The Coming Of Winter
_Stanzas from 'Onegin'_
Our Northern Winter's fickle Summer,
Than Southern Winter scarce more bland--
Is undeniably withdrawing
On fleeting footsteps from the land.
Soon will the Autumn dim the heavens,
The light of sunbeams rarer grown--
Already every day is shorter,
While with a smitten hollow tone
The forest drops its shadow leafage;
Upon the fields the mists lie white,
In lusty caravans the wild geese
Now to the milder South take flight;
Seasons of tedium draw near,
Before the door November drear!
From shivering mist ascends the morning,
The bustle, of the fields declines,
The wolf walks now upon the highway,
In wolfish hunger howls and whines;
The traveller's pony scents him, snorting--
The heedful wanderer breathless takes
His way in haste beyond the mountains!
And though no longer when day breaks
Forth from their stalls the herd begins
To drive the kine,--his noon-day horn recalls.
The peasant maiden sings and spins,
Before her crackling, flaming bright
The pine chips,--friend of Winter night.
And see! The hoar frost colder sparkles
And spreads its silver o'er the fields,
Alas! the golden days are vanished!
Reluctant Nature mournful yields.
The stream with ice all frozen over
Gleams as some fashionable parquet,
And thronging hordes of boyish skaters
Sweep forward on its crystal way.
On her red claws despondent swimming,
The plump goose parts the water cold,
Then on the ice with caution stalking
She slips and tumbles,--ah behold!
Now the first snowflake idling down
Stars the depressing landscape brown.
At such a season in the country,
What can a man's amusements be?
Walk? And but more of empty highway
And of deserted village see?
Or let him through the far Steppes gallop,
His horse can scarcely stand at all--
His stamping hoofs in vain seek foothold,
The rider dreading lest he fall!
So then remain within thy paling,
Read thou in Pradt or Walter Scott,
Compare thy varying editions,
Drink, and thy scoffing mood spare not!
As the long evenings drag away
So doth the Winter too delay.
Sometimes he read aloud with Olga
A latter day romance discreet,
Whose author truly painted nature,
With cunning plot, insight complete;
Oft he passed over a few pages,
Too bald or tasteless in their art--
And coloring, began on further,
Not to disturb the maiden heart.
Again, they sat for hours together,
With but a chess board to divide;
She with her arms propped on the table,
Deep pondering, puzzled to decide--
Till Lenski from his inward storm
Captured her castle with his pawn!
Love condescends to every altar,
Ah when in hearts of youth it springs,
Its coming brings such glad refreshment
As May rain o'er the pasture flings!
Lifted from passion's melancholy
The life breaks forth in fairer flower,
The soul receives a new enrichment--
Fruition sweet and full of power.
But when on later altars arid
It downward sweeps, about us flows--
Love leaves behind such deathly traces
As Autumn tempests where it blows
To strip the woods with ruthless hand,
And turn to soggy waste the land!
How sad to me is thine appearing,
O Springtime, hour of love's unrest!
Within the soul what nameless languors!
What passions hid within the breast!
With what a heavy, heavy spirit
From the earth's rustic lap I feel
Again the joy of Springtide odors--
That once could make my spirit reel!
No more for me such pleasures thrilling,
All that rejoices, that has life,
All that exults,--brings but despondence
To one past passion as past strife,
All is but prose to such as he,
Wearied unto satiety.
Perchance we fain would pass unnoticed
That which in Autumn drooped and pined,
Now radiant in verdure springing,
Since it must of our loss remind;
As with a tortured soul we realize
In Nature's glad awakening,
That we shall never find renewal,
Who evermore are withering.
Perchance there haunts us in remembrance,
Our own most dear and lyric dream,
Another long forgotten Springtime--
And trembling neath this pang supreme,
The heart faints for a distant country
And for a night beside the sea!
What doesn't enter then my slumbering mind?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
It sails. But whither do we sail?...