"Love passed, the muse appeared, the weather
of mind got clarity newfound;
now free, I once more weave together
emotion, thought, and magic sound."
(from Eugene Onegin, 1823)
Aleksandr Pushkin was born in Moscow into a cultured but poor aristocratic family. On his father'sside he was descended from an ancient noble family and on his mother's side he was a great-great-grandson of a black Abyssinian, Gannibal, who served under Peter the Great. Pushkin himself had black hair and swarthly complexion. In his childhood the future poet was entrusted to nursemaids, French tutors, and governesses. He learned Russian from household serfs and from his nanny, ArinaRodionovna. Pushkin started to write poems from an early age. His first published poem was written when he was only 14.
While attending the Imperial Lyceum at Tsarskoye Selo (1811-1817), he began writing his first major work, Ruslan and Ludmila (1820), a kind of fairy story in verse. It was based on Russian folk-tales which his grandmother had told him – in French. Years later at his father's estate helistened to legends and fairy tales told by his old nurse Arina Rodionovna, calling that process "making up for the defects in his accursed education." In 1817 he accepted a post at the foreign office at St. Petersburg. He became associated with members of a radical movement who participated later in the Decembrist uprising in 1825. Several of Pushkin's liberal friends were involved in the affair.Some of them were hanged or exiled for life to Siberia, but Pushkin apparently did not take part in their conspiracy; and he was absent in the south at the time of the insurrection. In May 1820 Pushkin was banished from the town because of his political poems, among them 'Ode to Liberty'. However, his friends did not consider him a political person. Pushkin was transferred south to Ekaterinoslav;it was a mild form of exile. During this time Pushkin discovered the poetry of Lord Byron. He was then moved to Kishinev, and in the summer of 1823 to Odessa. Count Vorontsoff, governor of Odessa, did not have high opinions about the poet: "... he is really only a weak imitator of a not very respected model – Lord Byron." Vorontsoff made later a brief appearance in Tolstoy's novella 'Hadji Murad'(1904).
Pushkin's Evgenii Onegin (1833), a novel in verse, is considered the greatest masterpiece of Russian literature. Evgenii Onegin is a dashing young aristocrat : "In French Onegin had perfected / proficiency to speak and write, / in the mazurka he was light; / his bow was wholle unaffected." On inheriting his uncle's estate, he retires to country. Soon Onegin befriends Vladimir Lenskii,who is in love with a local girl, Olga Larina. Her unpolished, romantic elder sister Tatiana falls in love with Onegin, but he rejects Tatiana's love. He considers himself mysteriously doomed, he would be a bad husband. "But I for bliss was not created: / To that my soul is foreign still. / In vain, in vain, are your perfections;/ Of them I count myself unworthy." At a party Onegin insults Olga,and Lenskii challenges him to a duel, and is shot dead. Three years later Onegin meets Tatiana who is married to a prince. She is the last of the principal characters introduced to the reader, but she is also central for the story. Onegin declares his love to her, and writes her a series of letters expressing a mad passion. Now it is her turn to reject him. She confesses that she loves him but...