Pushkin

Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837)  “the Proteus of fire and blood”

Poet, dramatist, novelist, and short-story writer,  Pushkin is to Russia as Shakespeare is to England and Goethe to Germany.  He was born at Moscow, on the 26th of May 1799.  His family, on the paternal side, was one of the most ancient and distinguished in the empire which entitled him to noble birth status.  In 1811, Pushkin obtained admission into the Imperial Lyceum of Tsárskoë Seló, giving him an education equal to that provided by the French Lycee or Oxford.  Students of the Lyceum were almost always youths of the most distinguished families among the Russian nobility, those that were selected were also the most promising based on perceived intellect. This institution was modeled on the plan of those lycées which conferred upon its pupils a preparatory encyclopedic of knowledge followed by the academic specialty curriculum of a university so that students were ready to begin their careers in any of the arms of government.  The close and intimate friendships formed in the Lyceum, like those in American institutions  (affectionately called “the old boys club”) remained close to Pushkin throughout his life. The six years at the Lyceum (1811-1817) was a clear match for his need for constant  activity to feed his tendency toward  abstraction, neither of which lent themselves to that of the high quality student except he was already receiving praise for his poetry.  Most Russians were fascinated by all that was French in this respect Pushkin was no exception and throughout his school years he was referred to a “Frenchy”.    He entertained his audiences with epistles, epigrams, descriptive, satirical all in the style typical of the period, the ancreontic eighteenth-century, with mostly four stress iambic lines. Here is his Reason and Love, written in 1814:

“Daphnis, pursuing Doris through the grove,
‘Stay, fair one, stay!’ he panted; ‘do but say
I love you, and I’ll never bar your way
Again I swear it by the God of Love.
Reason advised: ‘Say not a word!’
And Doris said, ‘You strangely stir my breast,’
And their two hearts succumbed to love’s sweet spell’
Then at her feet, adoring, Daphnis fell,
And her shy gaze his lowered head caressed.
Reason admonished: ‘Run away!’
And naughty Eros whispered: ‘Stay!’…
Over the maiden’s burning lips there passed
A moment there, then gone –a fleeting sile;
Then on her eyes a mist dewscended, while
Into the shepherd’s arms she sank at last.
‘Be happy!’ Eros whispered in her ear
And reason said no word that she could hear.”

What do we need to know about events in Russia that spawned this great poet?  Under Tsar Peter the Great (1672-1725) Russia established itself with a  new capital at St. Petersburg dubbed  “the window looking into Europe”.   He also simplified the Russian alphabet,  created the first Russian newspaper;  appointed ambassadors to London and Paris, adopted a national language; and created a library which was one of the largest in the world. These were the circumstances under which Russian writers began imitating French and English classical literature  especially Zhukovsky who in 1802 translated Gray’s Elegy and Byron’s The Prisoner of Chillon to the delight of his student Pushkin.

Pushkin wrote “Peter was undoubtedly a revolutionary by God’s grace…the tremendous revolution achieved by his autocratic power abolished the old system of life, and European influences spread all over Russia. Russia entered Europe like a launched ship, accompanied by the noise of axes and firing guns…”  There were three possibilities if this enlightenment was to be sustained in Russia: first, it could become a mirror of the European model, second go its own way on a different path, or third embrace a synthesis of the West and East.  Russia chose the third; a European model with a Russian spirit;  a model which flourished even after the defeat of Napoleon and until the revolution.  Dostoevsky had much good to say of Pushkin “Emphatically I say that there has never been a poet like Pushkin, a poet with his universal sympathy, his extraordinary depth, and miraculous reincarnation of his spirit in the spirit of other nations…he is a phenomenon, a prophetic phenomenon, because in his poetry he expressed the national spirit of our future…”

