Canto the Third

The Country Damsel36

“Elle était fille, elle était amoureuse.”



“Whither away? Deuce take the bard!”⁠—
“Good-bye, Onegin, I must go.”⁠—
“I won’t detain you; but ’tis hard
To guess how you the eve pull through.”⁠—
“At Làrina’s.”⁠—“Hem, that is queer!
Pray is it not a tough affair
Thus to assassinate the eve?”⁠—
“Not at all.”⁠—“That I can’t conceive!
’Tis something of this sort I deem.
In the first place, say, am I right?
A Russian household simple quite,
Who welcome guests with zeal extreme,
Preserves and an eternal prattle
About the rain and flax and cattle.”⁠—


“No misery I see in that”⁠—
“Boredom, my friend, behold the ill⁠—”
“Your fashionable world I hate,
Domestic life attracts me still,
Where⁠—”⁠—“What! another eclogue spin?
For God’s sake, Lenski, don’t begin!
What! really going? ’Tis too bad!
But Lenski, I should be so glad
Would you to me this Phyllis show,
Fair source of every fine idea,
Verses and tears et cetera.
Present me.”⁠—“You are joking.”⁠—“No.”⁠—
“Delighted.”⁠—“When?”⁠—“This very night.
They will receive us with delight.”


Whilst homeward by the nearest route
Our heroes at full gallop sped,
Can we not stealthily make out
What they in conversation said?⁠—
“How now, Onegin, yawning still?”⁠—
“ ’Tis habit, Lenski.”⁠—“Is your ill
More troublesome than usual?”⁠—“No!
How dark the night is getting though!
Hallo, Andriushka, onward race!
The drive becomes monotonous⁠—
Well! Làrina appears to us
An ancient lady full of grace.⁠—
That bilberry wine, I’m sore afraid,
The deuce with my inside has played.”


“Say, of the two which was Tattiana?”
“She who with melancholy face
And silent as the maid Svetlana37
Hard by the window took her place.”⁠—
“The younger, you’re in love with her!”
“Well!”⁠—“I the elder should prefer,
Were I like you a bard by trade⁠—
In Olga’s face no life’s displayed.
’Tis a Madonna of Vandyk,
An oval countenance and pink,
Yon silly moon upon the brink
Of the horizon she is like!”⁠—
Vladimir something curtly said
Nor further comment that night made.


Meantime Onegin’s apparition
At Làrina’s abode produced
Quite a sensation; the position
To all good neighbours’ sport conduced.
Endless conjectures all propound
And secretly their views expound.
What jokes and guesses now abound,
A beau is for Tattiana found!
In fact, some people were assured
The wedding-day had been arranged,
But the date subsequently changed
Till proper rings could be procured.
On Lenski’s matrimonial fate
They long ago had held debate.


Of course Tattiana was annoyed
By such allusions scandalous,
Yet was her inmost soul o’erjoyed
With satisfaction marvellous,
As in her heart the thought sank home,
I am in love, my hour hath come!
Thus in the earth the seed expands
Obedient to warm Spring’s commands.
Long time her young imagination
By indolence and languor fired
The fated nutriment desired;
And long internal agitation
Had filled her youthful breast with gloom,
She waited for⁠—I don’t know whom!


The fatal hour had come at last⁠—
She oped her eyes and cried: ’tis he!
Alas! for now before her passed
The same warm vision constantly;
Now all things round about repeat
Ceaselessly to the maiden sweet
His name: the tenderness of home
Tiresome unto her hath become
And the kind-hearted servitors:
Immersed in melancholy thought,
She hears of conversation nought
And hated casual visitors,
Their coming which no man expects,
And stay whose length none recollects.


Now with what eager interest
She the delicious novel reads,
With what avidity and zest
She drinks in those seductive deeds!
All the creations which below
From happy inspiration flow,
The swain of Julia Wolmar,
Malek Adel and De Linar,38
Werther, rebellious martyr bold,
And that unrivalled paragon,
The sleep-compelling Grandison,
Our tender dreamer had enrolled
A single being: ’twas in fine
No other than Onegin mine.


