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Александр КАНТОРОВ


 P.I. Tchaikovsky

The opera "Eugene Onegin" in concert performance

White hall of the St. Petersburg state Polytechnical university

October 16, 2014

A.S.Pushkin. Eugene Onegin. A Novel in Verse 

Translation by Charles H. Johnston.

(heads of the novel)

Heedless of the proud world's enjoyment,
I prize the attention of my friends,
and only wish that my employment
could have been turned to worthier ends —
worthier of you in the perfection
your soul displays, in holy dreams,
in simple but sublime reflection,
in limpid verse that lives and gleams.

But, as it is, this pied collection
begs your indulgence — it's been spun
from threads both sad and humoristic,
themes popular or idealistic,
products of carefree hours, of fun,
of sleeplessness, faint inspirations,
of powers unripe, or on the wane,
of reason's icy intimations,
and records of a heart in pain.


We all meandered through our schooling
haphazard; so, to God be thanks,
it's easy, without too much fooling,
to pass for cultured in our ranks.
Onegin was assessed by many
(critical judges, strict as any)
as well-read, though of pedant cast.
Unforced, as conversation passed,
he had the talent of saluting
felicitously every theme,
of listening like a judge-supreme
while serious topics were disputing,
or, with an epigram-surprise,
of kindling smiles in ladies' eyes.



Evgeny's total store of knowledge
I have no leisure to recall;
where he was master of his college,
the art he'd studied best of all,
his young heyday's supreme employment,
its work, its torture, its enjoyment,
what occupied his chafing powers
throughout the boredom of the hours —
this was the science of that passion
which Ovid sang, for which the bard,
condemned to a lifetime of hard,
ended his wild career of fashion
deep in Moldavia the abhorred,
far, far from Italy, his adored.





The house is packed out; scintillating,
the boxes; boiling, pit and stalls;
the gallery claps — it's bored with waiting —
and up the rustling curtain crawls.



The place where Eugene loathed his leisure
was an enchanting country nook:
there any friend of harmless pleasure
would bless the form his fortune took.
The manor house, in deep seclusion,
screened by a hill from storm's intrusion,
looked on a river: far away
before it was the golden play
of light that flowering fields reflected:
villages flickered far and near,
and cattle roamed the plain, and here
a park, enormous and neglected,
spread out its shadow all around —
the pensive Dryads' hiding-ground.


Throughout their life, so calm, so peaceful,
sweet old tradition was preserved:
for them, in Butterweek5 the greaseful,
Russian pancakes were always served;

they needed kvas like air; at table
their guests, for all they ate and drank,
were served in order of their rank.


Meanwhile another new landowner
came driving to his country seat,
and, in the district, this persona
drew scrutiny no less complete —
Vladimir Lensky, whose creator
was Gottingen, his alma mater,

good-looking, in the flower of age,
a poet, and a Kantian sage.
He'd brought back all the fruits of learning
from German realms of mist and steam,
freedom's enthusiastic dream,
a spirit strange, a spirit burning,
an eloquence of fevered strength,
and raven curls of shoulder-length.


He was too young to have been blighted
by the cold world's corrupt finesse;
his soul still blossomed out, and lighted
at a friend's word, a girl's caress.
In heart's affairs, a sweet beginner,
he fed on hope's deceptive dinner;
the world's eclat, its thunder-roll,
still captivated his young soul.
He sweetened up with fancy's icing
the uncertainties within his heart;
for him, the objective on life's chart
was still mysterious and enticing —
something to rack his brains about,
suspecting wonders would come out.


He was convinced, a kindred creature
would be allied to him by fate;
that, meanwhile, pinched and glum of feature,
from day to day she could but wait;
and he believed his friends were ready
to put on chains for him, and steady
their hand to grapple slander's cup,
in his defence, and smash it up;
that there existed, for the indulgence
of human friendship, holy men,
immortals picked by fate for when,
with irresistible refulgence,
their breed would (some years after this)
shine out and bring the world to bliss. 



