With the opening of Chapter Two, our lonely hero meets his other self.
Vladimir Lensky, so much what Onegin is not – and, in fact, far more Pushkin than his title character – is a dreamy, poetic idealist… NOT exactly Onegin’s cup of tea.
But still, Onegin welcomes Lensky, though a deeper read proves that something closer to toleration is at play.
Pushkin notes how these two friends represent something that no longer existed in nineteenth century Russia.
For men, the author notes, have outgrown appreciation for anyone other than themselves. Instead, they see one another as tools, a dehumanization for which Napoleon is apparently to blame (2:14).
In this way, Onegin’s openness to Lensky is shown to be notable, for even when Onegin finds the poet hard to follow, he smiles and listens (2:16).
What’s more, he holds his tongue when Lensky rambles (2:15); and this, we know, was quite an accomplishment for Eugene.
Still, Onegin’s motivation foretells the downfall which is to come.
He assumes Lensky will outgrow his poetic passions. His idealism was:
a blissful, brief infection (James Falen, Charles Johnston);
a brief rapture (Vladimir Nabokov); or
a momentary bliss (Stanley Mitchell).
In any of these translations, Onegin was far less impressed by Lensky than willing to wait him out. For the sensitive Lensky, the learning of this truth will crush him and set about his own demise.
So what is the moral here?
In a way, the fact that Onegin and Lensky could either disagree or gain perspective from anything the other said proves that Onegin is as outdated now as Pushkin may have felt Russia to be at the time.
Can we truly say that we know friends with whom we rejoice in disagreeing?
I value such friends, but in our Facebook trollverse gone mad, such friendships seems less and less common.
This is too bad, for it is in disagreeing that we are given the opportunity to overcome.
It isn’t lost on me that many of you are reading this because a hashtag predicted that you might care for it. Our world sorely lacks random encounters. Without these, we’re left with an audience chosen precisely for their likely agreement.
Gone are days for friendly back-and-forth.
But, how can we possibly grow without the entertaining of other’s differences?
And how far shall we fall without such growth?