Pushkin’s verse falls into three distinct styles (although believe there only two):  the first was an Italian/French with the publication of Ruslan, the second or Southern romantic Byronic followed the “disillusioned hero” story line, and the last quashed the idealist in favor of the narratives and verse novels in distinctive Russian realism and objectivism.  There was overlapping – the changes were not clearly defined.  For example The Gypsies began as a Byronic tale but ran into difficulty when it became apparent that the reader had to decide whether the hero was a true romantic or simply a soppy, vapid sentimentalist.  The elements of his first poems embrace the aristocrat of the 18th century with all of the required wit, gaiety, and amorous engagements. Then Pushkin tuned into real life in Russia and when the effects of the French Revolution swept across Europe  and the Holy Alliance was set in place, At that point he put one foot into the bourgeois-liberal spirit of protest as Russia moved from “a feudal agricultural system to a bourgeois-capitalistic system.”   “During the Napoleonic wars a great many Russian officers had lived abroad. They came back to Russia after the Congress of Vienna in 1815, teeming with new ideas and new ideals. They took life seriously, and were called by Pushkin the Puritans of the North. Their aim was culture and the public welfare. They were not revolutionaries; on the contrary, they were anxious to co-operate with the Government. They formed for their purpose a society, in imitation of the German Tugendbund, called The Society of Welfare: its aims were philanthropic, educational, and economic. It consisted chiefly of officers of the Guard, and its headquarters were at St. Petersburg. All this was known and approved of by the Emperor. But when the Government became reactionary, this peaceful progressive movement changed its character. The Society of Welfare was closed in 1821, and its place was taken by two new societies, which, instead of being political, were social and revolutionary. The success of the revolutionary movements in Spain and in Italy encouraged these societies to follow their example. After the death of Alexander I in 1825 they became the “Decembrists”. Their movement was attacked one hundred and twenty-five of the conspirators were condemned. Five were hanged.  The effect of the movement on literature was far-reaching.   Philosophy took the lead over politics, and liberalism became romanticism.  Out of this romantic movement came the springtide of Russian poetry, in which, “for the first time, the soul of the Russian people found adequate expression.” In poetry Pushkin wrote:

“Not long have we by love’s sweet thrills,
By hope and fame been led astray.
Like smoke, like mist on morning hills,
Young pleasures fade away.

But in our hearts desire still seethes:
Beneath oppression’s fateful hand
Through our impatient soul there breathes
We long for freedom, and there burns
Within our hearts hope’s sacred fire;
Just so a youthful lover yearns
To gain his heart’s desire.

While we respond to freedom’s name,
While honour still moves heart and hand,
Let us devote our inner flame
To this our fatherland.

Believe me, comrade, we shall see
The dawning of a joyful morn,
And Russia, from her slumbers torn,
The ruins of autocracy
Will with our names adorn.”

When Pushkin began a series of poetic attacks to express their disappointment with “the Tsardom” – such writings did not escape notice by the aristocracy and when members of the so-called Decembrist movement began to disappear into jails Pushkin decided that politics and propaganda poetry would lead to death and destruction  - as a budding poet there was place for neither in his life, not yet anyway.  A recent biography writes that “Pushkin kept a close eye on book sales, royalties, and the impact of censorship on his popularity.”  Kahn

“Amidst these flowering fields and hills
The friend of man, appalled, perceives the trace
A shameful ignorance has stamped on every face.
Blind to all tears, and deaf to every groan,
Chosen by destiny to ruin other lives,
Heartless and lawless, here a race of masters thrives;
Wielding a ruthless rod, it makes its own
The peasant’s toil, his chattels and his days;
Behind a borrowed plough, obedient to the lash,
Starved slaves the earth with furrows gash
For lords whom no entreaty sways.
Here all bear heavy yokes till their last hours;
Afraid to nourish hope, or answer love’s sweet call,
The tender maiden flowers
To serve the lusts of some base criminal;
Companion of his parents’ toil and tears,
The son, the sweet support of their declining years,
From the parental  roof must hence
To swell the sorry crowd of lackeys at the hall.
Oh, could my voice all hearts inspire!
Why does my bosom burn with fruitless fire
And my poor tongue lack burning eloquence?
Friends, shall I ever see my nation, freed, arise,
And serfdom vanish at a Tsar’s command,
And over freedom’s fatherland
A lovely dawn illuminate the skies?”  In the Country

Pushkin had clearly established his preference for  “wine, women, and song”  the “song” of course was his poetry.  So when he was transferred to a civil service post in South Russia, by suggestion or by force, he wasted no time, to the Caucasus he went.  Strangely enough this change perfectly suited him – peace and tranquility – time for reflection.  Yet still within sights and sounds of Kishnev to feed his bohemian happy-go-lucky, tendency to gamble nature.   It was here he left behind his charming renaissance verse and began his second “romantic southern cycle” or  “Byronic Period”.   Prisoner of the Caucasus and The Gypsies are in the style of Byron.

Pushkin was the first Russian to produce a work in every literary genre but also in the style of every Western poet of the time.  We see in the romanticism of Byron’s Lines in an Album -  Pushkin’s To a Flower;  and the pathos of this verse of Heine.