``Let's go.'' The friends, all haste and vigour,
drive there, and with formality
are treated to the fullest rigour
of old-lime hospitality.
The protocol is all one wishes:
the jams appear in little dishes;
on a small table's oilcloth sheen
the jug of bilberry wine is seen.




Ah, he had loved a love that never
is known today; only a soul
that raves with poetry can ever
be doomed to feel it: there's one goal
perpetually, one goal for dreaming,
one customary object gleaming,
one customary grief each hour!
not separation's chilling power,
no years of absence past returning,
no beauties of a foreign clime,
no noise of gaiety, no time
devoted to the Muse, or learning,
nothing could alter or could tire
this soul that glowed with virgin fire.


Since earliest boyhood he had doted
on Olga; from heart's ache still spared,
with tenderness he'd watched and noted
her girlhood games; in them he'd shared,
by deep and shady woods protected;
the crown of marriage was projected
for them by fathers who, as friends
and neighbours, followed the same ends.
Away inside that unassuming
homestead, before her parents' gaze,
she blossomed in the graceful ways
of innocence: a lily blooming
in deepest grasses, quite alone,
to bee and butterfly unknown.


Full of obedience and demureness,
as gay as morning and as clear,
poetic in her simple pureness,
sweet as a lover's kiss, and dear,
in Olga everything expresses —
the skyblue eyes, the flaxen tresses,
smile, voice and movements, little waist —

take any novel, clearly traced
you're sure to find her portrait in it:
a portrait with a charming touch;
once I too liked it very much;
but now it bores me every minute.
Reader, the elder sister now
must be my theme, if you'll allow.


Tatyana3 was her name... I own it,
self-willed it may be just the same;
but it's the first time you'll have known it,
a novel graced with such a name.
What of it? it's euphonious, pleasant,
and yet inseparably present,
I know it, in the thoughts of all
are old times, and the servants' hall.
We must confess that taste deserts us
even in our names (and how much worse
when we begin to talk of verse);
culture, so far from healing, hurts us;
what it's transported to our shore
is mincing manners — nothing more.


So she was called Tatyana. Truly
she lacked her sister's beauty, lacked
the rosy bloom that glowed so newly
to catch the eye and to attract.
Shy as a savage, silent, tearful,
wild as a forest deer, and fearful,
Tatyana had a changeling look
in her own home. She never took
to kissing or caressing father
or mother; and in all the play
of children, though as young as they,
she never joined, or skipped, but rather
in silence all day she'd remain
ensconced beside the window-pane.


Meanwhile the news of Eugene coming
to the Larins' had caused a spout
of gossip, and set comment humming
among the neighbours round about.
Conjecture found unending matter:
there was a general furtive chatter,
and jokes and spiteful gossip ran
claiming Tatyana'd found her man;
and some were even testifying
the marriage plans were all exact
but held up by the simple fact
that modish rings were still a-buying.
Of Lensky's fate they said no more —
they'd settled that some years before.


Tatyana listened with vexation
to all this tattle, yet at heart
in indescribable elation,
despite herself, rehearsed the part:
the thought sank in, and penetrated:
she fell in love — the hour was fated...
so fires of spring will bring to birth
a seedling fallen in the earth.
Her feelings in their weary session
had long been wasting and enslaved
by pain and languishment; she craved
the fateful diet; by depression
her heart had long been overrun:
her soul was waiting... for someone.


Tatyana now need wait no longer.
Her eyes were opened, and she said
``this is the one!'' Ah, ever stronger,
in sultry sleep, in lonely bed,
all day, all night, his presence fills her,
by magic everything instils her
with thoughts of him in ceaseless round.
She hates a friendly voice's sound,
or servants waiting on her pleasure.
Sunk in dejection, she won't hear
the talk of guests when they appear;
she calls down curses on their leisure,
and, when one's least prepared for it
their tendency to call, and sit.