Dreaming herself the heroine
Of the romances she preferred,
Clarissa, Julia, Delphine⁠—39
Tattiana through the forest erred,
And the bad book accompanies.
Upon those pages she descries
Her passion’s faithful counterpart,
Fruit of the yearnings of the heart.
She heaves a sigh and deep intent
On raptures, sorrows not her own,
She murmurs in an undertone
A letter for her hero meant:
That hero, though his merit shone,
Was certainly no Grandison.


Alas! my friends, the years flit by
And after them at headlong pace
The evanescent fashions fly
In motley and amusing chase.
The world is ever altering!
Farthingales, patches, were the thing,
And courtier, fop, and usurer
Would once in powdered wig appear;
Time was, the poet’s tender quill
In hopes of everlasting fame
A finished madrigal would frame
Or couplets more ingenious still;
Time was, a valiant general might
Serve who could neither read nor write.


Time was, in style magniloquent
Authors replete with sacred fire
Their heroes used to represent
All that perfection could desire;
Ever by adverse fate oppressed,
Their idols they were wont to invest
With intellect, a taste refined,
And handsome countenance combined,
A heart wherein pure passion burnt;
The excited hero in a trice
Was ready for self-sacrifice,
And in the final tome we learnt,
Vice had due punishment awarded,
Virtue was with a bride rewarded.


But now our minds are mystified
And Virtue acts as a narcotic,
Vice in romance is glorified
And triumphs in career erotic.
The monsters of the British Muse
Deprive our schoolgirls of repose,
The idols of their adoration
A Vampire fond of meditation,
Or Melmoth, gloomy wanderer he,
The Eternal Jew or the Corsair
Or the mysterious Sbogar.40
Byron’s capricious phantasy
Could in romantic mantle drape
E’en hopeless egoism’s dark shape.


My friends, what means this odd digression?
May be that I by heaven’s decrees
Shall abdicate the bard’s profession,
And shall adopt some new caprice.
Thus having braved Apollo’s rage
With humble prose I’ll fill my page
And a romance in ancient style
Shall my declining years beguile;
Nor shall my pen paint terribly
The torment born of crime unseen,
But shall depict the touching scene
Of Russian domesticity;
I will descant on love’s sweet dream,
The olden time shall be my theme.


Old people’s simple conversations
My unpretending page shall fill,
Their offspring’s innocent flirtations
By the old lime-tree or the rill,
Their Jealousy and separation
And tears of reconciliation:
Fresh cause of quarrel then I’ll find,
But finally in wedlock bind.
The passionate speeches I’ll repeat,
Accents of rapture or despair
I uttered to my lady fair
Long ago, prostrate at her feet.
Then they came easily enow,
My tongue is somewhat rusty now.


Tattiana! sweet Tattiana, see!
What bitter tears with thee I shed!
Thou hast resigned thy destiny
Unto a ruthless tyrant dread.
Thou’lt suffer, dearest, but before,
Hope with her fascinating power
To dire contentment shall give birth
And thou shalt taste the joys of earth.
Thou’lt quaff love’s sweet envenomed stream,
Fantastic images shall swarm
In thy imagination warm,
Of happy meetings thou shalt dream,
And wheresoe’er thy footsteps err,
Confront thy fated torturer!


Love’s pangs Tattiana agonize.
She seeks the garden in her need⁠—
Sudden she stops, casts down her eyes
And cares not farther to proceed;
Her bosom heaves whilst crimson hues
With sudden flush her cheeks suffuse,
Barely to draw her breath she seems,
Her eye with fire unwonted gleams.
And now ’tis night, the guardian moon
Sails her allotted course on high,
And from the misty woodland nigh
The nightingale trills forth her tune;
Restless Tattiana sleepless lay
And thus unto her nurse did say:


