Aleksandr Pushkin

Russian poet, playwright, and novelist (1799–1837)

Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin (Russian: Алекса́ндр Серге́евич Пу́шкин) (6 June (26 May, O.S.) 179910 February (29 January, O.S.) 1837) was a Russian poet, playwright, and novelist of the Romantic era. He is considered by many to be the greatest Russian poet and the founder of modern Russian literature.

Aleksandr Pushkin, Russian poet and author (1827)


  • The illusion which exalts us is dearer to us than ten thousand truths.
  • God save us from seeing a Russian revolt, senseless and merciless. Those who plot impossible upheavals among us, are either young and do not know our people, or are hard-hearted men who do not care a straw either about their own lives or those of others.
    • Found in Pushkin's. The Captain's Daughter and Other Stories. English edition by Random House LLC. 2013. p. 139
    • As quoted by Joseph Frank in Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time (2009). Princeton University Press, p. 203.
  • На берегу пустынных волн
    Стоял он, дум великих полн,
    • Upon the brink of the wild stream
      He stood, and dreamt a mighty dream.
  • And thus He mused: "From here, indeed
    Shall we strike terror in the Swede?
    And here a city by our labor
    Founded, shall gall our haughty neighbor;
    "Here cut" - so Nature gives command -
    Your window through on Europe; stand
    Firm-footed by the sea, unchanging!
    • The Bronze Horseman (1833).
  • ‘Tis time, my friend, ‘tis time!
    For rest the heart is aching;
    Days follow days in flight, and every day is taking
    Fragments of being, while together you and I
    Make plans to live. Look, all is dust, and we shall die.
    • 'Tis Time, My Friend, l. 1-5 (1834).
  • The heavy hanging chains shall fall,
    The walls shall crumble at the word,
    And Freedom greet you with the light
    And brothers give you back the sword.
    • The Decembrists
  • When the loud day for men who sow and reap
    Grows still, and on the silence of the town
    The insubstantial veils of night and sleep,
    The meed of the day's labour, settle down,
    Then for me in the stillness of the night
    The wasting, watchful hours drag on their course,
    And in the idle darkness comes the bite
    Of all the burning serpents of remorse;
    Dreams seethe; and fretful infelicities
    Are swarming in my over-burdened soul,
    And Memory before my wakeful eyes
    With noiseless hand unwinds her lengthy scroll.
    Then, as with loathing I peruse the years,
    I tremble, and I curse my natal day,
    Wail bitterly, and bitterly shed tears,
    But cannot wash the woeful script away.
    • Remembrance.
  • God grant you, friends, a helping hand—
    In cares of state and private plights,
    In rowdy feasts of friendship's band,
    In passion's sweet and secret rites!
    God grant you, friends, a helping hand—
    In daily woes and days of strife,
    On vacant sa, in distant land,
    In every black abyss of life!
    • Pushkin, 19 October 1827.
      as quoted in Pushkin, Alexander (2009). Selected Lyric Poetry. Northwestern University Press, p. 121.
  • What grace could all your worldly power bring
    To One whose crown of thorns has made him King,
    The Christ who gave His body to the flails,
    Who humbly bore the lance and piercing nails?
    Or do you fear the rabble might disgrace The One.
    • Secular Power
      as quoted in Pushkin, Alexander (2009). Selected Lyric Poetry. Northwestern University Press, p. 121.
  • Come purge my soul, Thou Master of my days,
    Of vain and empty words, of idle ways,
    Of base ambition and the urge to rule;
    That hidden serpent that corrupts a fool;
    and grant me, Lord, to see my sins alone.
    That I not call my brother to atone;
    Make chaste my heart and lend me from above
    Thy fortitude, humility, and love.
    • A Prayer
      as quoted in Pushkin, Alexander (2009). Selected Lyric Poetry. Northwestern University Press, p. 199.
  • Но так и быть — рукой пристрастной
    Прими собранье пестрых глав,
    Полусмешных, полупечальных,
    Простонародных, идеальных,
    Небрежный плод моих забав,
    Бессониц, легких вдохновений,
    Незрелых и увядших лет,
    Ума холодных наблюдений
    И сердца горестных замет.
    • But, as it is, this pied collection
      begs your indulgence — it's been spun
      from threads both sad and humoristic,
      themes popular or idealistic,
      products of carefree hours, of fun,
      of sleeplessness, faint inspirations,
      of powers unripe, or on the wane,
      of reason's icy intimations,
      and records of a heart in pain.
      • Dedication.
  • There yet remains but one concluding tale,
    And then this chronicle of mine is ended—
    Fulfilled, the duty God ordained to me,
    A sinner. Not without purpose did the Lord
    Put me to witness much for many years
    And educate me in the love of books.
    One day some indefatigable monk