They loved each other, but neither
Would admit to the other they could:
As enemies, they saw each other,
And almost died of their love.

In the end they parted and only
Saw each other sometimes in dreams:
It was long ago they had died,
But they scarcely knew it, it seems. Sie liebten sich beide’

in Pushkin’s The Angel:

“At the gates of Eden a tender Angel
With drooping head was shining;
A demon gloomy and rebellious
Over the abyss of hell was flying.

The spirit of Denial, the spirit of Doubt,
The spirit of purity espied;
And unwittingly the warmth of tenderness
He for the first time learned to know.

Adieu, he spake, thee I saw;
Not in vain hast thou shone before me.
Not all in the world have I hated,
Not all in the world have I scorned.

And even his K moryu (To the Sea) with a salutation to Napoleon at St. Helena, and to Byron  (“he was your bard O sea”) was taken from the playbook of  Childe Harold - Farewell.  He offers this farewell to Odessa and South Russia, an event which he viewed as “imposed restraint”,  it signals the end his romantic period and the iambic meter, the most popular meter in lyric poetry.

Unfettered element! Farewell
Before me now one final time
You roll again that sky blue swell,
And sparkle with a pride sublime.

Like an old friend's regretful sigh,
Like calls of fare-you-well through tears,
Your summoning sound, your sounding cry,
One final time now fills my ears.

Oh yes, my heart's desired reach!
How often I in twilight went
Quiet and dark along your beach,
Wracked by a sacred deep intent.

Dear were the answers you would send,
Dim primal sounds, the chasm's call
The silences of evenfall
And those impulsive flights of wind.

The humble sail of fishers' slips,
With the protection of your mood,
Bravely amid your watertips,
But you, a Titan unsubdued,
Roll rough and drown a herd of ships.

'Twas not my luck to leave the night
Fallen on this dry stirless shore,
To greet you, raptured into light,
And make my grand poetic flight
Across your crests forevermore

You called... I was enthralled aground.
Vainly my heart in shackles strained.
By spells of potent passion bound
Beside the beaches I remained.

What's to regret? Toward what far shoal
Could I my madcap voyage chart?
In all your open wilds, one goal
Could still have power to strike my heart,

One cliff...that sepulcher of glory
There a chill slumber in the west
Whelmed memories of a mighty story...
There was Napoleon felled to rest.

There rested he in tribulations.
And, after him as thunder, rolls
Yet one more genius of the nations,
One more commander of our souls.

Leaving the world his wreath forever
He vanished, grieved by liberty.
Seethe! Sound! Blow wild with angry weather.
He was your one true bard, O Sea.

In him your spirit wrought its mark,
In your own image was he framed
Like you was potent, deep and dark.
Like you, an element untamed.

The world's a void. Now in that cold
Whither, O Sea, would you with me?
In every land one fate takes hold:
Each drop of virtue is patrolled
By technocrats...or tyranny.

So, Sea, farewell. I will recall
Your august splendor all my years.
Long shall your boom as evenings fall
Sound and resound within my ears.

To woods and hushful wastes, away
Imbued anew with you, I bring
Your gleam and shadow, cliff and bay,
And your dear waves' blue rumoring.

The Miltonic The Prophet is viewed by most critics (Brewster et al) as his tour de force of short poems:

“With spiritual thirst aflame
Weary through empty wastes I wandered;
And lo, a six-winged seraph came
To meet me where the paths were sundered.
With touch as soft as sleep he laid
His fingers on my lids, and made
My eyes to open, wide and wise,
Like to a startled eagle’s eyes,
He laid his fingers on my ears,
And they were filled with noise and ringing:
I heard the trembling of the spheres,
The angels through the heavens winging,
The beasts that creep beneath the tide,
The vine that climbs the valley-side.
And to my mouth he closely clung
And wrenched away my sinful tongue
That dripped with vanity and cunning;
He pressed my fainting lips apart
And in them thrust a serpent’s dart,
Red blood about his fingers running.
With his sharp blade he split my breast
And thence my trembling heart he stole,
And in its stead  a burning coal
Into the gaping wound he pressed.
Long in the desert dead I lay,
Until at last, I heard God say:
“Rise, prophet, filled with My commands;
Become all sight, become all hearing,
And journey over seas and lands,
Men’s hearts with fiery utterance searing.”