“Nurse, ’tis so close I cannot rest.
Open the window⁠—sit by me.”
“What ails thee, dear?”⁠—“I feel depressed.
Relate some ancient history.”
“But which, my dear?⁠—In days of yore
Within my memory I bore
Many an ancient legend which
In monsters and fair dames was rich;
But now my mind is desolate,
What once I knew is clean forgot⁠—
Alas! how wretched now my lot!”
“But tell me, nurse, can you relate
The days which to your youth belong?
Were you in love when you were young?”⁠—


“Alack! Tattiana,” she replied,
“We never loved in days of old,
My mother-in-law who lately died41
Had killed me had the like been told.”
“How came you then to wed a man?”⁠—
“Why, as God ordered! My Ivan
Was younger than myself, my light,
For I myself was thirteen quite;42
The matchmaker a fortnight sped,
Her suit before my parents pressing:
At last my father gave his blessing,
And bitter tears of fright I shed.
Weeping they loosed my tresses long43
And led me off to church with song.”


“Then amongst strangers I was left⁠—
But I perceive thou dost not heed⁠—”
“Alas! dear nurse, my heart is cleft,
Mortally sick I am indeed.
Behold, my sobs I scarce restrain⁠—”
“My darling child, thou art in pain.⁠—
The Lord deliver her and save!
Tell me at once what wilt thou have?
I’ll sprinkle thee with holy water.⁠—
How thy hands burn!”⁠—“Dear nurse, I’m well.
I am⁠—in love⁠—you know⁠—don’t tell!”
“The Lord be with thee, O my daughter!”⁠—
And the old nurse a brief prayer said
And crossed with trembling hand the maid.


“I am in love,” her whispers tell
The aged woman in her woe:
“My heart’s delight, thou art not well.”⁠—
“I am in love, nurse! leave me now.”
Behold! the moon was shining bright
And showed with an uncertain light
Tattiana’s beauty, pale with care,
Her tears and her dishevelled hair;
And on the footstool sitting down
Beside our youthful heroine fair,
A kerchief round her silver hair
The aged nurse in ample gown,44
Whilst all creation seemed to dream
Enchanted by the moon’s pale beam.


But borne in spirit far away
Tattiana gazes on the moon,
And starting suddenly doth say:
“Nurse, leave me. I would be alone.
Pen, paper bring: the table too
Draw near. I soon to sleep shall go⁠—
Good-night.” Behold! she is alone!
’Tis silent⁠—on her shines the moon⁠—
Upon her elbow she reclines,
And Eugene ever in her soul
Indites an inconsiderate scroll
Wherein love innocently pines.
Now it is ready to be sent⁠—
For whom, Tattiana, is it meant?


I have known beauties cold and raw
As Winter in their purity,
Striking the intellect with awe
By dull insensibility,
And I admired their common sense
And natural benevolence,
But, I acknowledge, from them fled;
For on their brows I trembling read
The inscription o’er the gates of Hell
“Abandon hope for ever here!”45
Love to inspire doth woe appear
To such⁠—delightful to repel.
Perchance upon the Neva e’en
Similar dames ye may have seen.


Amid submissive herds of men
Virgins miraculous I see,
Who selfishly unmoved remain
Alike by sighs and flattery.
But what astonished do I find
When harsh demeanour hath consigned
A timid love to banishment?⁠—
On fresh allurements they are bent,
At least by show of sympathy;
At least their accents and their words
Appear attuned to softer chords;
And then with blind credulity
The youthful lover once again
Pursues phantasmagoria vain.


Why is Tattiana guiltier deemed?⁠—
Because in singleness of thought
She never of deception dreamed
But trusted the ideal she wrought?⁠—
Because her passion wanted art,
Obeyed the impulses of heart?⁠—
Because she was so innocent,
That Heaven her character had blent
With an imagination wild,
With intellect and strong volition
And a determined disposition,
An ardent heart and yet so mild?⁠—
Doth love’s incautiousness in her
So irremissible appear?