    Will find my conscientious, unsigned work;
    Like me, he will light up his ikon-lamp
    And, shaking from the scroll the age-old dust,
    He will transcribe these tales in all their truth.
    • Prologue, sec. 5, l. 18-28.
  • Unforced, as conversation passed,
    he had the talent of saluting
    felicitously every theme,
    of listening like a judge-supreme
    while serious topics were disputing,
    or, with an epigram-surprise,
    of kindling smiles in ladies' eyes.
    • Ch. 1, st. 5.
  • Всегда довольный сам собой,
    Своим обедом и женой.
    • Always contented with his life,
      and with his dinner, and his wife.
      • Ch. 1, st. 12.
  • A man who's active and incisive
    can yet keep nail-care much in mind:
    why fight what's known to be decisive?
    custom is despot of mankind.
    • Ch. 1, st. 25.
  • Недуг, которого причину
    Давно бы отыскать пора,
    Подобный английскому сплину,
    Короче: русская хандра
    • The illness with which he'd been smitten
      should have been analysed when caught,
      something like spleen, that scourge of Britain,
      or Russia's chondria, for short.
      • Ch. 1, st. 38.
  • Прошла любовь, явилась Муза,
    И прояснился темный ум.
    Свободен, вновь ищу союза
    Волшебных звуков, чувств и дум;
    • Love passed, the Muse appeared, the weather
      of mind got clarity new-found;
      now free, I once more weave together
      emotion, thought, and magic sound.
      • Ch. 1, st. 59.
  • Привычка свыше нам дана:
    Замена счастию она.
    • Habit is Heaven's own redress:
      it takes the place of happiness.
      • Ch. 2, st. 31.
  • Send me, Almighty, I petition,
    In porticoes or at a ball
    No bonneted academician,
    No seminarist in a yellow shawl!
    No more than in red lips unsmiling
    Can I find anything beguiling
    In grammar-perfect Russian speech.
    What purist magazines beseech,
    A novel breed of belles may heed it,
    And bend us (for my life of sin)
    To strict grammatic discipline,
    Prescribing meter, too, where needed;
    But I - what is all this to me?
    I like things as they used to be
    • Ch. 3, st. 28. (Translated by Walter Arndt in Eugene Onegin (2009). Penguin.
  • The less we show our love to a woman,
    Or please her less, and neglect our duty,
    The more we trap and ruin her surely
    In the flattering toils of philandery.
    • Ch. 4, st. 1.
  • The clock of doom had struck as fated;
    the poet, without a sound,
    let fall his pistol on the ground.
    • Ch. 6, st. 30.
  • Москва… как много в этом звуке
    Для сердца русского слилось!
    Как много в нем отозвалось!
    • Moscow... how many strains are fusing
      in that one sound, for Russian hearts!
      what store of riches it imparts!
      • Ch. 7, st. 36.
  • Что наши лучшие желанья,
    Что наши свежие мечтанья
    Истлели быстрой чередой,
    Как листья осенью гнилой.
    • Sad that our finest aspiration
      Our freshest dreams and meditations,
      In swift succession should decay,
      Like Autumn leaves that rot away.
      • Ch. 8, st. 11.
  • Pimen [writing in front of a sacred lamp]:
    One more, the final record, and my annals
    Are ended, and fulfilled the duty laid
    By God on me a sinner. Not in vain
    Hath God appointed me for many years
    A witness, teaching me the art of letters;
    A day will come when some laborious monk
    Will bring to light my zealous, nameless toil,
    Kindle, as I, his lamp, and from the parchment
    Shaking the dust of ages will transcribe
    My true narrations.
    • (Variant translation):
      One more story, just one more,
      And then my history's completed,
      All my chronicles written down
      And my sinner's debt repaid to God.
      Not for nothing.
      The Lord appointed me to bear witness
      For many many years and it was he
      Taught me the art of creating books.
      One day, in the far future,
      some hard-working monk
      Will find my painstaking,
      anonymous writings.
      He'll light his lamp,
      as I light mine,
      He'lll shake the dust of centuries from these scrolls.
      Then he'll copy out, carefully, these true accounts,
      So the descendants of today's Christians
      May know the past of their native land
      Remember their mighty Tsars warmly
      For their glory and their knidness
      And our Lord's mercy on their sins and crimes.
      In my old age I live my life anew.
    • Pushkin, Alexander (2012). Pushkin's Boris Gudunov. Oberon Books.
  • Like some magistrate grown gray in office,
    Calmly he contemplates alike the just
    And unjust, with indifference he notes
    Evil and good, and knows not wrath nor pity.
  • Ah! heavy art thou, crown of Monomakh!
  • Mosalsky: Good folk! Maria Godunov and her son Feodor have poisoned themselves. We have seen their dead bodies. [The People are silent with horror.] Why are ye silent? Cry, Long live the Tsar Dimitry Ivanovich! [The People are speechless.]

