"Cardinal Points" litetrary journal: www.stosvet.net

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Robert Chandler


The first poem is addressed to Ivan Pushchin, one of Pushkin’s closest friends from his schooldays in the Imperial Lycee. Pushchin took part in the Decembrist Conspiracy and had recently been exiled to Siberia. The poem begins with Pushkin’s recollection of Pushchin being the first of his friends to visit him when he was himself in exile in Mikhailovskoye, in January 1825:


First friend, friend beyond price,
One morning I blessed fate
When sleigh bells, your sleigh bells
Sang out and filled my lonely home
Lost in its drifts of snow.

May my voice now, please God,
Gladden your soul
In that same way
And lighten your exile
With light from our Lycee’s clear day.

The second poem is the song that Pushkin added to A Feast in Time of Plague, his adaptation of a play by a forgotten English writer by the name of John Wilson.


There is joy in battle,
Poised on a chasm’s edge,
And in black ocean’s rage –
That whirl of darkening wind and wave –
In an Arabian sandstorm,
And in a breath of plague.

Within each breath of death
Lives joy, lives secret joy
For mortal hearts, a pledge,
Perhaps, of immortality,
And blessed is he who, storm-tossed,
Can see and seize this joy.