Canto the Fifth

The Fête57

“Oh, do not dream these fearful dreams,
O my Svetlana.”



That year the autumn season late
Kept lingering on as loath to go,
All Nature winter seemed to await,
Till January fell no snow⁠—
The third at night. Tattiana wakes
Betimes, and sees, when morning breaks,
Park, garden, palings, yard below
And roofs near morn blanched o’er with snow;
Upon the windows tracery,
The trees in silvery array,
Down in the courtyard magpies gay,
And the far mountains daintily
O’erspread with Winter’s carpet bright,
All so distinct, and all so white!


Winter! The peasant blithely goes
To labour in his sledge forgot,
His pony sniffing the fresh snows
Just manages a feeble trot
Though deep he sinks into the drift;
Forth the kibitka gallops swift,58
Its driver seated on the rim
In scarlet sash and sheepskin trim;
Yonder the household lad doth run,
Placed in a sledge his terrier black,
Himself transformed into a hack;
To freeze his finger hath begun,
He laughs, although it aches from cold,
His mother from the door doth scold.


In scenes like these it may be though,
Ye feel but little interest,
They are all natural and low,
Are not with elegance impressed.
Another bard with art divine
Hath pictured in his gorgeous line
The first appearance of the snows
And all the joys which Winter knows.
He will delight you, I am sure,
When he in ardent verse portrays
Secret excursions made in sleighs;
But competition I abjure
Either with him or thee in song,
Bard of the Finnish maiden young.59


Tattiana, Russian to the core,
Herself not knowing well the reason,
The Russian winter did adore
And the cold beauties of the season:
On sunny days the glistening rime,
Sledging, the snows, which at the time
Of sunset glow with rosy light,
The misty evenings ere Twelfth Night.
These evenings as in days of old
The Làrinas would celebrate,
The servants used to congregate
And the young ladies fortunes told,
And every year distributed
Journeys and warriors to wed.


Tattiana in traditions old
Believed, the people’s wisdom weird,
In dreams and what the moon foretold
And what she from the cards inferred.
Omens inspired her soul with fear,
Mysteriously all objects near
A hidden meaning could impart,
Presentiments oppressed her heart.
Lo! the prim cat upon the stove
With one paw strokes her face and purrs,
Tattiana certainly infers
That guests approach: and when above
The new moon’s crescent slim she spied,
Suddenly to the left hand side,


She trembled and grew deadly pale.
Or a swift meteor, may be,
Across the gloom of heaven would sail
And disappear in space; then she
Would haste in agitation dire
To mutter her concealed desire
Ere the bright messenger had set.
When in her walks abroad she met
A friar black approaching near,60
Or a swift hare from mead to mead
Had run across her path at speed,
Wholly beside herself with fear,
Anticipating woe she pined,
Certain misfortune near opined.


Wherefore? She found a secret joy
In horror for itself alone,
Thus Nature doth our souls alloy,
Thus her perversity hath shown.
Twelfth Night approaches. Merry eves!61
When thoughtless youth whom nothing grieves,
Before whose inexperienced sight
Life lies extended, vast and bright,
To peer into the future tries.
Old age through spectacles too peers,
Although the destined coffin nears,
Having lost all in life we prize.
It matters not. Hope e’en to these
With childlike lisp will lie to please.


Tattiana gazed with curious eye
On melted wax in water poured;
The clue unto some mystery
She deemed its outline might afford.
Rings from a dish of water full
In order due the maidens pull;
But when Tattiana’s hand had ta’en
A ring she heard the ancient strain:
The peasants there are rich as kings,
They shovel silver with a spade,
He whom we sing to shall be made
Happy and glorious. But this brings
With sad refrain misfortune near.
Girls the kashourka much prefer.62


Frosty the night; the heavens shone;
The wondrous host of heavenly spheres
Sailed silently in unison⁠—
Tattiana in the yard appears
In a half-open dressing-gown
And bends her mirror on the moon,
But trembling on the mirror dark
The sad moon only could remark.
List! the snow crunches⁠—he draws nigh!
The girl on tiptoe forward bounds
And her voice sweeter than the sounds
Of clarinet or flute doth cry:
“What is your name?” The boor looked dazed,
And “Agathon” replied, amazed.63


Tattiana (nurse the project planned)
By night prepared for sorcery,
And in the bathroom did command
To lay two covers secretly.
But sudden fear assailed Tattiana,
And I, remembering Svetlana,64
Become alarmed. So never mind!
I’m not for witchcraft now inclined.
So she her silken sash unlaced,
Undressed herself and went to bed
And soon Lel hovered o’er her head.65
Beneath her downy pillow placed,
A little virgin mirror peeps.
’Tis silent all. Tattiana sleeps.


