‘He rushes at life and exhausts the passions.’
Canto the First
“My uncle’s goodness is extreme,
If seriously he hath disease;
He hath acquired the world’s esteem
And nothing more important sees;
A paragon of virtue he!
But what a nuisance it will be,
Chained to his bedside night and day
Without a chance to slip away.
Ye need dissimulation base
A dying man with art to soothe,
Beneath his head the pillow smooth,
And physic bring with mournful face,
To sigh and meditate alone:
When will the devil take his own!”
Thus mused a madcap young, who drove
Through clouds of dust at postal pace,
By the decree of Mighty Jove,
Inheritor of all his race.
Friends of Liudmila and Ruslan,
Let me present ye to the man,
Who without more prevarication
The hero is of my narration!
Onéguine, O my gentle readers,
Was born beside the Neva, where
It may be ye were born, or there
Have shone as one of fashion’s leaders.
I also wandered there of old,
But cannot stand the northern cold.
Having performed his service truly,
Deep into debt his father ran;
Three balls a year he gave ye duly,
At last became a ruined man.
But Eugene was by fate preserved,
For first “madame” his wants observed,
And then “monsieur” supplied her place;
The boy was wild but full of grace.
“Monsieur l’Abbé” a starving Gaul,
Fearing his pupil to annoy,
Instructed jestingly the boy,
Morality taught scarce at all;
Gently for pranks he would reprove
And in the Summer Garden rove.
When youth’s rebellious hour drew near
And my Eugene the path must trace —
The path of hope and tender fear —
Monsieur clean out of doors they chase.
Lo! my Onéguine free as air,
Cropped in the latest style his hair,
Dressed like a London dandy he
The giddy world at last shall see.
He wrote and spoke, so all allowed,
In the French language perfectly,
Danced the mazurka gracefully,
Without the least constraint he bowed.
What more’s required? The world replies,
He is a charming youth and wise.
We all of us of education
A something somehow have obtained,
Thus, praised be God! a reputation
With us is easily attained.
Onéguine was — so many deemed
[Unerring critics self-esteemed],
Pedantic although scholar like,
In truth he had the happy trick
Without constraint in conversation
Of touching lightly every theme.
Silent, oracular ye’d see him
Amid a serious disputation,
Then suddenly discharge a joke
The ladies’ laughter to provoke.