Bronze Horseman

Selections from The Bronze Horseman, by A.S. Pushkin

Trans. Joel Knopf


           He thought: We’ll send

The Swedes a warning loud and clear.

A city shall be founded here

In spite of our prideful friend.

* * *

Where before the Finnish fisherman

Had reeled his meager catches in,

Where, standing on the shore, alone—

Poor Nature’s stepson—he had thrown

His tattered net to seas unknown,

Now there, on seashores come alive,

Palaces and towers crush

Together in a crowded maze;

And trade ships sailing in a rush

From all around the globe arrive

At rich and treasure-laden quays.

Now overhanging bridges glide

Along the Neva’s granite sides

And gardens of deep forest-green

Adorn the islands in between.

* * *

I love you, Peter’s grand creation,

I love your handsome, stern façade,

The Neva’s dignified duration

And riverbanks in granite shod;

Your patterned rail, your pensive nights’

Translucent dusk and moonless glow

When, sitting in my room, I know

I need no light to read or write;

As streets in sleeping piles lie

Deserted, deep in desolate dreams,

And blazing bright against the sky

The admiralty spire gleams.   

And not permitting dusky eve

Upon the firmament of gold,

A new dawn rushes past the old

While night is but a short reprieve.

I love your cruel wintertime’s

Immobile air and frozen rime;

How sledding ‘long the Neva goes

And girls blush redder than a rose;

And the glitter and hubbub and chatter at balls,

The bachelors’ midnight bacchanals,

The hiss and froth of bubbling cup,

The punch whose bluish flame arcs up.

I love the sprightly martial cheer

Upon the Fields of Mars; to see

The hosts of troops and horses here

In beautiful monotony,

And in their neatly rippling line,

The rag-tag flags from battles won,

The bullet-battered helmets’ shine,

The copper glinting in the sun.

I love when, seat of martial might,

With thunder and smoke from fortress gun

The Empress of the northern lights

Presents the royal house a son;

Or when, another battle won,

Russia swells in celebration;

Or when the Neva, broken free,

Bears its dark blue ice to sea

And sensing spring, sings in exultation.

O Petersburg,

Be beautiful! Stand firm and fast:

Impregnable, like all of Rus.

The vanquished element, at last,

Shall lay down arms and make its truce

With you, and finally make its peace.

For may the Finnish waves forget

Their old imprisonment, and let

Their ancient hatreds cease.

Let malice not disturb in vain

The eternal dream of Peter’s name!

My friends—it was a terrible time,

A time we still remember well…

For you I shall begin my rhyme.

Twill be a tragic tale I tell.

Part I

*  * *

Arriving home, Evgenii’d shake

His coat off, change, and take to bed.

For minutes more he’d lay awake

As musings tumbled through his head.


Evgenii heaved a heartfelt sigh,

Got lost, as poets do, in thought:

“Marry? Me? Don’t see why not.

It’s burdensome, you can’t deny;

But hell, I’m young and healthy, too,[1]

Ready to work the whole night through.

Somehow or other I’ll take care

To make arrangements of my own:

Some simple, humble shelter where

I’ll make Parasha feel at home.

A year or so will go by, and I will

Land a comfy job somewhere,

And trust Parasha dear to handle

The housework and the childcare.

We’ll settle in, and go on thus

Until some day when, hand in hand,

We’ll reach the grave together, and

Our grandchildren will bury us.

[1]   Two variants:

  1.        “Marry? Me? Come on, why not? / It’s burdensome, of course, but I / Am young and strong and healthy, too
  2.        “Marry? Me? Don’t see why not. / It’s burdensome, of course, but I / Am young and hell,  I’m healthy, too

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