A dreadful sleep Tattiana sleeps.
She dreamt she journeyed o’er a field
All covered up with snow in heaps,
By melancholy fogs concealed.
Amid the snowdrifts which surround
A stream, by winter’s ice unbound,
Impetuously clove its way
With boiling torrent dark and gray;
Two poles together glued by ice,
A fragile bridge and insecure,
Spanned the unbridled torrent o’er;
Beside the thundering abyss
Tattiana in despair unfeigned
Rooted unto the spot remained.


As if against obstruction sore
Tattiana o’er the stream complained;
To help her to the other shore
No one appeared to lend a hand.
But suddenly a snowdrift stirs,
And what from its recess appears?
A bristly bear of monstrous size!
He roars, and “Ah!” Tattiana cries.
He offers her his murderous paw;
She nerves herself from her alarm
And leans upon the monster’s arm,
With footsteps tremulous with awe
Passes the torrent. But alack!
Bruin is marching at her back!


She, to turn back her eyes afraid,
Accelerates her hasty pace,
But cannot anyhow evade
Her shaggy myrmidon in chase.
The bear rolls on with many a grunt:
A forest now she sees in front
With fir-trees standing motionless
In melancholy loveliness,
Their branches by the snow bowed down.
Through aspens, limes and birches bare,
The shining orbs of night appear;
There is no path; the storm hath strewn
Both bush and brake, ravine and steep,
And all in snow is buried deep.


The wood she enters⁠—bear behind⁠—
In snow she sinks up to the knee;
Now a long branch itself entwined
Around her neck, now violently
Away her golden earrings tore;
Now the sweet little shoes she wore,
Grown clammy, stick fast in the snow;
Her handkerchief she loses now;
No time to pick it up! afraid,
She hears the bear behind her press,
Nor dares the skirting of her dress
For shame lift up the modest maid.
She runs, the bear upon her trail,
Until her powers of running fail.


She sank upon the snow. But Bruin
Adroitly seized and carried her;
Submissive as if in a swoon,
She cannot draw a breath or stir.
He dragged her by a forest road
Till amid trees a hovel showed,
By barren snow heaped up and bound,
A tangled wilderness around.
Bright blazed the window of the place,
Within resounded shriek and shout:
“My chum lives here,” Bruin grunts out.
“Warm yourself here a little space!”
Straight for the entrance then he made
And her upon the threshold laid.


Recovering, Tania gazes round;
Bear gone⁠—she at the threshold placed;
Inside clink glasses, cries resound
As if it were some funeral feast.
But deeming all this nonsense pure,
She peeped through a chink of the door.
What doth she see? Around the board
Sit many monstrous shapes abhorred.
A canine face with horns thereon,
Another with cock’s head appeared,
Here an old witch with hirsute beard,
There an imperious skeleton;
A dwarf adorned with tail, again
A shape half cat and half a crane.


Yet ghastlier, yet more wonderful,
A crab upon a spider rides,
Perched on a goose’s neck a skull
In scarlet cap revolving glides.
A windmill too a jig performs
And wildly waves its arms and storms;
Barking, songs, whistling, laughter coarse,
The speech of man and tramp of horse.
But wide Tattiana oped her eyes
When in that company she saw
Him who inspired both love and awe,
The hero we immortalize.
Onegin sat the table by
And viewed the door with cunning eye.


All bustle when he makes a sign:
He drinks, all drink and loudly call;
He smiles, in laughter all combine;
He knits his brows⁠—’tis silent all.
He there is master⁠—that is plain;
Tattiana courage doth regain
And grown more curious by far
Just placed the entrance door ajar.
The wind rose instantly, blew out
The fire of the nocturnal lights;
A trouble fell upon the sprites;
Onegin lightning glances shot;
Furious he from the table rose;
All arise. To the door he goes.