The epic poem The Fountain of Bakhchisarai  was written in five-stress iambics. It is a description of a visit to a ruined palace haunted by a spirit:

“I was not born here but far, far off
And yet the objects of those bygone days
Are still cut deeply in my memory.
I remember mountains in the clouds,
Warmsprings on the mountains,
Impenetrable woods,
Other laws and other customs.
But why and under what destiny I quitted my homeland I know not.
I only remember the sea,
And a man perched up aloft, beneath the sails…”

Pushkin was the first Russian to produce examples of work in almost every major literary genre.  His Little Tragedies were written in “speakers verse” a la Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure they might even be described as miniature “tabloid plays.”   He used traditional human motives as a focus for his characters so in The Miser Knight the central theme is avarice a la Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice or Moliere’s L’Avare.  For The Stone Guest the driving force is carnal lust.  In Mozart and Salieri it is envy.  This last one was based on the rumor that Mozart had been poisoned by Salieri – Pushkin gave a case for the difference between genius and talent.   He founded The Contemporary a first Russian literary journal.   Eugen Onegin published in 1833 is a verse novel in his own  fourteen line stanza.  His most famous historical tragedy is Boris Godonov   written in blank verse.   Pushkin wrote two outstanding ballads; the first The Black Shawl and The OutcastThe Black Shawl was written in unrhymed couplets: the story line reads like a Greek tragedy.

“I gaze demented on the black shawl,
And my cold soul is torn by grief.

When young I was full to trust
I passionately loved a young Greek maid.

The charming maid, she fondled me,
But soon I lived the black day to see.

Once as were gathered my jolly guests,
A detested Jew knocked at my door.

Thou art feasting, he whispered, with friends,
But betrayed thou art by thy Greek maid.

Moneys I gave him and curses,
And called my servant, the faithful.

We went; I flew on the wings of my steed,
And tender mercy was silent in me.

Her threshold no sooner I espied,
Dark grew my eyes, and my strength departed.

The distant chamber I enter alone
An Armenian embraces my faithless maid.

Darkness around me: flashed the dagger;
To interrupt his kiss the wretch had no time.

And long I trampled the headless corpse,
And silent and pale at the main I stared.

I remember her prayers, her flowing blood,
But perished the girl, and with her my love.

The shawl I took from the head now dead,
And wiped in silence the bleeding steel.

When came the darkness of eve, my serf
Threw their bodies into the billows of the Danube.

Since then I kiss no charming eyes,
Since then I know no cheerful days.

I gaze demented on black shawl,
And my cold soul is torn by grief.”

 

Our first characteristic is transient, versatile, mutable, eclectic.

“A floweret, withered, odorless,
In a book forgot I find;
And already strange reflection
Cometh into my mind.

Bloomed where? When? In what spring?
And how long ago? And plucked by whom”
Was it by a strange hand, was it by a dear hand?
And wherefore left thus here?

Was it in memory of a tender meeting?
Was it in memory of a fated parting?
Was it in memory of a lonely walk
In the peaceful fields, or in the shady woods?

Lives he still? Lives she still?
And where is their nook this very day?
Or are they too withered,
Like unto this unknown floweret?    To a Flower

“Where is our rose, friends?
Tell if ye may!
Faded the rose, friends,
The Dawn child of Day.
Ah, do not say,
Such is youth’s fleetness!
Ah, do not say,
Thus fades life’s sweetness!
No, rather say,
I mourn thee, rose – farewell!
Now to the lily-bell
Flit we away.”   The Rose

Comments from critics, colleagues, and himself.

“The Gipsies have something in common with Wordsworth’s  Leechgatherer…He (Pushkin) had  Don Juan and Tristram Shandy before him when writing Eugeny Onegin.”  Bayley

“his works are very numerous, and as diverse in their form as in their spirit; he is sometimes a romantic, sometimes a legendary, sometimes an epic, sometimes a satiric, and sometimes a dramatic.”  

In folk-tales most of his themes were taken either from the Brothers Grimm or Washington Irving.  Le Coq D’or from Irving’s the legend of the Arab astrologer in The AlhambraThe Tale of the Dead Princess  was a take-off on Grimm’s Snow White.

“Pushkin could think and speak as a pagan, a Christian, a medieval knight, a Renaissance man, a votary of Voltaire and a disciple of Rousseau”.  Lavrin

“A once charming poet who has become a literary Prometheus able to breathe life into literary corpses who would otherwise remain corpses.”  Shalikov

In Comparative Literature (1965) the article The Case re-opened discusses the similarity between Shenstone’s didactic poem Economy  and Pushkin’s  The Covetous Knight.

