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Extract from Yevgeni Onegin

(Chapter Eight)

Days rushed;  in the air warming slowly
Winter resolved to be resigned;
And he did not become a poet,
Did not die, did not lose his mind.
The spring enlivens him;   his chambers,
Where for so long he’s hibernated
Like a ground hog or a woodchuck
–  Its double doors and inglenook—
He first leaves on a fine clear morning,
Along the Neva flies his sleigh.
On the blue ice-blocks hacked away
From Neva the sun plays;  the thawing
Furrows of snow are churned to mud:
To where, then, does his sleigh, his blood,

Direct Onegin?   Yes, exactly!
You’ve guessed the mission he is on:
The sleigh at pace to his Tatiana
Is bearing my rash hooligan.
Soon, looking like a corpse, he enters
The first hall… not a soul… He ventures
Further:  still no one… One room more?
He can’t turn back now;  when this door
He opens, what can cause Yevgeni
To reel back, shaken?   The princess,
Alone, pale, in untidy dress,
Is sitting there, reading a letter,
Her sad face tilted, resting on
Her hand, and her tears streaming down.

Who would a deep but silent anguish
In that swift instant not have read?
Who would not know that poor young Tanya
Larina’s tears were being shed?
He falls before her, in the madness
Of his regret, remorse, compassion;
She starts, but holds him with her eyes,
In silence and without surprise,
And without anger… Just intently
Takes in his sick look, like a light
Put out,  his pleading eyes, his mute
Reproach – she takes in all.  The tender
And simple girl of former days
Is resurrected, newly raised.

For a long time there’s only silence.
She does not make Onegin stand;
Allows, as though not realising,
His thirsty lips against her hand…
To what dreams has she now surrendered?
It seems the silence will not end, but
Tanya says quietly at last:
‘Enough;   please get up now.  I must
Explain myself to you sincerely.
Onegin, do you recall the time
When in the garden of my home
I listened humbly as so clearly
You spoke the lesson I should learn?
Well, now today it is my turn.

In those days I was younger;  maybe
A little better-looking too,
And loved you;  yet I found, Onegin,
What? – what did I find in you,
In your heart?  Nothing but correctness,
Isn’t that true?   And you expected
Young, humble girls to fall in love
With you.   My God!  I feel my blood
Freezing today to think how coldly
You looked, and preached at me… But I
Don’t blame you:  in that dreadful time
You acted really rather nobly,
For what you said to me was right;
I thank you now with all my heart.

In those days, living in the wilds, far
From rumour, from society
– Isn’t this true? – you didn’t like me…
Why now are you pursuing me?
Why do you make me now your aim, your
Object?… Isn’t it, Onegin,
Because I am – I have to be –
A part of the nobility?
And then, my husband, maimed in battle,
Is liked and favoured by the court;
Isn’t it true, my disrepute
Would bring on us enormous scandal?
Wouldn’t that suit you?  You’d be sure
To gain a scurrilous allure.

I’m crying… If indeed your Tanya
You’ve not forgotten yet, know this:
Your sharp rebuke, your caustic manner,
Your icy-cold, severe discourse,
Could I re-live those past events, I
Would much prefer to this offensive
Passion, these letters and these tears.
You had respect then for my years,
At least showed you were sympathetic
To dreams a young girl may create…
But now!  – this falling at my feet,
It’s shameful, don’t you think?  Pathetic!
How could you let a trivial
Feeling enslave your heart and soul? 

To me, Onegin, this existence
Is loathsome.   All the luxury,
My triumphs in this tinsel brilliance,
The vortex of society,
My fashionable home, and evenings
– What are they?   Masquerades!   Believe me,
I’d give it all up for a shelf
Of books, a garden to myself,
Full of wild flowers, and for the places
Where I saw you for the first time,
Onegin;  and I even pine
For that poor, silent, humble graveyard,
Where now my dear old nurse is laid
Beneath a cross and branches’ shade.

Yet happiness was so possible
So close!...  But now my fate
Is fixed.  I think I was not fully…
Mindful… until it seemed too late.
Everyone urged it, mama pleaded,
Her tears kept falling, and for me I
Felt that all lots would be the same…
And so I married.  Now it’s time,
You have to leave me now, I beg you;
I know that in your heart reside
A true nobility and pride.
I love you (why should I dissemble?),
But I am someone else’s wife;
I shall be true to him all my life.’ 

She leaves the room.  And for Yevgeni,
Who stands in shock, it is as though
A frightful tempest of  sensations
Is concentrating blow on blow
Upon his heart!   But of a sudden,
A clink of spurs,  it’s Tanya’s husband
Coming;  and at this moment when
Our hero’s life goes ill, my friends,
I fear that we shall have to leave him,
For a long time… for ever.  We
Have followed his path faithfully
Quite long enough, don’t you agree?  It’s
The shore at  last, thank God.  Hooray!
I thought we’d never see the day.

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D.M. Thomas
Original language:
Series 3 No.14 - Polyphony

About the author


Original poet


Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin (Russian: Алекса́ндр Серге́евич Пу́шкин) (1799-1837) was a Russian author of the Romantic era wh...

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D.M. Thomas

D.M. Thomas has won a Cholmondeley award for poetry and the Orwell Prize for his biography of Solzhenitsyn. His novel The Whit...

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