English translation from Blackwood's Magazine (Volume 74, 1853)

  • Why rave ye, babblers, so -- ye lords of popular wonder?
Why such anathemas 'gainst Russia do ye thunder?
What moves your idle rage? Is't Poland's fallen pride?
'Tis but Slavonic kin among themselves contending,
An ancient household strife, oft judged but still unending...
  • And shall Slavonic streams meet in a Russian ocean --
Or that dry up? This is the point for us.
  • .. you mark the fate
And daring of the battle-hour__
And understand us not but hate ...
  • What stirs ye? Is it that this nation
On Moscow's flaming wall, blood-slaked and ruin-quench'd
Spurn'd back the insolent dictation
Of Him before whose nod ye blench'd?
I have been ordered to grant your request. Three, seven, ace, will win for you if played in succession, but only on these conditions: that you do not play more than one card in twenty-four hours, and that you never play again during the rest of your life.
  • "The bread of the stranger is bitter," says Dante, "and his staircase hard to climb." But who can know what the bitterness of dependence is so well as the poor companion of an old lady of quality?
    • II.
  • "I have come to you against my wish," she said in a firm voice: "but I have been ordered to grant your request. Three, seven, ace, will win for you if played in succession, but only on these conditions: that you do not play more than one card in twenty-four hours, and that you never play again during the rest of your life. I forgive you my death, on condition that you marry my companion, Lizaveta Ivanovna."
    • V.
  • Two fixed ideas can no more exist together in the moral world than two bodies can occupy one and the same place in the physical world.
    • VI.
  • "Ace has won!" cried Hermann, showing his card.
    "Your queen has lost," said Chekalinsky, politely.
    Hermann started; instead of an ace, there lay before him the queen of spades! He could not believe his eyes, nor could he understand how he had made such a mistake.
    At that moment it seemed to him that the queen of spades smiled ironically and winked her eye at him. He was struck by her remarkable resemblance...
    "The old Countess!" he exclaimed, seized with terror.
    • VI.
  • Hermann went out of his mind, and is now confined in room Number 17 of the Obukhov Hospital. He never answers any questions, but he constantly mutters with unusual rapidity: "Three, seven, ace!" "Three, seven, queen!"
    • VI.