Here we have another study:

“What is my name to you?
It will die, like the sad noise
Of a wave breaking on a distant shore
Like night sound in deep forest

As in The Ancient Mariner:

“A noise like that of a hidden brook
In the leafy month of June,
That to the sleeping woods all night
Singeth a quiet tune.”

Or from Hyperion:

“As when, upon a tranced summer night
Those green-rob’d senators of might woods
Tall oaks, branch-charmed by the earnest stars,
Dream and so dream all night without a stir.”   Bayley

“The notion of  The Metamorphoses appealing in any case to Pushkin’s protean genius, could have been the catalyst which precipitated the novel form of  The Gypsies…”   Bayley

“…as he had Don Juan and Tristram Shandy before him when writing Evgeny Onegin.”  Bayley

“Bulgarim attacked Pushkin as a ‘French versifier’ who copied Byron without understanding him.”     Bayley

Our second characteristic is bon vivant, sybaritic, hedonistic, romantic.

“Let us drink and be merry;
Let us play with life;
Let the blind mob bustle as they please,
No need for us to imitate the foolish.
Let our thoughtless youth drown itself in wine and pleasure;
Let fleeting joy smile at us, through in a dream.
When youth with its airy vapour carries off the
Merriment of youthful days,
Then we will withhold from old age
Everything that can be withheld from it.”       Friends

“But I, an ever indolent rake,
A hideous descendant of negroes,
Reared in farouche simplicity,
Knowing nothing of the torments of love -
I please youthful beauty by the shameless
Fury of my desires.
With cheek involuntarily aflame, stealthily, a young nymph,
Not understanding her own self, will sometimes look at a fawn.”    To Yuriev

“You are young…and will be young for another five or six years.
They will swarm around you for another six years,
Flatter, caress and reward you, divert you with serenades by night and
Kill each other for you by night at street corners.
But when the time has gone, when your eyes are sunken,
And your eyelids wrinkle and grow dark,
And grey hair gleams in your tresses,
And you begin to be called an old woman:
Then – what will you say.”     The Stone Guest

Comments from critics, colleagues, and himself.

“There is a striking difference between the almost touchingly inflammable womaniser that Pushkin was in real life and his self-control on the subject in his art…with self-indulgencer there can be no pornography.”  On Eugene Onegin.  J. Bayley

“His soul is a veritable Aeolian harp. No sooner does the wind begin to blow than his soul is filled with music.

“such lamental behavior clashes with the sublime gift he received from nature.”   Nikitenko on his gambling

“He is in love with love rather than with women.”   Lavrin

“In Pushkin,” says Soloviev, the philosopher, “according to his own testimony there were two different and separate beings: the inspired priest of Apollo, and the most frivolous of all the frivolous children of the world.”

The more serious Pushkin’s turn of thought grew, the more objective, purer, and stronger his work became, the less it was appreciated; for the public which delighted in the comparatively inferior work of his youth was not yet ready for his more mature work. What pleased the public were the dazzling colours, the sensuous and sometimes libidinous images of his early poems; the romantic atmosphere; especially anything that was artificial in them.”

Our third characteristic is simplistic, clarity, beauty.

”O last cloud of the scattered storm,
Alone thou sailest along the azaure clear;
Alone thou bringest the darkness of shadow;
Alone thou marrest the joy of the day.

Thou but recently hadst encircled the sky,
When sternly the lightning was winding about thee.
Thou gavest forth mysterious thunder,
Thou has watered with rain the parched earth.

Enough; hide thyself. Thy time hath passed.
The earth is refreshed, and the storm hath fled,
And the breeze, fondling the leaves of the trees,
Forth chases thee from the quieter havens.”   The Cloud

“God’s birdlet knows
Nor care nor toil;
Nor weaves it painfully
As everlasting nest;
Through the long night on the twig it slumbers;
When rises the red sun,
To the voice of God listens birdie,
And it starts and it sings.

When spring, nature’s beauty,
And the fog and the rain
By the late fall are brought,
Men are wearied, men are grieved;
But birdie flies into distant lands,
Into warm climes, beyond the blue sera,
Flies away until the Spring.” The Birdlet

“The wondrous destiny is ended,
The mighty light is quench’d and dead;
Napoleon’s sun, so bright and dread.
The captive King hath burst his prison
The petted child of Victory;
And for the Exile hath arisen
The dawning of Posterity.      Napoleon

Comments from critics, colleagues, and himself.

