above

The crowd doth head and shoulders rise

The general who accompanies.

None could her beautiful declare,

Yet viewing her from head to foot,

None could a trace of that impute,

Which in the elevated sphere

Of London life is “vulgar” called

And ruthless fashion hath blackballed.

XVI

I like this word exceedingly

Although it will not bear translation,

With us ’tis quite a novelty

Not high in general estimation;

‘Twould serve ye in an epigram —

But turn we once more to our dame.

Enchanting, but unwittingly,

At table she was sitting by

The brilliant Nina Voronskoi,

The Neva’s Cleopatra, and

None the conviction could withstand

That Nina’s marble symmetry,

Though dazzling its effulgence white,

Could not eclipse her neighbour’s light.

XVII

“And is it,” meditates Eugene.

“And is it she? It must be — no —

How! from the waste of steppes unseen,”—

And the eternal lorgnette through

Frequent and rapid doth his glance

Seek the forgotten countenance

Familiar to him long ago.

“Inform me, prince, pray dost thou know

The lady in the crimson cap

Who with the Spanish envoy speaks?”—

The prince’s eye Oneguine seeks:

“Ah! long the world hath missed thy shape!

But stop! I will present thee, if

You choose.”—“But who is she?”—“My wife.”

XVIII

“So thou art wed! I did not know.

Long ago?”—”’Tis the second year.”

“To —?”—“Larina.”—“Tattiana?”—“So.

And dost thou know her?”—“We live near.”

“Then come with me.” The prince proceeds,

His wife approaches, with him leads

His relative and friend as well.

The lady’s glance upon him fell —

And though her soul might be confused,

And vehemently though amazed

She on the apparition gazed,

No signs of trouble her accused,

A mien unaltered she preserved,

Her bow was easy, unreserved.

XIX

Ah no! no faintness her attacked

Nor sudden turned she red or white,

Her brow she did not e’en contract

Nor yet her lip compressed did bite.

Though he surveyed her at his ease,

Not the least trace Oneguine sees

Of the Tattiana of times fled.

He conversation would have led —

But could not. Then she questioned him:—

“Had he been long here, and where from?

Straight from their province had he come?”—

Cast upwards then her eyeballs dim

Unto her husband, went away —

Transfixed Oneguine mine doth stay.

XX

Is this the same Tattiana, say,

Before whom once in solitude,

In the beginning of this lay,

Deep in the distant province rude,

Impelled by zeal for moral worth,

He salutary rules poured forth?

The maid whose note he still possessed

Wherein the heart its vows expressed,

Where all upon the surface lies —

That girl — but he must dreaming be —

That girl whom once on a time he

Could in a humble sphere despise,

Can she have been a moment gone

Thus haughty, careless in her tone?

XXI

He quits the fashionable throng

And meditative homeward goes,

Visions, now sad, now grateful, long

Do agitate his late repose.

He wakes — they with a letter come —

The Princess N. will be at home

On such a day. O Heavens, ’tis she!

Oh! I accept. And instantly

He a polite reply doth scrawl.

What hath he dreamed? What hath occurred?

In the recesses what hath stirred

Of a heart cold and cynical?

Vexation? Vanity? or strove

Again the plague of boyhood — love?

XXII

The hours once more Oneguine counts,

Impatient waits the close of day,

But ten strikes and his sledge he mounts

And gallops to her house away.

Trembling he seeks the young princess —

Tattiana finds in loneliness.

Together moments one or two

They sat, but conversation’s flow

Deserted Eugene. He, distraught,

Sits by her gloomily, desponds,

Scarce to her questions he responds,

Full of exasperating thought.

He fixedly upon her stares —

She calm and unconcerned appears.

XXIII

The husband comes and interferes

With this unpleasant tete-a-tete,

With Eugene pranks of former years

And jests doth recapitulate.

They talked and laughed. The guests arrived.

The conversation was revived

By the coarse wit of worldly hate;

But round the hostess scintillate

Light sallies without coxcombry,

Awhile sound conversation seems

To banish far unworthy themes

And platitudes and pedantry,

And never was the ear affright

By liberties or loose or light.

XXIV

And yet the city’s flower was there,

Noblesse and models of the mode,

Faces which we meet everywhere

And necessary fools allowed.

