The first impression of this oh so pregnant piece from Onegin’s third canto is that the sentiment described here is really what writing is all about: Find your muse, coax her into your chamber, and beg her to tell you her story.

Do these tales always make sense? Of course they don’t. For that reason, the author’s pen is often one part scribe and one part translator (for why else record a story if not to share it with others?).

Her words may be foreign… for any number of reasons. My first muse, Maruko, was Japanese, Tatiana was of course Russian. Dante’s Beatrice was not even of this world, at least when she came to him in Inferno (and this discourse is only looking at the literal meaning of ‘foreign’).

Another way a muse’s words can be foreign is if their message sings songs the hero has never heard before. This was perhaps the case in this particular stanza. Faced with Tatiana’s letter, a parchment destined to act as a slow-release poison of sorts on his wayward hero, Pushkin uses these words to almost preview the hopelessness of his mission.

Poison? Hopelessness? Isn’t the letter we are soon to encounter one of love, you ask? Indeed. But to one like Eugene, one so schooled in beauty, yet wholly unable to receive it, what greater ache could there be than to discover the availability of true love?

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