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« Pushkin, "Медный всадник" (part 1) | Main | Comment on paie ses dettes quand on a du génie »
Thursday
Dec102009

Pushkin, "Медный всадник" (Introduction)

The first part to a masterpiece ("The Bronze Horseman") by this Russian poet.  You can read the original here.

Upon the shore of empty tide,           
Stood He pierced on thoughts' flailing thorn;        
When far he looked at waters wide,  
The river bore in unmatched stride         
A lone canoe left lost, forlorn.       
By mossy, marshy shoreline's bends              
Were blackened huts stretched past all sight,  
Alee for squalid Ingrians;                                 
And woods unswept by sunshine bright,                 
Amidst the gloom of hidden light,                     
Were loud to sense.

       And so he mused:
"Our settlement is Sweden's bane,
Here will our city rise to grace
To spite our haughty neighbors' fame.
'Tis here Fate wills that we be placed,
An open window Europe-faced,
With heavy step turned to the sea.
Upon new waves our hopes are cast,
All flags will fall to us at last,
And we will feast on liberty." 

A century pass'd, and our young town, 
The gorgeous pride of midnight lands,   
From darkest woods and swampy mounds, 
Has borne itself in sumptuous bounds,               
Where once the Finnish angler man, 
Sad stepchild in sweet nature's debt,           
Alone upon the scurvy sands,               
In unknown waters cast his net.             

His old net flew on lively seas,               
Where masses of the strongest rock        
Of palaces and towers breathed;            
Then ships from every place and stock    
Strove forth to our unhumble piers,    
Our richest wharves became the fad, 
With granite was the Neva clad,                   
By bridges hung above so mocked; 
And gardens of the darkest green
Devoured islands like a horde,
And Moscow, its might unrestored, 
Would fade against the endless sheen.
And unheard to the newest queen – 
A porphyritic widow's sigh. 

I love thee, City Peter built,                                 
I love thy harsh and horrid gaze;
The mighty flow of Neva silt
The shoreline granite by thy haze;
Thy filigreed wall iron-cast,                                      
Тhy lucid dusk and moonless shine
Of pensive days that ever last,
While I, room-bound, my thoughts untwine;
And read and write bereft of lamp, 
As clear and sleeping masses ramp
Up empty streets beneath the fire
Of thy taut admiralty spire. 
Without the gloaming to corrupt
The gilded clouds that linger long,
Til hasty dawn shall interrupt
Brief night's half-hour twilit song. 

I love thy cruel winter reign,
Unmoving air and frosted dread;
The race of sleighs by river's plain, 
Each glad child's face a brighter red; 
The flash and noise of ballroom talk,
And at the idle feasting hour,
A hundred foamy glasses squawk 
In punchbowl flames of bluest glower.
I love thy warlike stance, thy teeth
Of playful troops of Mars the great,
The infantry and fiery steeds
The peerless beauty of their gait.  
The ripple as they glide in rank,
With tattered pennants, triumph's toll;
The shine of helmets' bronzy tank,
As bullet tides bring seas of woe.
 
O martial city, thee I love
In thickest smoke does thunder roam,
The midnight queen that reigns above,
Who gives her son to kingly home,
Or victory against our foes,
As Russia celebrates anew,
Or breaking its blue ice right through, 
To seaside's calm the Neva flows,  
The joy of endless days is true.  

Boast now, O City Peter sent,  
Impregnable as Russia's whole, 
With thee shall die, or so I'm told,
Our nature's vanquished elements. 
May Finnish waves our wars forsake,
Those bitter captive days of yore; 
Vain spite shall never Peter wake   
From sweetest sleep forever more!

It was a time of horror's reign,    
Fresh are the thoughts that do us plague ...
My friends, for you, I wax and wane 
About this time I shall explain,
And sad shall be my lovely tale.

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