Tuesday, April 20, 2010

April Poetry Month: Alexander Pushkin

It is poetry month! It is now late in the month but I thought I would sneak in a post about one of my favourite poets, the great Alexander Pushkin. Pushkin is a Russian poet from the Romantic era, which was a divine era in music, art and literature. Pushkin had one of those amazing lives that people just don't have anymore. I can just imagine him swanning around Moscow society mixing with people like Anna Karenina and the long lost Anastasia, in a long fur coat and one of those furry hats. And a beard. Though the picture here suggests that at least the beard is correct!

I'm left alone at my ends,
The feasts, the mistresses, the friends
Had vanished with the slim illusions -
My youth had faded right away
With all its gifts of false allusions.
Like this, the candles, that through night
Were burning for young feasters' sight,
In ending of the mad profusion,
Are paling in the light of day.
(Translated by Yevgeny Bonver)

Pushkin married his wife, Natalya Goncharova, in 1931 and for a while they lived a glittering life in society. However they became increasingly in debt and Pushkin became suspicious that Natalya was having a sordid affair with a French military officer, Georges d'Anthes, who he then challenged to a duel. The poet vs the military man. I am sure we can all guess how that ended. Pushkin was mortally wounded and died two days later.

I loved you; even now I may confess,
Some embers of my love their fire retain;
But do not let it cause you more distress,
I do not want to sadden you again.
Hopeless and tonguetied, yet I loved you dearly
With pangs the jealous and the timid know;
So tenderly I loved you, so sincerely,
I pray God grant another love you so.
(Translated by D. Zhuraviev)

One of Pushkin's most famous poems is the epic narrative, The Bronze Horseman, written about the large bronze statue of Peter the Great in St Petersburg. Pushkin was extremely interested in the history of Peter the Great and had mentioned him in previous poems.

City of Peter, just you shine
And stand unshakable as Russia!
May make a peace with beauty, thine,
The conquered nature’s casual rushes;
And let the Finnish waves forget
Their ancient bondages and malice
And not disturb with their hate senseless
The endless sleep of Peter, great!

The awful period was that,
It’s fresh in our recollection…
This time about, my dear friend,
I am beginning my narration.
My story will be very sad.
(excerpt, translated by Yevgeny Bonver)

1. Portrait of Alexander Pushkin by Vasily Tropinin (1827) from here
2. Pushkin reciting a poem at age 16 by Ilya Yefimovich Repin (1911) from here
3. Bronze Horseman by Alexandre Benois (1904) from here


Ash said...

Thanks for introducing me to this poet, I'd never heard of him before. The images are great too! I especially like the last one.

Elise said...

Thanks Ash, he is a wonderful poet!