Behold the dames who once were fine

With roses, caps and looks malign;

Some marriageable maids behold,

Blank, unapproachable and cold.

Lo, the ambassador who speaks

Economy political,

And with gray hair ambrosial

The old man who has had his freaks,

Renowned for his acumen, wit,

But now ridiculous a bit.

XXV

Behold Sabouroff, whom the age

For baseness of the spirit scorns,

Saint Priest, who every album’s page

With blunted pencil-point adorns.

Another tribune of the ball

Hung like a print against the wall,

Pink as Palm Sunday cherubim,84

Motionless, mute, tight-laced and trim.

The traveller, bird of passage he,

Stiff, overstarched and insolent,

Awakens secret merriment

By his embarrassed dignity —

Mute glances interchanged aside

Meet punishment for him provide.

84 On Palm Sunday the Russians carry branches, or used to do so. These branches were adorned with little painted pictures of cherubs with the ruddy complexions of tradition. Hence the comparison.

XXVI

But my Oneguine the whole eve

Within his mind Tattiana bore,

Not the young timid maid, believe,

Enamoured, simple-minded, poor,

But the indifferent princess,

Divinity without access

Of the imperial Neva’s shore.

O Men, how very like ye are

To Eve the universal mother,

Possession hath no power to please,

The serpent to unlawful trees

Aye bids ye in some way or other —

Unless forbidden fruit we eat,

Our paradise is no more sweet.

XXVII

Ah! how Tattiana was transformed,

How thoroughly her part she took!

How soon to habits she conformed

Which crushing dignity must brook!

Who would the maiden innocent

In the unmoved, magnificent

Autocrat of the drawing-room seek?

And he had made her heart beat quick!

’Twas he whom, amid nightly shades,

Whilst Morpheus his approach delays,

She mourned and to the moon would raise

The languid eye of love-sick maids,

Dreaming perchance in weal or woe

To end with him her path below.

XXVIII

To Love all ages lowly bend,

But the young unpolluted heart

His gusts should fertilize, amend,

As vernal storms the fields athwart.

Youth freshens beneath Passion’s showers,

Develops and matures its powers,

And thus in season the rich field

Gay flowers and luscious fruit doth yield.

But at a later, sterile age,

The solstice of our earthly years,

Mournful Love’s deadly trace appears

As storms which in chill autumn rage

And leave a marsh the fertile ground

And devastate the woods around.

XXIX

There was no doubt! Eugene, alas!

Tattiana loved as when a lad,

Both day and night he now must pass

In love-lorn meditation sad.

Careless of every social rule,

The crystals of her vestibule

He daily in his drives drew near

And like a shadow haunted her.

Enraptured was he if allowed

To swathe her shoulders in the furs,

If his hot hand encountered hers,

Or he dispersed the motley crowd

Of lackeys in her pathway grouped,

Or to pick up her kerchief stooped.

XXX

She seemed of him oblivious,

Despite the anguish of his breast,

Received him freely at her house,

At times three words to him addressed

In company, or simply bowed,

Or recognized not in the crowd.

No coquetry was there, I vouch —

Society endures not such!

Oneguine’s cheek grew ashy pale,

Either she saw not or ignored;

Oneguine wasted; on my word,

Already he grew phthisical.

All to the doctors Eugene send,

And they the waters recommend.

XXXI

He went not — sooner was prepared

To write his forefathers to warn

Of his approach; but nothing cared

Tattiana — thus the sex is born. —

He obstinately will remain,

Still hopes, endeavours, though in vain.

Sickness more courage doth command

Than health, so with a trembling hand

A love epistle he doth scrawl.

Though correspondence as a rule

He used to hate — and was no fool —

Yet suffering emotional

Had rendered him an invalid;

But word for word his letter read.

Oneguine’s Letter to Tattiana

All is foreseen. My secret drear

Will sound an insult in your ear.

What acrimonious scorn I trace

Depicted on your haughty face!

What do I ask? What cause assigned

That I to you reveal my mind?

To what malicious merriment,

It may be, I yield nutriment!

Meeting you in times past by chance,

Warmth I imagined in your glance,

But, knowing not the actual truth,

Restrained the impulses of youth;

Also my wretched liberty

I would not part with finally;

This separated us as well —

Lenski, unhappy victim, fell,

From everything the heart held dear

I then resolved my heart to tear;

Unknown to all, without a tie,

I thought — retirement, liberty,

Will happiness replace. My God!

