April 29th, 2011

me: ooh!

National Poetry Month No. 8: Alexander Pushkin - excerpt from Eugene Onegin

Alexander Pushkin - excerpt from Eugene Onegin (translated from the original Russian by Stanley Mitchell)

Whom then to love? Whom to have faith in?
Who can there be who won’t betray?
Who’ll judge a deed or disputation
Obligingly by what we say?
Who’ll not bestrew our path with slander?
Who’ll cosset us with care and candour?
Oh, ineffectual phantom seeker
You waste your energy in vain:
Love your own self, be your own man,
My worthy, venerable reader!
A worthwhile object: surely who
Could be more lovable than you?


I think I'd probably at least admire the technique of anyone capable of producing an entire novel in iambic pentameter, but Eugene Onegin is a masterpiece. The urbane tone of the narrator neatly counterpoints the tragic passion of his subjects. The poem also functions as a scathingly critique of the social conventions of the times. And, as you can see from this verse, it is also very funny.

It's probably terribly lowbrow of me, but I have to admit that I prefer less accurate, rhyming translations of this poem into English to Vladimir Nabokov's.