Pushkin on society and the individual in Eugene Onegin (Johnson Translation):
Is it that we’ve become officious
and prone to censure in our thought;
that fiery souls’ headstrong enthusing
appears offensive or amusing
to the complacent and the null;
that wit embarrasses the dull;
that we enjoy equating chatter
with deeds; that dunces now and then
take wing on spite; that serious men
find, in the trivial, serious matter;
that mediocre dress alone
fits us as if it were our own?
Blest he who in his youth was truly
youthful, who ripened in his time,
and, as the years went by, who duly
grew hardened to life’s frosty clime;
who never learnt how dreamers babble;
who never scorned the social rabble;
at twenty, was a fop inbred,
at thirty, lucratively wed;
at fifty, would prolong the story
by clearing every sort of debt;
who, in good time, would calmly get
fortune, and dignity, and glory,
who all his life would garner praise
as the perfection of our days!
Pushkin was an Incredible poet.
I was thinking, in response to this passage (likely this is the affect he intended) that if we aspire to mediocrity for the sake of comfort, acceptance, even admiration (a pity, that, but I suppose out of context, creative brilliance is nearly blinding), it may be that for some the small sacrifice of the soul, of one’s creativity, is the price. (Oh, drat! Where did I leave that dream of myself lying about … ?)
Not for everyone, though. There are the managers among us, people who thrive on arranging, categorizing, doing. So sublime in competence, so seemingly self-assured in the execution of things business, social, boundary related. Alas…
it seems there is no comfort or welcome in the world for the artists – except amongst themselves. Odd-balls is the technical term, I think …
… it’s true that the socially able among us, the serious-minded masters of all that is important in politics, of all that is “right” and profitable, when faced with a swelling tide of passion, a brewing poetic tempest, a brooding raincloud spattering unswept pavement … are sometimes caustic, jealous, disdainful.
are not skillful – rarely on time, barely present for the lesson. And they are often dissheveled, spattered with paint, puffed up in defense or depressed by the sheer force of expectation foisted on them by
the skillful, shiny sleeping with credit card companies and marketing people.
We are too dull to perceive
a brightly lit (drugged or mad?) watery-eyed (under-rested) , disjointed dreamy (unfinished), sympathetic (undisciplined) , deeply invested (immature) rendering
of some moment, place, being, perception … glimpse. Glimpses don’t pay much. They are so fleeting, nearly unmanifest, hard to market. They pay when, completed and polished until dull, you can mass produce them. Then they are like cartoons. Many glimpses in a row, taken together, in order they make a picture everyone can understand. Uniformly.
It’s all mad rambling.
This is my first time wading into the waters of russian lit and (in translation) I find them remarkably welcoming.