Terror assails her. Hastily
Tattiana would attempt to fly,
She cannot⁠—then impatiently
She strains her throat to force a cry⁠—
She cannot⁠—Eugene oped the door
And the young girl appeared before
Those hellish phantoms. Peals arise
Of frantic laughter, and all eyes
And hoofs and crooked snouts and paws,
Tails which a bushy tuft adorns,
Whiskers and bloody tongues and horns,
Sharp rows of tushes, bony claws,
Are turned upon her. All combine
In one great shout: she’s mine! she’s mine!


“Mine!” cried Eugene with savage tone.
The troop of apparitions fled,
And in the frosty night alone
Remained with him the youthful maid.
With tranquil air Onegin leads
Tattiana to a corner, bids
Her on a shaky bench sit down;
His head sinks slowly, rests upon
Her shoulder⁠—Olga swiftly came⁠—
And Lenski followed⁠—a light broke⁠—
His fist Onegin fiercely shook
And gazed around with eyes of flame;
The unbidden guests he roughly chides⁠—
Tattiana motionless abides.


The strife grew furious and Eugene
Grasped a long knife and instantly
Struck Lenski dead⁠—across the scene
Dark shadows thicken⁠—a dread cry
Was uttered, and the cabin shook⁠—
Tattiana terrified awoke.
She gazed around her⁠—it was day.
Lo! through the frozen windows play
Aurora’s ruddy rays of light⁠—
The door flew open⁠—Olga came,
More blooming than the Boreal flame
And swifter than the swallow’s flight.
“Come,” she cried, “sister, tell me e’en
Whom you in slumber may have seen.”


But she, her sister never heeding,
With book in hand reclined in bed,
Page after page continued reading,
But no reply unto her made.
Although her book did not contain
The bard’s enthusiastic strain,
Nor precepts sage nor pictures e’en,
Yet neither Virgil nor Racine
Nor Byron, Walter Scott, nor Seneca,
Nor the Journal des Modes, I vouch,
Ever absorbed a maid so much:
Its name, my friends, was Martin Zadeka,
The chief of the Chaldean wise,
Who dreams expound and prophecies.


Brought by a pedlar vagabond
Unto their solitude one day,
This monument of thought profound
Tattiana purchased with a stray
Tome of Malvina, and but three66
And a half rubles down gave she;
Also, to equalise the scales,
She got a book of nursery tales,
A grammar, likewise Petriads two,
Marmontel also, tome the third;
Tattiana every day conferred
With Martin Zadeka. In woe
She consolation thence obtained⁠—
Inseparable they remained.


The dream left terror in its train.
Not knowing its interpretation,
Tania the meaning would obtain
Of such a dread hallucination.
Tattiana to the index flies
And alphabetically tries
The words bear, bridge, fir, darkness, bog,
Raven, snowstorm, tempest, fog,
Et cetera; but nothing showed
Her Martin Zadeka in aid,
Though the foul vision promise made
Of a most mournful episode,
And many a day thereafter laid
A load of care upon the maid.


“But lo! forth from the valleys dun
With purple hand Aurora leads,
Swift following in her wake, the sun,”67
And a grand festival proceeds.
The Làrinas were since sunrise
O’erwhelmed with guests; by families
The neighbours come, in sledge approach,
Britzka, kibitka, or in coach.
Crush and confusion in the hall,
Latest arrivals’ salutations,
Barking, young ladies’ osculations,
Shouts, laughter, jamming ’gainst the wall,
Bows and the scrape of many feet,
Nurses who scream and babes who bleat.


Bringing his partner corpulent
Fat Poustiakoff drove to the door;
Gvozdine, a landlord excellent,
Oppressor of the wretched poor;
And the Skatènines, aged pair,
With all their progeny were there,
Who from two years to thirty tell;
Pétòushkoff, the provincial swell;
Bouyànoff too, my cousin, wore68
His wadded coat and cap with peak
(Surely you know him as I speak);
And Fliànoff, pensioned councillor,
Rogue and extortioner of yore,
Now buffoon, glutton, and a bore.


