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« Pushkin, "Медный всадник" (part 2) | Main | Pushkin, "Медный всадник" (Introduction) »
Saturday
Dec122009

Pushkin, "Медный всадник" (part 1)

The middle part of Pushkin's masterpiece ("The Bronze Horseman").  You can read the original here.

Above the darkened Petrograd        
November breathed its autumn chill.
Here splashed in noisesome wavelets glad
On edges of its graceful frill,
The Neva tossed and turned, still sick
A patient in his restless bed,
The darkness ever late and thick.
Into the window rainy wrath                  
Descended with the howling wind.            
That same time from the homeward path 
A young Eugene his tie unpinned.              
Our hero shall be called as such;                
A pleasant name, and one long known     
To both my nib's loquacious touch 
And slothful thoughts' enchanted tones. 
Professions were for him untruth;
That said, in recent times, perhaps,  
From Karamzin's delightful scraps 
He came to ponder native hues
The legends that all Russia knew. 
Yet now as in a flash they fell    
Forgotten. In Kolomna lived   
Our hero (serving, hard to tell
Where) shunning friends, although ungrieved
About his kin in endless rest, 
And rites and ways that they knew best.

And so Eugene, by home and hearth,
His greatcoat brushed, undressed, retired;
Yet long did sleep remain quite far,
As sundry thoughts revolved untired. 
What kept him tense? What stopped his dreams?   
That he was poor, that his day's toil,                      
His independence and esteem                                
Could not transcend this mortal coil.                           
What more could God then grant Eugene?        
Some wisdom, money and his foils,             
The empty happy, lucky swells                   
Of little mind and lazy bones,                    
For whom sweet life rings all its bells! 
And here he's worked two years and groaned;
He also thought the weather fast,      
Unchanged; and that the river purled       
Unchecked; that bridges stretching past 
The Neva were still of this world,                  
That Paraskevi in two days,                   
Perhaps in three, and he would part.         
And here Eugene sighed forth in rage,          
And like a poet, dreamt out his chart:  

"Am I to wed? And yet, why not?     
A burden yes, a noxious plight;          
But young and hale, I take this lot     
Prepared to toil both day and night;  
And somehow I will find a roof,        
A simple shelter built on peace         
For Paraskevi to approve.                
A year, perhaps, or two I'll need                    
To gain this place, and then I'll ask               
My love to form a family,                            
And raise our children as her task ...            
And so we'll live and so we'll have,     
Bound hand in hand by oaths we gave,
Our sons of sons to bless our grave ..."

And so he dreamt.  But sadness spent   
That night with him, and so he wished     
That evening weren't of dismal bent,      
That rain would not bang, slam and swish      
With such contempt ...
       Then sleep-filled eyes
He finally shut.  And here the gloom
Of that mad night thinned out and died,
And palest day began to loom ...
O horrid day!                  
       That long hoarse night, 
Sea-bound, the Neva riled the storm  
Not conquering its foolish form, 
Unable to sustain the fight.  
Above its shores by morning's patience
Тhe masses gaped at nature's thrills,
The sprays and mounts gained admiration,
As did the raging foamy hills. 
By windy force by gulf propelled,
The Neva crossed each borderline,
It came and went, it roared, rebelled,
And drowned the isles in loving brine; 
The weather moved towards endless rage, 
The Neva rose and howled and cried,
A cauldron swirled in bubbly haze,
And suddenly, like beasts gone wild,
It fell upon the city's maze.               
All fled; and soon one could descry        
An empty town as water breached        
The basements past ground-level eye,
On grills the sewers came to meet;
And Petropol swam like Triton,
A waist-high sea as horizon. 

A siege!  Attack!  The evil waves,        
Like robbers, crashed the window panes, 
Canoes ran through their sterns like knaves           
Below the sea-strong crest impaled;                  
The shreds of huts, of logs, of roofs,             
The warehouse goods, what care behooves, 
The victuals of dull penury,                            
The fallen bridges in unsafe knots                  
The tombs of flooded graveyard plots          
All swam upon the open streets!                   
          The folk
Divine wrath saw, swift death provoked.  
Alas!  All will die, flesh and food!    
Where could they flee?               
       Yet that wild year        
The late Tsar had all Russia steered 
Adroitly. Now on balcony  
He stood, sad, crestfallen, to brood.                   
And here he said: "No tsar is born                                   
To rule the realm of God unshorn."         
His mournful eyes beheld the woe           
That in his mind grew real below.               
The squares had turned to luscious lakes,      
Wide rivers pierced their every side,             
The streets were filled with wat'ry peaks,      
The palace seemed an isle untried.               
The Tsar talked on, from end to end,           
In closer streets and those less near,            
Amidst the raging waters' vent           
His generals set out. In fear             
Did people drown at home, and so     
These generals would save their souls. 

On Peter's Square, the corner home  
So newly built, above whose wing,      
With elevated paw to roam,          
As if alive two lions moaned.                               
On guard they watched the wild waves fling.  
Upon the marble beast on high,              
His arms crossed o'er, bereft of cap,         
So still, in shocking wanness trapp'd,                     
Our man Eugene sat terrified           
Not for himself.  He did not hear         
The greedy billows rise and sway             
His soles long since had washed away,                       
As rain met face, then mouth and ears,  
As wind in spinning fury pinched      
His hat from him so suddenly,       
Looks of despair then slowly inched       
Towards one edge so carefully,                        
Unmoving now.  As if the mounts              
From the mad maelstrom's deadly core    
Rose up and raged in endless count,    
A storm unbound, with shards galore ... 
O God, O God, alas, look there!                                
So close, as in the gulf's own lair,                    
A shoddy house swam on the crest,             
With an unpainted fence left bare,               
A willow and surely we jest             
His Paraskevi and her mom,                        
The widow! Dreams, they were but dreams! 
But were they now?  He thought quite dumb, 
Was life no more than what it seemed?
A smirking sky above our earth? 

And he, as if from marble forged          
As if bewitched by ancient rite,          
Could not get down!  The water gorged 
Itself on all and everything!                 
And his back turned against the height, 
The tower of unshaken might       
Above the raging Neva's course     
He stands with outstretched, rigid arm,
His idol thus the bronzy horse. 

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