O ye whom tender love hath pained
Without the ken of parents both,
Whose hearts responsive have remained
To the impressions of our youth,
The all-entrancing joys of love⁠—
Young ladies, if ye ever strove
The mystic lines to tear away
A lover’s letter might convey,
Or into bold hands anxiously
Have e’er a precious tress consigned,
Or even, silent and resigned,
When separation’s hour drew nigh,
Have felt love’s agitated kiss
With tears, confused emotions, bliss⁠—


With unanimity complete,
Condemn not weak Tattiana mine;
Do not cold-bloodedly repeat
The sneers of critics superfine;
And you, O maids immaculate,
Whom vice, if named, doth agitate
E’en as the presence of a snake,
I the same admonition make.
Who knows? with love’s consuming flame
Perchance you also soon may burn,
Then to some gallant in your turn
Will be ascribed by treacherous Fame
The triumph of a conquest new.
The God of Love is after you!


A coquette loves by calculation,
Tattiana’s love was quite sincere,
A love which knew no limitation,
Even as the love of children dear.
She did not think “procrastination
Enhances love in estimation
And thus secures the prey we seek.
His vanity first let us pique
With hope and then perplexity,
Excruciate the heart and late
With jealous fire resuscitate,
Lest jaded with satiety,
The artful prisoner should seek
Incessantly his chains to break.”


I still a complication view,
My country’s honour and repute
Demands that I translate for you
The letter which Tattiana wrote.
At Russ she was by no means clever
And read our newspapers scarce ever,
And in her native language she
Possessed nor ease nor fluency,
So she in French herself expressed.
I cannot help it I declare,
Though hitherto a lady ne’er
In Russ her love made manifest,
And never hath our language proud
In correspondence been allowed.46


They wish that ladies should, I hear,
Learn Russian, but the Lord defend!
I can’t conceive a little dear
With the Well-Wisher in her hand!47
I ask, all ye who poets are,
Is it not true? the objects fair,
To whom ye for unnumbered crimes
Had to compose in secret rhymes,
To whom your hearts were consecrate⁠—
Did they not all the Russian tongue
With little knowledge and that wrong
In charming fashion mutilate?
Did not their lips with foreign speech
The native Russian tongue impeach?


God grant I meet not at a ball
Or at a promenade mayhap,
A schoolmaster in yellow shawl
Or a professor in tulle cap.
As rosy lips without a smile,
The Russian language I deem vile
Without grammatical mistakes.
May be, and this my terror wakes,
The fair of the next generation,
As every journal now entreats,
Will teach grammatical conceits,
Introduce verse in conversation.
But I⁠—what is all this to me?
Will to the old times faithful be.


Speech careless, incorrect, but soft,
With inexact pronunciation
Raises within my breast as oft
As formerly much agitation.
Repentance wields not now her spell
And gallicisms I love as well
As the sins of my youthful days
Or Bogdanovitch’s sweet lays.48
But I must now employ my Muse
With the epistle of my fair;
I promised!⁠—Did I so?⁠—Well, there!
Now I am ready to refuse.
I know that Parny’s tender pen49
Is no more cherished amongst men.


Bard of the “Feasts,” and mournful breast,50
If thou wert sitting by my side,
With this immoderate request
I should alarm our friendship tried:
In one of thine enchanting lays
To russify the foreign phrase
Of my impassioned heroine.
Where art thou? Come! pretensions mine
I yield with a low reverence;
But lonely beneath Finnish skies
Where melancholy rocks arise
He wanders in his indolence;
Careless of fame his spirit high
Hears not my importunity!


Tattiana’s letter I possess,
I guard it as a holy thing,
And though I read it with distress,
I’m o’er it ever pondering.
Inspired by whom this tenderness,
This gentle daring who could guess?
Who this soft nonsense could impart,
Imprudent prattle of the heart,
Attractive in its banefulness?
I cannot understand. But lo!
A feeble version read below,
A print without the picture’s grace,
Or, as it were, the Freischutz’ score
Strummed by a timid schoolgirl o’er.