``I can't sleep, nyanya: it's so stifling!
open the window, sit down near.''
``Why, Tanya, what...?'' ``All's dull and trifling.
The olden days, I want to hear...''
``What of them, Tanya? I was able,
years back, to call up many a fable;
I kept in mind an ancient store
of tales of girls, and ghosts, and lore:
but now my brain is darkened, Tanya:
now I've forgotten all I knew.
A sorry state of things, it's true!
My mind is fuddled.'' ``Tell me, nyanya,
your early life, unlock your tongue:
were you in love when you were young?''


``What nonsense, Tanya! in those other
ages we'd never heard of love:
why, at the thought, my husband's mother
had chased me to the world above.''
``How did you come to marry, nyanya?''
``I reckon, by God's will. My Vanya
was younger still, but at that stage
I was just thirteen years of age.
Two weeks the matchmaker was plying
to see my kin, and in the end
my father blessed me. So I'd spend
my hours in fear and bitter crying.
Then, crying, they untwined my plait,
and sang me to the altar-mat.



Tatyana watched the moon, and floated
through distant regions of the heart...
A thought was born, and quickly noted...
``Go, nurse, and leave me here apart.
Give me a pen and give me paper,
bring up a table, and a taper;
good night; I swear I'll lie down soon.''

She was alone, lit by the moon.
Elbow on table, spirit seething,
still filled with Eugene, Tanya wrote,
and in her unconsidered note
all a pure maiden's love was breathing.
She folds the page, lays down the plume.,
Tatyana! it's addressed... to whom?


                                             Tatyana's Letter to Onegin


``I write to you — no more confession
is needed, nothing's left to tell.
I know it's now in your discretion
with scorn to make my world a hell.
``But, if you've kept some faint impression
of pity for my wretched state,
you'll never leave me to my fate.
At first I thought it out of season
to speak; believe me: of my shame
you'd not so much as know the name,
if I'd possessed the slightest reason
to hope that even once a week

I might have seen you, heard you speak
on visits to us, and in greeting
I might have said a word, and then
thought, day and night, and thought again
about one thing, till our next meeting.
But you're not sociable, they say:
you find the country godforsaken;
though we... don't shine in any way,
our joy in you is warmly taken.


``Why did you visit us, but why?
Lost in our backwoods habitation
I'd not have known you, therefore I
would have been spared this laceration.
In time, who knows, the agitation
of inexperience would have passed,
I would have found a friend, another,
and in the role of virtuous mother
and faithful wife I'd have been cast.

``Another!... No, another never
in all the world could take my heart!
Decreed in highest court for ever...
heaven's will — for you I'm set apart;
and my whole life has been directed
and pledged to you, and firmly planned:


I know, Godsent one, I'm protected
until the grave by your strong hand:
you'd made appearance in my dreaming;
unseen, already you were dear,
my soul had heard your voice ring clear,
stirred at your gaze, so strange, so gleaming...


long, long ago... no, that could be
no dream. You'd scarce arrived, I reckoned
to know you, swooned, and in a second
all in a blaze, I said: it's he!
``You know, it's true, how I attended,
drank in your words when all was still —
helping the poor, or while I mended
with balm of prayer my torn and rended
spirit that anguish had made ill.
At this midnight of my condition,
was it not you, dear apparition,
who in the dark came flashing through
and, on my bed-head gently leaning,
with love and comfort in your meaning,
spoke words of hope? But who are you:
the guardian angel of tradition,
or some vile agent of perdition
sent to seduce? Resolve my doubt.
Oh, this could all be false and vain,
a sham that trustful souls work out;
fate could be something else again..,
``So let it be! for you to keep
I trust my fate to your direction,
henceforth in front of you I weep,
I weep, and pray for your protection..,
Imagine it: quite on my own
I've no one here who comprehends me,
and now a swooning mind attends me,
dumb I must perish, and alone.
My heart awaits you: you can turn it
to life and hope with just a glance —
or else disturb my mournful trance
with censure — I've done all to earn it!


