Alexander Pushkin

The Critic
translated by Philip Nikolayev


Ruddy-cheeked critic mine, oh potbellied wit profuse,
Lifelong daily derider of our sweet languid Muse,
Come here and sit with me, perhaps you will amuse me,
Let’s see if we can jointly beat this melancholy.
Admire the view: that wretched row of rundown log-huts,
Past which a dirt field lies, where gently curves the plainland’s
Declivity, with bulk of inky clouds above.
Where are the bright-hued harvests and dark woods that we love,
And the river? In a yard by a low-sagging fence
Two puny trees attempt to cheer up our jaded glance,
Yes, Sir, two cripple trees; one of the two of them
Sticks out as bare as bone amid a rainy autumn,
Whereas the other’s leaves still wait, sodden and yellow,
For Boreus to drop them into the mud below.
That’s it. And not a living dog within sight moving.
But here comes a peasant man followed by two women
And hatless, carries a child’s coffin under his arm.
He calls out to the priest’s lazy offspring from afar
For to go rouse his father and unlock the church doors.
Hurry! No time to waste! We have a funeral before us.
But why that sudden frown? – Ah, bring on merry verses
To entertain us, instead of spouting this nonsense! –
Say whither are you bound? – To Moscow I will be gone,
For the Count’s birthday fête. – But wait, the quarantine’s on!
For our parts are plagued of late with West Indies disease.
Sit, you’re stuck, this is like the gates of the Caucasus.
I’ve had ample occasion to sit and wait, you know.
What, brother, no more quipping? You’re distressed – there you go!

PHILIP NIKOLAYEV is a poet, and coeditor-in-chief of Fulcrum: an annual of poetry and aesthetics.