The family of Kharlikoff,
Came with Monsieur Triquet, a prig,
Who arrived lately from Tamboff,
In spectacles and chestnut wig.
Like a true Frenchman, couplets wrought
In Tania’s praise in pouch he brought,
Known unto children perfectly:
Reveillez-vouz, belle endormie.
Among some ancient ballads thrust,
He found them in an almanac,
And the sagacious Triquet back
To light had brought them from their dust,
Whilst he “belle Nina” had the face
By “belle Tattiana” to replace.


Lo! from the nearest barrack came,
Of old maids the divinity,
And comfort of each country dame,
The captain of a company.
He enters. Ah! good news to-day!
The military band will play.
The colonel sent it. Oh! delight!
So there will be a dance to-night.
Girls in anticipation skip!
But dinner-time comes. Two and two
They hand in hand to table go.
The maids beside Tattiana keep⁠—
Men opposite. The cross they sign
And chattering loud sit down to dine.


Ceased for a space all chattering.
Jaws are at work. On every side
Plates, knives and forks are clattering
And ringing wine-glasses are plied.
But by degrees the crowd begin
To raise a clamour and a din:
They laugh, they argue, and they bawl,
They shout and no one lists at all.
The doors swing open: Lenski makes
His entrance with Onegin. “Ah!
At last the author!” cries Mamma.
The guests make room; aside each takes
His chair, plate, knife and fork in haste;
The friends are called and quickly placed.


Right opposite Tattiana placed,
She, than the morning moon more pale,
More timid than a doe long chased,
Lifts not her eyes which swimming fail.
Anew the flames of passion start
Within her; she is sick at heart;
The two friends’ compliments she hears
Not, and a flood of bitter tears
With effort she restrains. Well nigh
The poor girl fell into a faint,
But strength of mind and self-restraint
Prevailed at last. She in reply
Said something in an undertone
And at the table sat her down.


To tragedy, the fainting fit,
And female tears hysterical,
Onegin could not now submit,
For long he had endured them all.
Our misanthrope was full of ire,
At a great feast against desire,
And marking Tania’s agitation,
Cast down his eyes in trepidation
And sulked in silent indignation;
Swearing how Lenski he would rile,
Avenge himself in proper style.
Triumphant by anticipation,
Caricatures he now designed
Of all the guests within his mind.


Certainly not Eugene alone
Tattiana’s trouble might have spied,
But that the eyes of every one
By a rich pie were occupied⁠—
Unhappily too salt by far;
And that a bottle sealed with tar
Appeared, Don’s effervescing boast,69
Between the blanc-mange and the roast;
Behind, of glasses an array,
Tall, slender, like thy form designed,
Zizi, thou mirror of my mind,
Fair object of my guileless lay,
Seductive cup of love, whose flow
Made me so tipsy long ago!


From the moist cork the bottle freed
With loud explosion, the bright wine
Hissed forth. With serious air indeed,
Long tortured by his lay divine,
Triquet arose, and for the bard
The company deep silence guard.
Tania well nigh expired when he
Turned to her and discordantly
Intoned it, manuscript in hand.
Voices and hands applaud, and she
Must bow in common courtesy;
The poet, modest though so grand,
Drank to her health in the first place,
Then handed her the song with grace.


Congratulations, toasts resound,
Tattiana thanks to all returned,
But, when Onegin’s turn came round,
The maiden’s weary eye which yearned,
Her agitation and distress
Aroused in him some tenderness.
He bowed to her nor silence broke,
But somehow there shone in his look
The witching light of sympathy;
I know not if his heart felt pain
Or if he meant to flirt again,
From habit or maliciously,
But kindness from his eye had beamed
And to revive Tattiana seemed.


The chairs are thrust back with a roar,
The crowd unto the drawing-room speeds,
As bees who leave their dainty store
And seek in buzzing swarms the meads.
Contented and with victuals stored,
Neighbour by neighbour sat and snored,
Matrons unto the fireplace go,
Maids in the corner whisper low;
Behold! green tables are brought forth,
And testy gamesters do engage
In boston and the game of age,
Ombre, and whist all others worth:
A strong resemblance these possess⁠—
All sons of mental weariness.


