a dedication to you, reader

by janedotx7

To Peter Alexandrovich Pletnev

“Heedless of the proud world’s enjoyment,
I prize the attention of my friends,
and only wish that my employment
could have been turned to worthier ends —
worthier of you in the perfection
your soul displays, in holy dreams,
in simple but sublime reflection,
in limpid verse that lives and gleams.
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.”

–A. Pushkin

Of the 389 stanzas that comprise Eugene Onegin, Pushkin’s dedication
to his friend at the beginning is my favorite. Start with the
beginning! Pushkin downplays the hell out of his masterpiece–the
masterpiece that Russian schoolchildren are forced to memorize in its
entirety, and claims that it still isn’t good enough for a man of
such rarefied sentiment and artistic ability as Pletnev. That he could
take a lifetime of experience, and distill it with the power of one of
the finest poets this planet has ever spawned, and still claim it’s
inadequate for Pletnev speaks of a platonic love that puts most
marriages to shame. I also really like how the tone of the dedication
darkens, as he begins with his most lighthearted sources of inspiration and ends
with the saddest. 

Pushkin. So. Good.

Most of the translations I’ve read, with the exception of Douglas
Hofstadter’s, have been very good. Even so, there are occasional
phrases that don’t scan very well, do not obey Pushkin’s original
iambic tetrameter, or are otherwise clumsy that make me think I can do
better. For example, “Heedless of the proud world’s enjoyment” is nine
syllables, not eight, and there is no stress on “proud.” There are too
many unstressed syllables between the first syllable of “Heedless” and
“world’s.” I was going to go through my copy of the Johnston
translation and fix every line that I found unacceptable, but I got
lazy and stopped with writing my own clumsy version of Pushkin’s
dedication instead. Here goes:

Before I came to work at Twitter,
I’d write a little for myself,
As the number following me grew absurdly bigger,
I thought I’d take it off my shelf.
So, read as you will these rambling posts
Born of restless nights ill-spent
On fever dreams and anxious ghosts
And little jokes of a darker bent,
My wheel’s song as I devour
Miles of a night-black road,
The bars I sing while in the shower,
And antics when I’m fully clothed,
The thoughts of others I’ve made my own,
The secret life that’s mine alone.

(Yes, I know, there’s a slant rhyme, the third line doesn’t scan, etc.)

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