``I close. I dread to read this page...
for shame and fear my wits are sliding...
and yet your honour is my gage
and in it boldly I'm confiding''...



Moments of silence, quite unbroken;
then, stepping nearer, Eugene said:
``You wrote to me, and nothing spoken
can disavow that. I have read
those words where love, without condition,
pours out its guiltless frank admission,
and your sincerity of thought
is dear to me, for it has brought
feeling to what had long been heartless:


but I won't praise you — let me join
and pay my debt in the same coin
with an avowal just as artless;
hear my confession as I stand
I leave the verdict in your hand.



``Could I be happy circumscribing
my life in a domestic plot;
had fortune blest me by prescribing
husband and father as my lot;
could I accept for just a minute
the homely scene, take pleasure in it —
then I'd have looked for you alone
to be the bride I'd call my own.
Without romance, or false insistence,
I'll say: with past ideals in view
I would have chosen none but you
as helpmeet in my sad existence,
as gage of all things that were good,
and been as happy... as I could!


``But I was simply not intended
for happiness — that alien role.
Should your perfections be expended
in vain on my unworthy soul?
Believe (as conscience is my warrant),
wedlock for us would be abhorrent.
I'd love you, but inside a day,
with custom, love would fade away;
your tears would flow — but your emotion,
your grief would fail to touch my heart,
they'd just enrage it with their dart.
What sort of roses, in your notion,
would Hymen bring us — blooms that might
last many a day, and many a night!


``What in the world is more distressing
than households where the wife must moan
the unworthy husband through depressing
daytimes and evenings passed alone?
and where the husband, recognizing
her worth (but anathematising
his destiny) without a smile
bursts with cold envy and with bile?
For such am I. When you were speaking
to me so simply, with the fires
and force that purity inspires,
is this the man that you were seeking?
can it be true you must await
from cruel fortune such a fate?


``I've dreams and years past resurrection;
a soul that nothing can renew...
I feel a brotherly affection,
or something tenderer still, for you.
Listen to me without resentment:
girls often change to their contentment
light dreams for new ones... so we see
each springtime, on the growing tree,
fresh leaves... for such is heaven's mandate.
You'll love again, but you must teach
your heart some self-restraint; for each
and every man won't understand it
as I have... learn from my belief
that inexperience leads to grief.''


But now Aurora's crimson fingers
from daybreak valleys lift the sun;
the morning light no longer lingers,
the festal name day has begun.
Since dawn, whole families have been driving
towards the Larins' and arriving
in sledded coaches and coupes,
in britzkas, kibitkas and sleighs.
The hall is full of noise and hustle,
in the salon new faces meet,
and kisses smack as young girls greet;
there's yap of pugs, and laughs, and bustle;
the threshold's thronged, wet-nurses call,
guests bow, feet scrape, and children squall.


And now, monotonously dashing
like mindless youth, the waltz goes by
with spinning noise and senseless flashing
as pair by pair the dancers fly.
Revenge's hour is near, and after
Evgeny, full of inward laughter,
has gone to Olga, swept the girl
past all the assembly in a whirl,
he takes her to a chair, beginning
to talk of this and that, but then
after two minutes, off again,
they're on the dance-floor, waltzing, spinning.
All are dumbfounded. Lensky shies
away from trusting his own eyes.



Buyanov, my vivacious cousin,
leads Olga and Tatyana on
to Eugene; nineteen to the dozen,
Eugene takes Olga, and is gone;
he steers her, nonchalantly gliding,
he stoops and, tenderly confiding,
whispers some ballad of the hour,
squeezes her hand — and brings to flower
on her smug face a flush of pleasure.
Lensky has watched: his rage has blazed,
he's lost his self-command, and crazed
with jealousy beyond all measure
insists, when the mazurka ends,
on the cotillion, as amends.