How I have erred and felt the rod!

No, ever to behold your face,

To follow you in every place,

Your smiling lips, your beaming eyes,

To watch with lovers’ ecstasies,

Long listen, comprehend the whole

Of your perfections in my soul,

Before you agonized to die —

This, this were true felicity!

But such is not for me. I brood

Daily of love in solitude.

My days of life approach their end,

Yet I in idleness expend

The remnant destiny concedes,

And thus each stubbornly proceeds.

I feel, allotted is my span;

But, that life longer may remain,

At morn I must assuredly

Know that thy face that day I see.

I tremble lest my humble prayer

You with stern countenance declare

The artifice of villany —

I hear your harsh, reproachful cry.

If ye but knew how dreadful ’tis

To bear love’s parching agonies —

To burn, yet reason keep awake

The fever of the blood to slake —

A passionate desire to bend

And, sobbing at your feet, to blend

Entreaties, woes and prayers, confess

All that the heart would fain express —

Yet with a feigned frigidity

To arm the tongue and e’en the eye,

To be in conversation clear

And happy unto you appear.

So be it! But internal strife

I cannot longer wage concealed.

The die is cast! Thine is my life!

Into thy hands my fate I yield!

XXXII

No answer! He another sent.

Epistle second, note the third,

Remained unnoticed. Once he went

To an assembly — she appeared

Just as he entered. How severe!

She will not see, she will not hear.

Alas! she is as hard, behold,

And frosty as a Twelfth Night cold.

Oh, how her lips compressed restrain

The indignation of her heart!

A sidelong look doth Eugene dart:

Where, where, remorse, compassion, pain?

Where, where, the trace of tears? None, none!

Upon her brow sits wrath alone —

XXXIII

And it may be a secret dread

Lest the world or her lord divine

A certain little escapade

Well known unto Oneguine mine.

’Tis hopeless! Homeward doth he flee

Cursing his own stupidity,

And brooding o’er the ills he bore,

Society renounced once more.

Then in the silent cabinet

He in imagination saw

The time when Melancholy’s claw

‘Mid worldly pleasures chased him yet,

Caught him and by the collar took

And shut him in a lonely nook.

XXXIV

He read as vainly as before,

perusing Gibbon and Rousseau,

Manzoni, Herder and Chamfort,85

Madame de Stael, Bichat, Tissot:

He read the unbelieving Bayle,

Also the works of Fontenelle,

Some Russian authors he perused —

Nought in the universe refused:

Nor almanacs nor newspapers,

Which lessons unto us repeat,

Wherein I castigation get;

And where a madrigal occurs

Writ in my honour now and then —

E sempre bene, gentlemen!

85 Owing to the unstable nature of fame the names of some of the above literary worthies necessitate reference at this period in the nineteenth century.

Johann Gottfried von Herder, b. 1744, d. 1803, a German philosopher, philanthropist and author, was the personal friend of Goethe and held the poet of court chaplain at Weimar. His chief work is entitled, “Ideas for a Philosophy of the History of Mankind,” in 4 vols.

Sebastien Roch Nicholas Chamfort, b. 1741, d. 1794, was a French novelist and dramatist of the Revolution, who contrary to his real wishes became entangled in its meshes. He exercised a considerable influence over certain of its leaders, notably Mirabeau and Sieyes. He is said to have originated the title of the celebrated tract from the pen of the latter. “What is the Tiers Etat? Nothing. What ought it to be? Everything.” He ultimately experienced the common destiny in those days, was thrown into prison and though shortly afterwards released, his incarceration had such an effect upon his mind that he committed suicide.

Marie Francois Xavier Bichat, b. 1771, d. 1802, a French anatomist and physiologist of eminence. His principal works are a “Traite des Membranes,” “Anatomie generale appliquee a la Physiologie et a la Medecine,” and “Recherches Physiologiques sur la Vie et la Mort.” He died at an early age from constant exposure to noxious exhalations during his researches.

Pierre Francois Tissot, b. 1768, d. 1864, a French writer of the Revolution and Empire. In 1812 he was appointed by Napoleon editor of the Gazette de France. He wrote histories of the Revolution, of Napoleon and of France. He was likewise a poet and author of a work entitled “Les trois Irlandais Conjures, ou l’ombre d’Emmet,” and is believed to have edited Foy’s “History of the Peninsular War.”

