Eugene Onegin, written by Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837)

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A challenge by Elisabeth from A Russian Affair

I am no literary scholar but I do like to play around the edges some. So, in the spirit of playing around the edges, I submit the following for your consideration.

First of all, I would like to thank Elisabeth for introducing me to Alexander Pushkin and this delightful verse novel, Eugene Onegin. I had of course, heard of Pushkin, but never read him. So, it was a pleasant surprise.

As I was reading, Eugene Onegin, I heard some echoes of Poe, and Shakespeare. There were of course, dozens of other literary references throughout the work, which were richly detailed in the appendix. I was put in mind of Poe’s, The Raven, and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Although the meter was quite different, there were similarities such as the generous use of alliteration, the rhyming scheme and some of the same words rhymed. Poe and Pushkin were contemporaries and I could not help but wondering if their paths might have crossed or if one influenced the other. So, I did a little digging and found some interesting references.

There is an account of Poe and Pushkin mentioned in the novel, Time, Forward, by Soviet writer Valentin Kataev. The novel’s American character, Ray Roupe, says, “Certain of Pushkin’s poems had kinship with the stories of Edgar Poe, which is of course paradoxical, but quite explicable. When still a youth, Edgar Poe travelled to St. Petersburg on a boat. They say that in one of the taverns there he had met Pushkin. They talked all night over a bottle of wine and the great American poet made a gift of the plot, Man of the Crowd, to Pushkin.” So, I guess I wasn’t the only one who imagined that.

The Raven, by Edgar Allen Poe, has internal rhyming and a general rhyme scheme of ABCB BB. Meter is Trochaic Octameter which is one stressed syllable followed by one unstressed or Dum-da, Dum-da,  Dum-da.

Eugene Onegin consists of 366 14-line stanzas that more or less meet the definition of a sonnet but which serve as paragraphs in the verse novel. There are over 5000 lines of poetry. The meter is Iambic tetrameter. An iamb is a beat in a line of poetry where one unstressed syllable is followed by a stressed syllable, that sort of sounds like this: duh-DUH, duh-DUH, duh-DUH, duh-DUH with a rhyme scheme of ABAB; CCDD; EFFEGG

Here are some examples of similarities and references to Poe and Shakespeare:

Pushkin: “I’d seek to borrow – languid sorrow”(Chapter 3 Stanza 30)

Poe: “Vainly I had sought to borrow from my books surcease of sorrow.”

Tatyana’s letter to Onegin: “There’s no one else I adore. The heaven’s chose my destination and made me thine for evermore.”

“My life til now has been a token in pledge of meeting you, my friend, and in coming, God has spoken.

You’ll be my guardian in the end.”

Poe: “Nevermore” is used throughout The Raven. “That God we both adore,” “Leave no black plume as a token of the lie thy soul has spoken.”

Pushkin (Chapter 5 Stanza 11):

And what an awesome dream

She’s been dreaming

She walks upon a sunny vale

All around her dully gleaming.

Poe: “All the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming.”

Pushkin: (Chapter 7 Stanza 15)

“…Of fisherman were dimly gleaming

Tatyana walked, alone and dreaming,”

Pushkin: (Chapter 8 stanza 20).

“Was this the Tanya he once scolded

In that forsaken, distant place?”

 

Poe: “By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—

Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,”

 

Pushkin: “Our lives were weary, flat, and stale.” (Chapter 1 stanza 45)

Shakespeare: “The world is weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable.” (Hamlet, Act 1 scene 2)

Pushkin: “Poor Yorick!” (Chapter 2, stanza 37)

Shakespeare: “Poor Yorick!” (Hamlet, Act 5 Scene 1)

 

In Chapter 1 I became convinced Pushkin my have had a foot fetish:

“I love their feet-although you’ll find

That all of Russia scarcely numbers

Three pairs of shapely feet…And yet,

How long it took me to forget

Two special feet. And in my slumbers

They still assail a soul grown cold

And on my heart retain their hold.” (Chapter 1 stanza 30)

I also found it quite interesting that Pushkin foreshadowed his own death in his description of the duel with Lensky. That was a bit of a chill!

All in all a very fun read! Thank you again for this marvelous challenge!

 

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3 thoughts on “Eugene Onegin, written by Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837)

  1. Pingback: De Jevgeni Onegin Uitdaging – Hoofdstuk 7 | Een Russische Affaire

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