Mikhailovskoye

 

A Winter Evening

Pushkin arrived in Mikhailovskoye in 1824.  His own father was entrusted by the secret police with keeping his son out of trouble.  Needless to say, the relationship between him and his freedom-loving offspring became tense and he soon left Pushkin to his own devices.    

 

During the cold Russian evenings, Pushkin’s only companion was often his old nanny, Arina Rodionovna Yakovleva.  She is the old woman mentioned in this poem below.  Throughout his life Pushkin deeply loved this simple peasant woman and credited her with inspiration for the tales of the Ruslan and Lyudmila and tenderly depicts her image as Tatiana’s nanny Filipievna in Eugene Onegin.    

Nikolai Medtner: Winter Evening - Anton Belov and Susan McDaniel
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Arina Rodionovna Yakovleva, Pushkin's Nanny

Portrait by an unknown painter

Буря мглою небо кроет,
Вихри снежные крутя;
То, как зверь, она завоет,
То заплачет, как дитя,
То по кровле обветшалой
Вдруг соломой зашумит,
То, как путник запоздалый,
К нам в окошко застучит.

 

Наша ветхая лачужка
И печальна и темна.
Что же ты, моя старушка,
Приумолкла у окна?
Или бури завываньем
Ты, мой друг, утомлена,
Или дремлешь под жужжаньем
Своего веретена?

 

Выпьем, добрая подружка
Бедной юности моей,
Выпьем с горя; где же кружка?
Сердцу будет веселей.
Спой мне песню, как синица
Тихо за морем жила;
Спой мне песню, как девица
За водой поутру шла.

 

Буря мглою небо кроет,
Вихри снежные крутя;
То, как зверь, она завоет,
То заплачет, как дитя,
То по кровле обветшалой
Вдруг соломой зашумит,
То, как путник запоздалый,
К нам в окошко застучит.

The blizzard is covering the sky with gloom,

Spinning the vortexes of snow;

Sometimes it howls like a beast,

Sometimes it cries like a child,

Sometimes it rattles the hay

On our ramshackle roof,

Sometimes it knocks on our window

Like a late-coming traveler.

 

Our dilapidated little house

Is melancholy and dark;

Why are you, my dear old woman,

Became quiet sitting by the window?

Perhaps you are worn down

By the snowstorm’s wailing,

Or you are nodding to the buzz

Of your spindle?

 

Let’s have a drink, dear friend

Of my impoverished youth,

Let’s drink out of sadness, where is the cup?

It will make the heart rejoice.

Sing me a song, about a chickadee

That lived quietly beyond the sea;

Sing me a song, about a maiden

That went to fetch water in the morning.

 

The blizzard is covering the sky with gloom,

Spinning the vortexes of snow;

Sometimes it howls like a beast,

Sometimes it cries like a child,

Let’s have a drink, dear friend

Of my impoverished youth,

Let’s drink out of sadness, where is the cup?

It will make the heart rejoice!

My Blood is Ablaze with Desire

 

Alone in the village, Pushkin pondered some universal questions and turned to the reading of the scripture.  To this period belong his translations of several verses from the Song of Solomon.  No doubt that this book with its combination of the erotic and the spiritual deeply affected the exiled poet.

 

This text, a poetic rendering of the opening verse of the Song of Songs, has been set by numerous composers, most notably, by Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857) and Alexander Glazunov (1865–1936).  It is hard to imagine two settings of the same poem more distinct than these.  Glinka’s is a light-hearted dancing tune—a simple bel canto romance in a strophic form.  Glazunov’s, on the other hand, is a haunting through-composed incantation in the style of the oriental romance.  The sparse piano accompaniment imitates a string instrument and the vocal line is strongly reminiscent of Persian modality. 

Mikhail Glinka, My Blood is Ablaze with Desire - Anton Belov and Susan McDaniel
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Alexander Glazunov, My Blood is Ablaze with Desire (An Oriental Romance) - Anton Belov and Susan McDaniel
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В крови горит огонь желанья,
Душа тобой уязвлена,
Лобзай меня: твои лобзанья
Мне слаще мирра и вина.

 

Склонись ко мне главою нежной,
И да почию безмятежный,
Пока дохнёт весёлый день
И двигнется ночная тень.