The above catalogue by its heterogeneous composition gives a fair idea of the intellectual movement in Russia from the Empress Catherine the Second downwards. It is characterized by a feverish thirst for encyclopaedic knowledge without a corresponding power of assimilation.

XXXV

But what results? His eyes peruse

But thoughts meander far away —

Ideas, desires and woes confuse

His intellect in close array.

His eyes, the printed lines betwixt,

On lines invisible are fixt;

’Twas these he read and these alone

His spirit was intent upon.

They were the wonderful traditions

Of kindly, dim antiquity,

Dreams with no continuity,

Prophecies, threats and apparitions,

The lively trash of stories long

Or letters of a maiden young.

XXXVI

And by degrees upon him grew

A lethargy of sense, a trance,

And soon imagination threw

Before him her wild game of chance.

And now upon the snow in thaw

A young man motionless he saw,

As one who bivouacs afield,

And heard a voice cry — Why! He’s killed! —

And now he views forgotten foes,

Poltroons and men of slanderous tongue,

Bevies of treacherous maidens young;

Of thankless friends the circle rose,

A mansion — by the window, see!

She sits alone —’tis ever she!

XXXVII

So frequently his mind would stray

He well-nigh lost the use of sense,

Almost became a poet say —

Oh! what had been his eminence!

Indeed, by force of magnetism

A Russian poem’s mechanism

My scholar without aptitude

At this time almost understood.

How like a poet was my chum

When, sitting by his fire alone

Whilst cheerily the embers shone,

He “Benedetta” used to hum,

Or “Idol mio,” and in the grate

Would lose his slippers or gazette.

XXXVIII

Time flies! a genial air abroad,

Winter resigned her empire white,

Oneguine ne’er as poet showed

Nor died nor lost his senses quite.

Spring cheered him up, and he resigned

His chambers close wherein confined

He marmot-like did hibernate,

His double sashes and his grate,

And sallied forth one brilliant morn —

Along the Neva’s bank he sleighs,

On the blue blocks of ice the rays

Of the sun glisten; muddy, worn,

The snow upon the streets doth melt —

Whither along them doth he pelt?

XXXIX

Oneguine whither gallops? Ye

Have guessed already. Yes, quite so!

Unto his own Tattiana he,

Incorrigible rogue, doth go.

Her house he enters, ghastly white,

The vestibule finds empty quite —

He enters the saloon. ’Tis blank!

A door he opens. But why shrank

He back as from a sudden blow? —

Alone the princess sitteth there,

Pallid and with dishevelled hair,

Gazing upon a note below.

Her tears flow plentifully and

Her cheek reclines upon her hand.

XL

Oh! who her speechless agonies

Could not in that brief moment guess!

Who now could fail to recognize

Tattiana in the young princess!

Tortured by pangs of wild regret,

Eugene fell prostrate at her feet —

She starts, nor doth a word express,

But gazes on Oneguine’s face

Without amaze or wrath displayed:

His sunken eye and aspect faint,

Imploring looks and mute complaint

She comprehends. The simple maid

By fond illusions once possest

Is once again made manifest.

XLI

His kneeling posture he retains —

Calmly her eyes encounter his —

Insensible her hand remains

Beneath his lips’ devouring kiss.

What visions then her fancy thronged —

A breathless silence then, prolonged —

But finally she softly said:

“Enough, arise! for much we need

Without disguise ourselves explain.

Oneguine, hast forgotten yet

The hour when — Fate so willed — we met

In the lone garden and the lane?

How meekly then I heard you preach —

To-day it is my turn to teach.

XLII

“Oneguine, I was younger then,

And better, if I judge aright;

I loved you — what did I obtain?

Affection how did you requite?

But with austerity! — for you

No novelty — is it not true? —

Was the meek love a maiden feels.

But now — my very blood congeals,

Calling to mind your icy look

And sermon — but in that dread hour

I blame not your behaviour —

An honourable course ye took,

Displayed a noble rectitude —

My soul is filled with gratitude!

XLIII

“Then, in the country, is’t not true?