He asks. She can't accept. Why ever?
No, she's already pledged her word
to Evgeny. Oh, God, she'd never...
How could she? why, he'd never heard...
scarce out of bibs, already fickle,
fresh from the cot, an infant pickle,
already studying to intrigue,
already high in treason's league!
He finds the shock beyond all bearing:
so, cursing women's devious course,
he leaves the house, calls for his horse
and gallops. Pistols made for pairing
and just a double charge of shot
will in a flash decide his lot.



Now brooding thoughts hold his attention
once more, at that beloved sight,
and so he lacks the strength to mention
the happenings of the previous night;
he murmurs: ``Olga's mine for saving;
I'll stop that tempter from depraving
her youth with all his repertoire
of sighs, and compliments, and fire;
that poisonous worm, despised, degrading,
shall not attack my lily's root;
I'll save this blossom on the shoot,
still hardly opened up, from fading.''
Friends, all this meant was: I've a date
for swapping bullets with my mate..


Once home, he brought out and inspected
his pistols, laid them in their case,
undressed, by candlelight selected
and opened Schiller... but the embrace
of one sole thought holds him in keeping
and stops his doleful heart from sleeping:
Olga is there, he sees her stand
in untold beauty close at hand.
Vladimir shuts the book, for writing
prepares himself; and then his verse,
compact of amorous trash, and worse,
flows and reverberates. Reciting,
he sounds, in lyric frenzy sunk,
like Delvig when he's dining drunk.








By chance those verses haven't vanished;
I keep them, and will quote them here:
``Whither, oh whither are ye banished,
my golden days when spring was dear?
What fate is my tomorrow brewing?
the answer's past all human viewing,
it's hidden deep in gloom and dust.
No matter; fate's decree is just.
Whether the arrow has my number,
whether it goes careering past,
all's well; the destined hour at last
comes for awakening, comes for slumber;
blessed are daytime's care and cark,
blest is the advent of the dark!


``The morning star will soon be shining,
and soon will day's bright tune be played;
but I perhaps will be declining
into the tomb's mysterious shade;
the trail the youthful poet followed
by sluggish Lethe may be swallowed,
and I be by the world forgot;
but, lovely maiden, wilt thou not
on my untimely urn be weeping,
thinking: he loved me, and in strife
the sad beginnings of his life
he consecrated to my keeping?...
Friend of my heart, be at my side,
beloved friend, thou art my bride!''



Foes! Is it long since from each other
the lust for blood drew them apart?
long since, like brother linked to brother,
they shared their days in deed and heart,
their table, and their hours of leisure?
But now, in this vindictive pleasure
hereditary foes they seem,

and as in some appalling dream
each coldly plans the other's slaughter...
could they not laugh out loud, before
their hands are dipped in scarlet gore,
could they not give each other quarter
and part in kindness? Just the same,
all modish foes dread worldly shame.




Love tyrannises all the ages;
but youthful, virgin hearts derive
a blessing from its blasts and rages,
like fields in spring when storms arrive.
In passion's sluicing rain they freshen,
ripen, and find a new expression —
the vital force gives them the shoot
of sumptuous flowers and luscious fruit.


But when a later age has found us,
the climacteric of our life,
how sad the scar of passion's knife:
as when chill autumn rains surround us,
throw meadows into muddy rout,
and strip the forest round about.







Who in that flash could not have reckoned
her full account of voiceless pain?
Who in the princess for that second
would not have recognized again
our hapless Tanya! An emotion
of wild repentance and devotion
threw Eugene at her feet — she stirred,
and looked at him without a word,
without surprise or rage... 


                           his laden,
his humbly suppliant approach,
his dull, sick look, his dumb reproach —
she sees it all. The simple maiden,
whose heart on dreams was wont to thrive,
in her once more has come alive.


Tatyana leaves Onegin kneeling,
looks at him with a steady gaze,
allows her hand, that's lost all feeling,
to meet his thirsty lips... What daze,
what dream accounts for her distraction?
A pause of silence and inaction,
then quietly at last says she:

``Enough, stand up. It's now for me
to give you honest explanation.
Onegin, d'you recall the day
when in the park, in the allee
where fate had fixed our confrontation,
humbly I heard your lesson out?
Today it's turn and turn about.


