I’ve been told that it’s impossible to truly appreciate Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin unless you read it in Russian. I may not recognize how truly great the poetry is, but I had a wonderful time reading it regardless. A gazillion critics have written gazillions of pages on the poem and you might enjoy poking through a bit of the scholarly literature if you want to know more about Pushkin and the Russian soul or to better interpret some of the allusions, but still read the poem itself if you can. It’s by turns delightfully silly and unexpectedly tragic.
Below, the narrator admonishes parents & husbands in a stanza that had me giggling:
In days of carefree aspirations,
the ballroom drove me off my head:
the safest place for declarations,
and where most surely notes are sped.
You husbands, deeply I respect you!
I’m at your service to protect you;
now pay attention, I beseech,
and due warning from my speech.
You too, mamas, I pray attend it,
and watch your daughters closer yet,
yes, focus on them your lorgnette,
or else . . . or else, may God forfend it!
I only write like this, you know,
since I stopped sinning years ago.