"The genius's masterpiece appears
With former brilliance to us."- Alexander Pushkin, "Artist"
If you had to tell someone that you have burnt a letter, what would you say? How would you explain the simple act of burning paper? Grab paper, burn paper. Done.
So, when I find someone that is able to take an ordinary situation like burning paper and transform it into such an evocative poem that makes me feel like I am burning it myself–I can even see the flame and smell the tragic ending of the letter–then I know I am in the presence of a brilliant writer. Not in vain he is often referred to as the father of modern Russian literature.
The Burned Letter
Farewell, Letter of Love! farewell: it’s her desire.How long did I delay! How long refused, in ire,I to destroy the single joy of mine!...Enough! The time has come. Burn, scripts of love divine.I’m ready; nothing else can call for my sad soul…Now the greedy flame is touching its form whole…A minute!… it is flamed and blazing – smoke, light,With my bitter laments, is flying of my sight.And now the ring’s stamp forfeited its form previous –It’s boiling – the seal wax… O, Providence of Heavens!That’s all! The letter’s leaves are twisted, now black;On their light ashes their well known trackIs whitening… My heart is squeezed. Oh, dear ashes,In my sad destiny, my poor consolations,Forever lie on breast, so fully, fully wracked…
Have you seen its flame?
Pushkin's poetry is as magnificent as his prose. Beautiful images, extraordinary language, insightful thoughts and palpable feelings that you will either want to share or relieve. I enjoyed reading his poems, even the ones that I found too romantic (those usually make my brain want to take a nap). He and his masterful use of the language can do magic.
ElegyExtinguished gaiety of years, which sunk in madness,Presses on me like a hangover restless.But in my soul, foregoing pineBecomes through time still stronger, like a wine.My way is sad. Predicts me toile and woe –The sea of future in a wrath and row.But, oh, my friends, I do not want to die;I want to live for reasoning and trial;I know, it will come – my satisfactionAmidst the troubles, grieves and agitation:Sometimes I’ll sink in harmony again,Or wet my thought with tears of joy and pain.And maybe, else, to my nightfall, in darknessWill love smile farewell with her former brightness.
His little masterpieces in the form of verses gave me such a freedom to form my own interpretations of them. My modest brain read each poem and found a very personal meaning. Perhaps, the meaning I needed to find (or the only one I was able to find; but I will stick to the "need" version, it sounds more poetic).
The CloudThe last one of clouds of scattered a tempest,Just single you’re flying in azure, the prettiest,Just single you’re bringing the sorrowful shade,Just single you’re saddening day that is glad....Enough, now vanish! Your time is not endless -The earth is refreshed and away gone the tempest;And now the wind, fondling leaves of the trees,With pleasure is driving you out the sky bliss.***Don’t ask me whyDon’t ask me why, alone in dismal thought,In times of mirth, I’m often filled with strife,And why my weary stare is so distraught,And why I don’t enjoy the dream of life;Don’t ask me why my happiness has perished,Why I don’t love the love that pleased me then,No longer can I call someone my cherished--Who once felt love will never love again;Who once felt bliss, no more will feel its essence,A moment’s happiness is all that we receive:From youth, prosperity and joyful pleasantry,All that is left is apathy and grief...
Not everything is that dark. His subtle humor and wit are still present in his poetry. I chose this one as a fair example:
The Curious‘Well, what is new?’ – ‘I swear nothing else.’ –‘Hey, don’t cheat me; for sure, something you know.It is a shame, that from your mate, the best,You hide the things, as from a hardened foe.Or are you cross: then why, my dear friend?Just say a word; don’t play a stubborn role …’ –‘Oh, go away, I only know thatYou are a fool and it isn’t new, in whole.
Looking for some juicy gossip, Push? Well, I have news for you. For one poem you wrote, I read like five.
Curious–What’s new? “I tell you, nothing whatsoever.”–Don’t fool with me: you’re hiding it, I know.Oh, don’t you feel ashamed? you think you’re cleverTo hide the news from me like from a foe?Oh, tell me, brother, why? Inform me, I insist!Don’t be so stubborn, give me just a clue...“Oh, let me be, the only thing I know is this -That you’re a fool, but that is nothing new.”
If only I could speak Russian...
Anyway, I feel like an extremely proud parent that wants to talk about an exceptional son, over and over again. Even if you are talking about how to eat a cupcake like a gentleman (that actually exists), they'll find a way to bring up the "son subject". That is how I feel about Pushkin now. I would like to share more of his poems because I can't find the right words to express how beautiful they are. Sure, I could say “these poems are beautiful, you should read them”, but that's hardly enough.
This author's remarkable sensitivity combined with his outstanding writing style and rich vocabulary made my week. Such beauty is everything but common.