by Alexander Pushkin
In those days when new to me were
Of existence all impressions : --
The maiden's glances, the forests' whisper,
The song of nightingale at night;
When the sentiments elevated
Of Freedom, glory and of love,
And of art the inspiration
Stirred deeply so my blood: --
My hopeful hours and joyful
With melancholy sudden dark'ning
A certain evil spirit then
Began in secret me to visit.
Grievous were our meetings,
His smile, and his wonderful glance,
His speeches, these so stinging
Cold poison poured into my soul.
Providence with slander
Inexhaustible he tempted;
Of Beauty as a dream he spake
And inspiration he despised;
Nor love, nor freedom trusted he,
On life with scorn he looked --
And nought in all nature
To bless he ever wished.
To this poem Pushkin added a note, which he intended to send to the periodical press, as if it were the comment of a third person. Referring to the report that the poet had a friend of his in mind when he wrote this poem, and used Rayefsky as a model, he says: " It seems to me those who believe this report are in error; at least, I see in ' The Demon' a higher aim, a moral aim. Perhaps the bard wished to typify Doubt. In life's best period, the heart? not as yet chilled by experience, is open to everything beautiful. It then is trustful and tender. But by-and-by the eternal contradictions of reality give birth to doubt in the heart; this feeling is indeed agonizing, but it lasts not long. ... It disappears, but it carries away with it our best and poetic prejudices of the spirit." [Are they best, if they are prejudices? Is illusion truly poetic? -- I. P.] Not, therefore, in vain has Goethe the Great given the name the Spirit of Denial to man's eternal enemy. And Pushkin wished to typify the Spirit of Denial.
Translator: Translated from the Russian, By Ivan Panin
Cupples And Hurd, 94 Boylston Street, Boston