Tattiana’s Letter to Onegin

I write to you! Is more required?
Can lower depths beyond remain?
’Tis in your power now, if desired,
To crush me with a just disdain.
But if my lot unfortunate
You in the least commiserate
You will not all abandon me.
At first, I clung to secrecy:
Believe me, of my present shame
You never would have heard the name,
If the fond hope I could have fanned
At times, if only once a week,
To see you by our fireside stand,
To listen to the words you speak,
Address to you one single phrase
And then to meditate for days
Of one thing till again we met.
’Tis said you are a misanthrope,
In country solitude you mope,
And we⁠—an unattractive set⁠—
Can hearty welcome give alone.
Why did you visit our poor place?
Forgotten in the village lone,
I never should have seen your face
And bitter torment never known.
The untutored spirit’s pangs calmed down
By time (who can anticipate?)
I had found my predestinate,
Become a faithful wife and e’en
A fond and careful mother been.

Another! to none other I
My heart’s allegiance can resign,
My doom has been pronounced on high,
’Tis Heaven’s will and I am thine.
The sum of my existence gone
But promise of our meeting gave,
I feel thou wast by God sent down
My guardian angel to the grave.
Thou didst to me in dreams appear,
Unseen thou wast already dear.
Thine eye subdued me with strange glance,
I heard thy voice’s resonance
Long ago. Dream it cannot be!
Scarce hadst thou entered thee I knew,
I flushed up, stupefied I grew,
And cried within myself: ’tis he!
Is it not truth? in tones suppressed
With thee I conversed when I bore
Comfort and succour to the poor,
And when I prayer to Heaven addressed
To ease the anguish of my breast.
Nay! even as this instant fled,
Was it not thou, O vision bright,
That glimmered through the radiant night
And gently hovered o’er my head?
Was it not thou who thus didst stoop
To whisper comfort, love and hope?
Who art thou? Guardian angel sent
Or torturer malevolent?
Doubt and uncertainty decide:
All this may be an empty dream,
Delusions of a mind untried,
Providence otherwise may deem⁠—
Then be it so! My destiny
From henceforth I confide to thee!
Lo! at thy feet my tears I pour
And thy protection I implore.
Imagine! Here alone am I!
No one my anguish comprehends,
At times my reason almost bends,
And silently I here must die⁠—
But I await thee: scarce alive
My heart with but one look revive;
Or to disturb my dreams approach
Alas! with merited reproach.

’Tis finished. Horrible to read!
With shame I shudder and with dread⁠—
But boldly I myself resign:
Thine honour is my countersign!


Tattiana moans and now she sighs
And in her grasp the letter shakes,
Even the rosy wafer dries
Upon her tongue which fever bakes.
Her head upon her breast declines
And an enchanting shoulder shines
From her half-open vest of night.
But lo! already the moon’s light
Is waning. Yonder valley deep
Looms gray behind the mist and morn
Silvers the brook; the shepherd’s horn
Arouses rustics from their sleep.
’Tis day, the family downstairs,
But nought for this Tattiana cares.


The break of day she doth not see,
But sits in bed with air depressed,
Nor on the letter yet hath she
The image of her seal impressed.
But gray Phillippevna the door
Opened with care, and entering bore
A cup of tea upon a tray.
“ ’Tis time, my child, arise, I pray!
My beauty, thou art ready too.
My morning birdie, yesternight
I was half silly with affright.
But praised be God! in health art thou!
The pains of night have wholly fled,
Thy cheek is as a poppy red!”


“Ah! nurse, a favour do for me!”⁠—
“Command me, darling, what you choose”⁠—
“Do not⁠—you might⁠—suspicious be;
But look you⁠—ah! do not refuse.”
“I call to witness God on high⁠—”
“Then send your grandson quietly
To take this letter to O⁠—Well!
Unto our neighbour. Mind you tell⁠—
Command him not to say a word⁠—
I mean my name not to repeat.”
“To whom is it to go, my sweet?
Of late I have been quite absurd⁠—
So many neighbours here exist⁠—
Am I to go through the whole list?”