The Prophet (1826)

  • Tormented by spiritual thirst,
    I dragged myself through a somber desert.
    And a six-winged seraph
    Appeared to meet me at the crossing of the ways.
    He touched my eyes
    With fingers as light as a dream:
    And my prophetic eyes opened
    Like those of a frightened eagle.
    He touched my ears
    And they were filled with noise and ringing:
    And I heard the shuddering of the heavens,
    And the flight of the angels in the heights,
    And the movement of the beasts of the sea under the waters,
    And the sound of the vine growing in the valley.
    He bent down to my mouth
    And tore out my tongue,
    Sinful, decitful, and given to idle talk;
    with the right hand steeped in blood
    He inserted the tongue of a wise serpent,
    Into my benumbed mouth.
    He clove my breast with a sword,
    And plucked out my quivering heart,
    And thrust a coal of live fire
    Into my gaping breast.
    Like a corpse I lay in the desert.
    And the voice of God called out to me:
    'Arise, O prophet, see and hear,
    Be filled with my will,
    Go forth over land and sea,
    And set the hearts of men on fire with your Word.'
    • English translation found in New Society, Volume 8, (1966). New Society Limited. p. 413.
      Also quoted by Kahn, Andrew (2006). The Cambridge Companion to Pushkin. Cambridge University Press, p. 84.

