Rereading Pushkin

Recently reread Eugene Onegin (Johnson’s translation on the shelf).
The language is still captivating and charming; I still think it would be worth learning Russian to read the original. When I read Onegin as a college student I was intoxicated by the poetry, even in translation.
I don’t get quite so drunk by the music, but I understand more of the prose. Reading Onegin, one can guess that the poet didn’t have a great desire to live past forty. The attraction of life is the thrill and passion of adolescence; nothing of value in grownup life but boredom and decay.
With fancier clothes and riskier sports, it’s the American teen ballad; the middlebrow 70s/80s versions I know are Brenda and Eddie; Jack and Diane; feel free to cite the originals that I know the copies of.
I understood and liked the conclusion better. Tatyana, at least, has grown up. She chooses to keep her bargain with adult life; she picks integrity and social status over passion. More than that, she understands in retrospect the mismatch between her innocent passion as a girl and Onegin’s rakish flirtation; and the favor Eugene probably did her by turning her down. Yet, she doesn’t give Eugene any credit for learning anything in the intervening years. Not that there is any evidence that Onegin has learned anything; the same self-absorbed fop, fallen victim to a traditional and perverse cupid.
The irony is that Tatyana has diagnosed Eugene’s character from the marginal notes scrawled on the books in his library; yet the literary poses bear the same relationship to essence (if such a thing exists) as the clothes and social drama. Does she assume that the literary poses are the real Eugene, or does she simply choose not to take the risk of measuring the alignment between private writing and reality.
So much for analysis, this still makes me shiver…
Dawn comes in mist and chill; no longer
do fields echo with work and shout;
in pairs, their hunger driving stronger
on the highroad the wolves come out;
the horse gets wind of them and, snorting,
sets the wise traveller cavorting
up the hillside at breakneck pase;
no longer does the herdsman chase
his beasts outside at dawn, nor ringing
at noontime does his horn resound
as it assembles them around
while in the hut a girl is singing
she spins and, friend of winter nights,
the matchwood chatters as it lights.

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