And far removed from rumour vain;

I did not please you. Why pursue

Me now, inflict upon me pain? —

Wherefore am I your quarry held? —

Is it that I am now compelled

To move in fashionable life,

That I am rich, a prince’s wife? —

Because my lord, in battles maimed,

Is petted by the Emperor? —

That my dishonour would ensure

A notoriety proclaimed,

And in society might shed

A bastard fame prohibited?

XLIV

“I weep. And if within your breast

My image hath not disappeared,

Know that your sarcasm ill-suppressed,

Your conversation cold and hard,

If the choice in my power were,

To lawless love I should prefer —

And to these letters and these tears.

For visions of my childish years

Then ye were barely generous,

Age immature averse to cheat —

But now — what brings you to my feet? —

How mean, how pusillanimous!

A prudent man like you and brave

To shallow sentiment a slave!

XLV

“Oneguine, all this sumptuousness,

The gilding of life’s vanities,

In the world’s vortex my success,

My splendid house and gaieties —

What are they? Gladly would I yield

This life in masquerade concealed,

This glitter, riot, emptiness,

For my wild garden and bookcase —

Yes! for our unpretending home,

Oneguine — the beloved place

Where the first time I saw your face —

Or for the solitary tomb

Wherein my poor old nurse doth lie

Beneath a cross and shrubbery.

XLVI

“’Twas possible then, happiness —

Nay, near — but destiny decreed —

My lot is fixed — with thoughtlessness

It may be that I did proceed —

With bitter tears my mother prayed,

And for Tattiana, mournful maid,

Indifferent was her future fate.

I married — now, I supplicate —

For ever your Tattiana leave.

Your heart possesses, I know well,

Honour and pride inflexible.

I love you — to what end deceive? —

But I am now another’s bride —

For ever faithful will abide.”

XLVII

She rose — departed. But Eugene

Stood as if struck by lightning fire.

What a storm of emotions keen

Raged round him and of balked desire!

And hark! the clank of spurs is heard

And Tania’s husband soon appeared. —

But now our hero we must leave

Just at a moment which I grieve

Must be pronounced unfortunate —

For long — for ever. To be sure

Together we have wandered o’er

The world enough. Congratulate

Each other as the shore we climb!

Hurrah! it long ago was time!

XLVIII

Reader, whoever thou mayst be,

Foeman or friend, I do aspire

To part in amity with thee!

Adieu! whate’er thou didst desire

From careless stanzas such as these,

Of passion reminiscences,

Pictures of the amusing scene,

Repose from labour, satire keen,

Or faults of grammar on its page —

God grant that all who herein glance,

In serious mood or dalliance

Or in a squabble to engage,

May find a crumb to satisfy.

Now we must separate. Good-bye!

XLIX

And farewell thou, my gloomy friend,

Thou also, my ideal true,

And thou, persistent to the end,

My little book. With thee I knew

All that a poet could desire,

Oblivion of life’s tempest dire,

Of friends the grateful intercourse —

Oh, many a year hath run its course

Since I beheld Eugene and young

Tattiana in a misty dream,

And my romance’s open theme

Glittered in a perspective long,

And I discerned through Fancy’s prism

Distinctly not its mechanism.

L

But ye to whom, when friendship heard,

The first-fruits of my tale I read,

As Saadi anciently averred — 86

Some are afar and some are dead.

Without them Eugene is complete;

And thou, from whom Tattiana sweet;

Was drawn, ideal of my lay —

Ah! what hath fate not torn away!

Happy who quit life’s banquet seat

Before the dregs they shall divine

Of the cup brimming o’er with wine —

Who the romance do not complete,

But who abandon it — as I

Have my Oneguine — suddenly.

86 The celebrated Persian poet. Pushkin uses the passage referred to as an epigraph to the “Fountain of Baktchiserai.” It runs thus: “Many, even as I, visited that fountain, but some of these are dead and some have journeyed afar.” Saadi was born in 1189 at Shiraz and was a reputed descendant from Ali, Mahomet’s son-inlaw. In his youth he was a soldier, was taken prisoner by the Crusaders and forced to work in the ditches of Tripoli, whence he was ransomed by a merchant whose daughter he subsequently married. He did not commence writing till an advanced age. His principal work is the “Gulistan,” or “Rose Garden,” a work which has been translated into almost every European tongue.

End of Canto The Eighth

This web edition published by:

eBooks@Adelaide
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/p/pushkin/aleksandr/p98eu/canto8.html

Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 16:24