Quotes about Pushkin

  • Homeland, tenderer than first caresses,/you have taught me to protect and guard/golden language in all Pushkin's treasures,/Gogol's magic, captivating word.
    • Margarita Aliger poem translated into English, anthologized in An Anthology of Jewish-Russian Literature edited by Maxim D. Shrayer (2007)
  • Солнце нашей поэзии закатилось! Пушкин скончался, скончался во цвете лет, в средине своего великого поприща!.. Более говорить о сем не имеем силы, да и не нужно; всякое русское сердце знает всю цену этой невозвратимой потери, и всякое русское сердце будет растерзано.
    • А.А. Краевский, Литературные прибавления к «Русскому инвалиду» № 5, 30 января 1837
    • Translation: The sun of our poetry is down! Pushkin passed away, passed in the flower of his age, in the middle of his great endeavor!... To speak more of it we do not have the power, and there is no need to do so; every Russian heart knows the whole price of this irrecoverable loss, and every Russian heart will be torn apart.
    • A. A. Kraevsky, the note of Pushkin's death (January 30, 1837).
  • А Пушкин — наше всё: Пушкин — представитель всего нашего душевного, особенного, такого, что остается нашим душевным, особенным после всех столкновений с чужим, с другими мирами. Пушкин — пока единственный полный очерк нашей народной личности, самородок, принимавший в себя, при всевозможных столкновениях с другими особенностями и организмами, все то, что принять следует, отбрасывавший все, что отбросить следует ... сочувствия старой русской жизни и стремления новой, — все вошло в его полную натуру в той стройной мере, в какой бытие послепотопное является сравнительно с бытием допотопным, в той мере, которая определяется русскою душою.
    • Аполлон Григорьев. Литературная критика. — М.: Художественная литература, 1967. С. 166, «Пушкин — Грибоедов — Гоголь — Лермонтов», 1859
    • Translation: And Pushkin is our everything: Pushkin is the presenter of all of our psyche, especially that part that remains our psyche, our distinction, after all our encounters with the alien, other worlds. Pushkin is, to date, the only complete outline of our nation's personality, the gem, that assimilated, in a variety of encounters with other idiosyncrasies and organisms, everything worthy of assimilation, discarding everything unworthy [...] Sympathies for the old Russian life and urges towards the new, - they all accomplished his character in that orderly measure in which the postdiluvian compares with the antediluvian, in that measure that is defined by Russian psyche.
    • Apollon Grigoryev, Pushkin-Griboedov-Gogol-Lermontov (1859)
  • Несмотря на всю свою славу, Пушкин при жизни не был достаточно глубоко оценен даже наиболее проницательными из своих современников. ... В той или иной степени это непонимание продолжалось около полустолетия. ... Лишь после знаменитой речи Достоевского Пушкин открылся не только как «солнце нашей поэзии», но и как пророческое явление. ... Нисколько не удивительно, что, прослушав ее, люди обнимались и плакали: в ту минуту им дано было новое, необычайно возвышенное и гордое понятие не только о Пушкине, но и обо всей России, и о них самих в том числе.
    • Владислав Ходасевич, «О пушкинизме» // Возрождение. — Париж, 27 декабря 1932. — № 2767.
    • Translation: In spite of all his fame, Pushkin, during his lifetime, was not appreciated deeply enough, even by the most insightful of his contemporaries. [...] With varying degrees, this misunderstanding lasted for almost half a century. [...] Only after Dostoevsky's famous speech [June 8, 1880] Pushkin appeared not only as "the Sun of our poetry" but as the prophetic phenomenon. [...] It is not in the least surprising that on hearing [this speech], people would embrace each other and weep: that minute, they were given a new, unusually sublime and proud concept not only about Pushkin, but about the whole of Russia, themselves included.
    • Vladislav Khodasevich, O pushkinisme (About Pushkinism, 1932)
  • One often hears: that is good but it belongs to yesterday. But I say: yesterday has not yet been born. It has not yet really existed. I want Ovid, Pushkin, and Catullus to live once more, and I am not satisfied with the historical Ovid, Pushkin, and Catullus.
    • Osip Mandelstam THE WORD AND CULTURE translated into English in The complete critical prose (1997)
  • In the tiny gardens-sunflowers, rezedas, poppies,/blonde braids, beribboned cockades, Pushkin and Nadson.
    • Anna Margolin, The poem "Brisk" in Drunk from the Bitter Truth, translated from Yiddish
  • Pushkin grew with the years. Every other writer claimed descent from him. Inexplicably, the whole of Russian literature proceeded from his genius. Poetry, novels, short stories, history, theater, criticism—he had opened up the whole gamut of literary endeavor to his countrymen. He was first in time, and first in quality. He was the source. Neither Gogol nor Tolstoy could have existed without him, for he made the Russian language; he prepared the ground for the growth of every genre.
    • Henri Troyat, Pushkin: A Biography (1946), as quoted in Daniel S. Burt's The Literature 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Novelists, Playwrights, and Poets of All Time (2008), p. 67
  • В поэзии Пушкина метонимия и перифраза являются основным элементом стиля... В этом отношении Пушкин продолжает традицию поэтов XVIII в. ... Тема о Пушкине как завершителе русского классицизма давно уже стоит на очереди, но требуются многочисленные предварительные работы по русскому языку XVIII в., которые до сих пор не сделаны. С другой стороны, возникает вопрос о «наследии Пушкина» в XIX в. Поэты XIX в. не были учениками Пушкина; после его смерти возобладала романтическая традиция, восходящая к Жуковскому и воспитанная под немецким влиянием.
    • В. М. Жирмунский, "Задачи поэтики" (1919-1923)
    • Translation: In Pushkin's poetry, metonymy and periphrasis are the main elements of style[...] In this respect, Pushkin takes after the tradition of the 18th century poets[...] The topic of Pushkin as the concluder of the Russian Classicism has long been awaited for, but it calls for multiple preliminary works on the Russian language of the 18th century, and those have yet to appear. On the other hand, the question emerges of 'Pushkin's heritage' in 19th century. The poets of the 19th century were not Pushkin's disciples; after his death, the Romantic tradition prevailed, descending from Zhukovsky and nurtured under the German influence.
    • V. M. Zhirmunsky, Zadachi poetiki (Problems of Poetics, 1919-1923)
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