``For then, Onegin, I was younger,
and also prettier, I'll be bound,
what's more, I loved you; but my hunger,
what was it in your heart it found
that could sustain it? Only grimness;
for you, I think, the humble dimness
of lovelorn girls was nothing new?
But now — oh God! — the thought of you,
your icy look, your stern dissuasion,
freezes my blood... Yet all the same,
nothing you did gave cause for blame:
you acted well, that dread occasion,
you took an honourable part —
I'm grateful now with all my heart.


``Then, in the backwoods, far from rumour
and empty gossip, you'll allow,
I'd nothing to attract your humour...
Why then do you pursue me now?
What cause has won me your attention?
Could it not be that by convention
I move in the grand monde? that rank,
and riches, and the wish to thank
my husband for his wounds in battle
earn us the favour of the Court?
that, for all this, my shame's report
would cause widespread remark and tattle,
and so in the salons could make
a tempting plume for you to take?



``No, every minute of my days,
to see you, faithfully to follow,
watch for your smile, and catch your gaze
with eyes of love, with greed to swallow
your words, and in my soul to explore
your matchlessness, to seek to capture
its image, then to swoon before
your feet, to pale and waste... what rapture!

``But I'm denied this: all for you
I drag my footsteps hither, yonder;
I count each hour the whole day through;
and yet in vain ennui I squander
the days that doom has measured out.
And how they weigh! I know about
my span, that fortune's jurisdiction
has fixed; but for my heart to beat
I must wake up with the conviction
that somehow that same day we'll meet...


``I dread your stern regard surmising
in my petition an approach,
a calculation past despising —
I hear the wrath of your reproach.
How fearful, in and out of season
to pine away from passion's thirst,
to burn — and then by force of reason
to stem the bloodstream's wild outburst;
how fearful, too, is my obsession
to clasp your knees, and at your feet
to sob out prayer, complaint, confession,
and every plea that lips can treat...



``I weep... In case there still should linger
your Tanya's image in your mind,
then know that your reproving finger,
your cold discourse, were less unkind —
if I had power to choose your fashion —
than this humiliating passion
and than these letters, and these tears.


At least you then showed for my years
respect, and mercy for my dreaming.
But now! what brings you to my feet?
What trifling could be more complete?
What power enslaves you, with your seeming
advantages of heart and brain,
to all that's trivial and inane?


``Bliss was so near, so altogether
attainable!... But now my lot
is firmly cast. I don't know whether
I acted thoughtlessly or not:
you see, with tears and incantation
mother implored me; my sad station
made all fates look the same... and so
I married. I beseech you, go;


I know your heart: it has a feeling
for honour, a straightforward pride.
I love you (what's the use to hide
behind deceit or double-dealing?)
but I've become another's wife —
and I'll be true to him, for life.''






She went — and Eugene, all emotion,
stood thunder-struck. In what wild round
of tempests, in what raging ocean
his heart was plunged! A sudden sound,
the clink of rowels, met his hearing;
Tatyana's husband, now appearing...


But from the hero of my tale,
just at this crisis of his gale,
reader, we must be separating,
for long... for evermore. We've chased
him far enough through wild and waste.
Hurrah! let's start congratulating
ourselves on our landfall. It's true,
our vessel's long been overdue.








Reader, I wish that, as we parted —
whoever you may be, a friend,
a foe — our mood should be warm-hearted.
Goodbye, for now we make an end.
Whatever in this rough confection
you sought — tumultuous recollection,
a rest from toil and all its aches,
or just grammatical mistakes,
a vivid brush, a witty rattle —


God grant that from this little book
for heart's delight, or fun, you took,
for dreams, or journalistic battle,
God grant you took at least a grain.
On this we'll part; goodbye again!



Text from: http://justlife.narod.ru/onegin/onegin_01.htm