Eight rubbers were already played,
Eight times the heroes of the fight
Change of position had essayed,
When tea was brought. ’Tis my delight
Time to denote by dinner, tea,
And supper. In the country we
Can count the time without much fuss⁠—
The stomach doth admonish us.
And, by the way, I here assert
That for that matter in my verse
As many dinners I rehearse,
As oft to meat and drink advert,
As thou, great Homer, didst of yore,
Whom thirty centuries adore.


I will with thy divinity
Contend with knife and fork and platter,
But grant with magnanimity
I’m beaten in another matter;
Thy heroes, sanguinary wights,
Also thy rough-and-tumble fights,
Thy Venus and thy Jupiter,
More advantageously appear
Than cold Onegin’s oddities,
The aspect of a landscape drear.
Or e’en Istòmina, my dear,
And fashion’s gay frivolities;
But my Tattiana, on my soul,
Is sweeter than thy Helen foul.


No one the contrary will urge,
Though for his Helen Menelaus
Again a century should scourge
Us, and like Trojan warriors slay us;
Though around honoured Priam’s throne
Troy’s sages should in concert own
Once more, when she appeared in sight,
Paris and Menelaus right.
But as to fighting⁠—’twill appear!
For patience, reader, I must plead!
A little farther please to read
And be not in advance severe.
There’ll be a fight. I do not lie.
My word of honour given have I.


The tea, as I remarked, appeared,
But scarce had maids their saucers ta’en
When in the grand saloon was heard
Of bassoons and of flutes the strain.
His soul by crash of music fired,
His tea with rum no more desired,
The Paris of those country parts
To Olga Petoushkova darts:
To Tania Lenski; Kharlikova,
A marriageable maid matured,
The poet from Tamboff secured,
Bouyànoff whisked off Poustiakova.
All to the grand saloon are gone⁠—
The ball in all its splendour shone.


I tried when I began this tale,
(See the first canto if ye will),
A ball in Peter’s capital,
To sketch ye in Albano’s style.70
But by fantastic dreams distraught,
My memory wandered wide and sought
The feet of my dear lady friends.
O feet, where’er your path extends
I long enough deceived have erred.
The perfidies I recollect
Should make me much more circumspect,
Reform me both in deed and word,
And this fifth canto ought to be
From such digressions wholly free.


The whirlwind of the waltz sweeps by,
Undeviating and insane
As giddy youth’s hilarity⁠—
Pair after pair the race sustain.
The moment for revenge, meanwhile,
Espying, Eugene with a smile
Approaches Olga and the pair
Amid the company career.
Soon the maid on a chair he seats,
Begins to talk of this and that,
But when two minutes she had sat,
Again the giddy waltz repeats.
All are amazed; but Lenski he
Scarce credits what his eyes can see.


Hark! the mazurka. In times past,
When the mazurka used to peal,
All rattled in the ball-room vast,
The parquet cracked beneath the heel,
And jolting jarred the window-frames.
’Tis not so now. Like gentle dames
We glide along a floor of wax.
However, the mazurka lacks
Nought of its charms original
In country towns, where still it keeps
Its stamping, capers and high leaps.
Fashion is there immutable,
Who tyrannizes us with ease,
Of modern Russians the disease.


Bouyànoff, wrathful cousin mine,
Unto the hero of this lay
Olga and Tania led. Malign,
Onegin Olga bore away.
Gliding in negligent career,
He bending whispered in her ear
Some madrigal not worth a rush,
And pressed her hand⁠—the crimson blush
Upon her cheek by adulation
Grew brighter still. But Lenski hath
Seen all, beside himself with wrath,
And hot with jealous indignation,
Till the mazurka’s close he stays,
Her hand for the cotillon prays.


She fears she cannot.⁠—Cannot? Why?⁠—
She promised Eugene, or she would
With great delight.⁠—O God on high!
Heard he the truth? And thus she could⁠—
And can it be? But late a child
And now a fickle flirt and wild,
Cunning already to display
And well-instructed to betray!
Lenski the stroke could not sustain,
At womankind he growled a curse,
Departed, ordered out his horse
And galloped home. But pistols twain,
A pair of bullets⁠—nought beside⁠—
His fate shall presently decide.