Posted by: Tom Triumph | November 1, 2010

115. Autumn: Alexander S. Pushkin

It is hard to imagine the seasons any different than where one grows up. Being a New Englander, autumn means leaves turning and falling. Our media backs up my images, with raking being a chore and kids jumping in piles of brown leaves, even as I know that most of the country does not have maple trees, and much of it below the Mason-Dixon has flora and weather quite different than Vermont. It is iconic, in a way that things from the Northeast seem to stick in our nation’s psyche even as we represent a small piece of the population.

Indeed, my one attempt at living outside of this nest was a fall in San Francisco. It simply turned a bit colder and rained a lot. I waited for snow, which never came, and as Christmas creeped up after Thanksgiving I grew sad and squirrely and decided to head back home. Home has seasons, and seasons means falling leaves that lead to snow.

Apparently, Russia is much the same as New England. This is a poem of passion. It gets more frantic as you read it (beware your tittering, immature boys!) until it loses them in the sailing boat.

A nice prompt or focus is loving something that no one else does. This could be a sport, a television program or movie, or even a friend. It makes a good prompt, as middle school students struggle to discover their own voice amidst the pressure to fit in. There’s a nice stanza that addresses this.

Which then begs the question: What does autumn give the speaker to stir such passion within?

Autumn
Alexander S. Pushkin

October has arrived – the woods have tossed
Their final leaves from naked branches;
A breath of autumn chill – the road begins to freeze,
The stream still murmurs as it passes by the mill,
The pond, however’s frozen; and my neighbor hastens
to his far-flung fields with all the members of his hunt.
The winter wheat will suffer from this wild fun,
And baying hounds awake the slumbering groves.

II
This is my time: I am not fond of spring;
The tiresome thaw, the stench, the mud – spring sickens me.
The blood ferments, and yearning binds the heart and mind..
With cruel winter I am better satisfied,
I love the snows; when in the moonlight
A sleigh ride swift and carefree with a friend.
Who, warm and rosy ‘neath a sable mantle,
Burns, trembles as she clasps your hand.

III
What fun it is, with feet in sharp steel shod,
To skim the mirror of the smooth and solid streams!
And how about the shining stir of winter feasts? . .
But in the end you must admit that naught but snow
For half the year will even bore a bear
Deep in his den. We cannot ride for ages,
In sleighs with youthful nymphs
Or sulk around the stove behind storm windows.

IV
O, summer fair! I would have loved you, too,
Except for heat and dust and gnats and flies.
You kill off all our mental power,
Torment us; and like fields, we suffer from the drought;
To take a drink, refresh ourselves somehow –
We think of nothing else, and long for lady Winter,
And, having bid farewell to her with pancakes and with wine,
We hold a wake to honor her with ice-cream and with ice.

V
The latter days of fall are often cursed,
But as for me, kind reader, she is precious
In all her quiet beauty, mellow glow.
Thus might a child, disfavored in its family,
Draw my regard. To tell you honestly,
Of all the times of year, I cherish her alone.
She’s full of worth; and I, a humble lover,
Have found in her peculiar charms.

VI
How can this be explained? I favor her
As you might one day find yourself attracted
To a consumptive maid. Condemned to death,
The poor child languishes without complaint or anger.
A smile plays upon her withering lips;
She cannot sense as yet the gaping maw of death;
A crimson glow still flits across her face.
Today she lives, tomorrow she is gone.

VII
A melancholy time! So charming to the eye!
Your beauty in its parting pleases me –
I love the lavish withering of nature,
The gold and scarlet raiment of the woods,
The crisp wind rustling o’er their threshold,
The sky engulfed by tides of rippled gloom,
The sun’s scarce rays, approaching frosts,
And gray-haired winter threatening from afar.

VIII
When autumn comes, I bloom anew;
The Russian frost does wonders for my health;
Anew I fall in love with life’s routine:
Betimes I’m soothed by dreams, betimes by hunger caught;
The blood flows free and easy in my heart,
Abrim with passion; once again, I’m happy, young,
I’m full of life – such is my organism
(Excuse me for this awful prosaism)

IX
My horse is brought to me; in open field,
With flying mane, he carries fast his rider,
And with his shining hooves he hammers out a song
Upon the frozen, ringing vale, and crackling ice.
But fleeting day dies out, new fire comes alive
Inside the long-forgotten stove– it blazes bright,
Then slowly smoulders – as I read before it,
Or nourish long and heartfelt thoughts.

X
And I forget the world – in silence sweet,
I’m sweetly lulled by my imagination,
And poetry awakens deep inside:
My heart is churned with lyric agitation,
It trembles, moans, and strives, as if in sleep,
To pour out in the end a free statement-
And here they come – a ghostly swarm of guests,
My long-lost friends, the fruits of all my dream.

XI
My mind is overcome by dashing thoughts,
And rhymes come running eagerly to meet them,
My hand demands a pen; the pen – a sheet of paper.
Another minute – and my verse will freely flow.
Thus slumbers an immobile ship caught in immobile waters,
But lo! – the sailors rush all of a sudden, crawl
Up top, then down – sails billow, filled with wind;
The massive structure moves, and cuts the waves.

XII
It sails. But whither do we sail?…

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