“…the singer was stirred by this trustfulness of birdie, all the more beautiful because unconscious, and accordingly celebrates it in lines of well-night unapproachable tenderness, grace, and beauty”   Panin

“He was a poet whose lyrics sang themselves.”  Panin

“He is a poet of everyday life: a realistic poet, and above all things a lyrical poet. He is not a dramatist, and as an epic writer, though he can mould a bas-relief and produce a noble fragment, he cannot set crowds in motion. He revealed to the Russians the beauty of their landscape and the poetry of their people…”       Baring

“And when his artistic ideals were misunderstood and depreciated, he retired into himself and wrote to please himself only; but in the inner court of the Temple of Beauty into which he retired he created imperishable things; for he loved nature, he loved art, he loved his country, and he expressed that love in matchless song.”   Baring

Our fourth characteristic is detachment, spiritual pauper, one-eyed.

“See, on yon rock, a maiden’s form,
Far o’er the wave a white robe flashing,
Around before the blackening storm,
On the loud beach the billows dashing;
Along the waves, now red, now pale,
The lightning-glare incessant gleameth;
Whirling and fluttering in the gale,
The snowy robe incessant streameth;
Fair is that sea in blackening storm.
And fair that sky with lightnings riven,
But fairer far that maiden from,
Than waver, or flash or stormy heaven!    The Storm

“To be accountable to no one
To serve and please for power and for livery
To bend neither conscience , nor plans, nor one’s neck;
To caper her and there according to one’s whim
Marveling in the divine beauties of nature,
And before the creations of culture…”   from The Easter Cycle

Comments from critics, colleagues, and himself.

“Byron, who was sick at heart himself, could only impart disease not health…moreover he had besides his gift of song the element of moral indignation against corrupt surroundings. Pushkin had not every this redeeming feature.”  Panin

Boris Goudonov is not a drama, with a central idea struggling in the breast of the poet…but merely a series of well-painted pictures, and painted not for the soul but only for the eye.”   Panin

“To Pushkin to his poetic ideal bore the same relation to his practical life that the Sunday religion of the business-man bears to his Monday life.

Hence Pushkin’s life is barren as a source of inspiration towards what life ought to be; but it is richly fruitful as a terrifying warning against what life ought not to be.”   Panin

We close with this elegy:

“As bitter as stale aftermath of wine
Is the remembrance of delirious days;
But as wine waxes with the years, so weighs
The past more sorely, as my days decline.
My path is dark. The future lies in wait,
A gathering ocean of anxiety,
But oh! my friends! to suffer, to create,
That is my prayer;
to live and not to die!
I know that ecstasy shall still lie there
In sorrow and adversity and care.
Once more I shall be drunk on strains divine,
Be moved to tears by musings that are mine;
And haply when the last sad hour draws nigh
Love with a farewell smile shall light the sky.”

And yet another short lyric:

“I saw the Death, and she was seating
By quiet entrance at my own home.
I saw the doors were opened in my tomb,
And there, and there my hope was a-flitting
I’ll die, and traces of my past
In days of future will be never sighted
Look of my eyes will never be delighted
My dear look, in my existence last.

Farewell the somber world, where, precipice above,
My gloomy road was a-streaming.
Where life for me was never cheering,
Where I was loving, Having not to love!
The dazzling heavens’ azure curtain,
Beloved hills, the brook’s enchanting dance,
You mourn, the inspirations’ chance,
You, peaceful shades of wilderness, uncertain,
And all – farewell, farewell at once. “   Imitation

Yes, it is true that Pushkin’s reputation rests in his poetry whereas the best in Russian literature lies in the field of the long novel.  But think of this; when the “not yet famous” Russian musicians sought inspiration,  they ignored Lermontov, Chekhov, Turkenev and for sure, Tolstoy and his repetitive, preoccupied, probing, sentence-structure.  Today in any of the world’s music halls, schools, and conservatories, and at any moment you can hear excerpts of Pushkin in Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmilla (1834); Dargomizysky’s The Stone Guest (1837); Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin (1879); Rimsky Korsakov’s L’ Coq D’or  (1834);  Mussorgsky’s  Boris Godunov (1868); or Borodin’s Prince Igor (1890).