“How dull you are this morning, nurse!”
“My darling, growing old am I!
In age the memory gets worse,
But I was sharp in times gone by.
In times gone by thy bare command⁠—”
“Oh! nurse, nurse, you don’t understand!
What is thy cleverness to me?
The letter is the thing, you see⁠—
Onegin’s letter!”⁠—“Ah! the thing!
Now don’t be cross with me, my soul,
You know that I am now a fool⁠—
But why are your cheeks whitening?”
“Nothing, good nurse, there’s nothing wrong,
But send your grandson before long.”


No answer all that day was borne.
Another passed; ’twas just the same.
Pale as a ghost and dressed since morn
Tattiana waits. No answer came!
Olga’s admirer came that day:
“Tell me, why doth your comrade stay?”
The hostess doth interrogate:
“He hath neglected us of late.”⁠—
Tattiana blushed, her heart beat quick⁠—
“He promised here this day to ride,”
Lenski unto the dame replied,
“The post hath kept him, it is like.”
Shamefaced, Tattiana downward looked
As if he cruelly had joked!


’Twas dusk! Upon the table bright
Shrill sang the samovar at eve,51
The china teapot too ye might
In clouds of steam above perceive.
Into the cups already sped
By Olga’s hand distributed
The fragrant tea in darkling stream,
And a boy handed round the cream.
Tania doth by the casement linger
And breathes upon the chilly glass,
Dreaming of what not, pretty lass,
And traces with a slender finger
Upon its damp opacity,
The mystic monogram, O. E.


In the meantime her spirit sinks,
Her weary eyes are filled with tears⁠—
A horse’s hoofs she hears⁠—She shrinks!
Nearer they come⁠—Eugene appears!
Ah! than a spectre from the dead
More swift the room Tattiana fled,
From hall to yard and garden flies,
Not daring to cast back her eyes.
She fears and like an arrow rushes
Through park and meadow, wood and brake,
The bridge and alley to the lake,
Brambles she snaps and lilacs crushes,
The flowerbeds skirts, the brook doth meet,
Till out of breath upon a seat


She sank.⁠—
“He’s here! Eugene is here!
Merciful God, what will he deem?”
Yet still her heart, which torments tear,
Guards fondly hope’s uncertain dream.
She waits, on fire her trembling frame⁠—
Will he pursue?⁠—But no one came.
She heard of servant-maids the note,
Who in the orchards gathered fruit,
Singing in chorus all the while.
(This by command; for it was found,
However cherries might abound,
They disappeared by stealth and guile,
So mouths they stopt with song, not fruit⁠—
Device of rural minds acute!)

The Maidens’ Song

Young maidens, fair maidens,
Friends and companions,
Disport yourselves, maidens,
Arouse yourselves, fair ones.
Come sing we in chorus
The secrets of maidens.
Allure the young gallant
With dance and with song.
As we lure the young gallant,
Espy him approaching,
Disperse yourselves, darlings,
And pelt him with cherries,
With cherries, red currants,
With raspberries, cherries.
Approach not to hearken
To secrets of virgins,
Approach not to gaze at
The frolics of maidens.


They sang, whilst negligently seated,
Attentive to the echoing sound,
Tattiana with impatience waited
Until her heart less high should bound⁠—
Till the fire in her cheek decreased;
But tremor still her frame possessed,
Nor did her blushes fade away,
More crimson every moment they.
Thus shines the wretched butterfly,
With iridescent wing doth flap
When captured in a schoolboy’s cap;
Thus shakes the hare when suddenly
She from the winter corn espies
A sportsman who in covert lies.


But finally she heaves a sigh,
And rising from her bench proceeds;
But scarce had turned the corner nigh,
Which to the neighbouring alley leads,
When Eugene like a ghost did rise
Before her straight with roguish eyes.
Tattiana faltered, and became
Scarlet as burnt by inward flame.
But this adventure’s consequence
To-day, my friends, at any rate,
I am not strong enough to state;
I, after so much eloquence,
Must take a walk and rest a bit⁠—
Some day I’ll somehow finish it.