My blood is ablaze with desire,

My soul is wounded by you,

Kiss me, you kisses

To me are sweeter than myrrh and wine.

 

Lean on me your tender head,

And I will rest carefree,

Until the happy day will come,

And the shadow of the night will disappear.

 

My Sister's Garden

 

My Sister's Garden and My Blood is Ablaze with Desire were published under the title of In Imitation to the Song of Songs.

Alexander Dargomyzhsky: My Sister's Garden - Unknown Artist
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I Recall the Wonderful Moment is perhaps the most widely known poem in the Russian language.  As a young woman, Anna Petrovna Kern, the subject of this poem, was married off to a retired general.  Pushkin first met the young beauty in 1819 and was immediately infatuated with her, but at the time she did not return his advances.  Pushkin met Anna again in 1825 at the estate of his neighbors, the family of Osipov-Wolf.   By then, Kern’s loveless marriage had completely deteriorated and the two developed deep mutual affection for each other.

 

Kern’s aunt and the matriarch of the Osipov household decided to terminate the affair and send Anna to her relatives in the city of Riga.  At their parting Pushkin presented her with the freshly finished second chapter of Eugene Onegin.  Hidden in between the uncut pages was a piece of ordinary paper with Pushkin’s autograph of I Recall the Wonderful Moment.  Anna carefully preserved the poem along with many letters addressed to her.

 

Years later, Mikhail Glinka fell in love with Anna’s daughter Ekaterina.  The mother showed to him the original autograph of the poem and he composed the song dedicating it to Ekaterina.  That affair ended tragically, but years later, Anna visited the ailing composer in Berlin and asked him to perform that song which he did with great pleasure.  Only a year later the composer was dead. 

Mikhail Glinka: I Recall the Wonderful Moment - Anton Belov and Susan McDaniel
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Вертоград моей сестры,
Вертоград уединенный;
Чистый ключ у ней с горы
Не бежит запечатленный.
У меня плоды блестят
Наливные, золотые;
У меня бегут, шумят
Воды чистые, живые.
Нард, алой и киннамон
Благовонием богаты:
Лишь повеет аквилон,
И закаплют ароматы.

My sister’s garden,

A secluded garden;

No clear spring runs down there,

Gushing from the mountains.

The fruit gleams in my garden

Golden and ready to eat;

In my garden runs noisily

Clear, living water.

Spikenard, aloe and cinnamon,

Rich in fragrance:

As the aquilon (north wind) blows,

The air fills with aromas!

 

I  Recall the Wonderful Moment

 

Pushkin's sketch of Anna Kern

Я помню чудное мгновенье:
Передо мной явилась ты,
Как мимолетное виденье,
Как гений чистой красоты.

В томленьях грусти безнадежной
В тревогах шумной суеты,
Звучал мне долго голос нежный
И снились милые черты.

Шли годы. Бурь порыв мятежный
Рассеял прежние мечты,
И я забыл твой голос нежный,
Твои небесные черты.

В глуши, во мраке заточенья
Тянулись тихо дни мои
Без божества, без вдохновенья,
Без слез, без жизни, без любви.

Душе настало пробужденье:
И вот опять явилась ты,
Как мимолетное виденье,
Как гений чистой красоты.

И сердце бьется в упоенье,
И для него воскресли вновь
И божество, и вдохновенье,
И жизнь, и слезы, и любовь.

I recall the wonderful moment:
You appeared before me,
Like a fleeting apparition,
Like a genius of pure beauty.

 

In anguish of my hopeless sadness,
In troubles of the noisy bustle of life,
I often heard your tender voice,
And dreamt of your gentle features.

 

The years went by.  The restless gusts of storms

Dispersed my former dreams,

And I forgot your tender voice,

And your heavenly features.

 

In isolation, in the darkness of captivity

My days dragged by silently;

Deprived of a deity and inspiration,

Deprived of tears and life and love.

 

My soul awoke again,

And here again you appeared,

Like a fleeting apparition,

Like a genius of pure beauty.

 

And the heart is beating in ecstasy,

And for it revived again

The deity and inspiration,

And life, and tears, and love.