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Alexander Pushkin | Eugene Onegin and Tatyana's Love story

"Eugene Onegin" / "Евгеній Онѣгинъ" is a novel in verse written by Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837), Russian poet, playwright and novelist of the Romantic era, considered by many to be the greatest Russian poet and the founder of modern Russian literature.
Onegin is considered a classic of Russian literature, and its eponymous protagonist has served as the model for a number of Russian literary heroes (so-called superfluous men).
It was published in serial form between 1825-1832.

Onegin and Tatyana monument to the main characters of Pushkin's poem

Alexander Pushkin memorial

The first complete edition was published in 1833, and the currently accepted version is based on the 1837 publication.
The 1879 opera Eugene Onegin, by Tchaikovsky, based on the story, is perhaps the version that most people are familiar with. There are many recordings of the score, and it is one of the most commonly performed operas in the world.


In the 1820s, Eugene Onegin is a bored St. Petersburg dandy, whose life consists of balls, concerts, parties and nothing more. Upon the death of a wealthy uncle, he inherits a substantial fortune and a landed estate.

When he moves to the country, he strikes up a friendship with his neighbor, a starry-eyed young poet named Vladimir Lensky.
Lensky takes Onegin to dine with the family of his fiancée, the sociable but rather thoughtless Olga Larina. At this meeting, he also catches a glimpse of Olga's sister Tatyana.
A quiet, precocious romantic, and the exact opposite of Olga, Tatyana becomes intensely drawn to Onegin. Soon after, she bares her soul to Onegin in a letter professing her love.

Elena Samokysh Sudovskaya (Russian painter and illustrator, 1863-1924) | Tatyana's Illustration, 1900-1904

Tatyana's love letter to Onegin

I write this to you - what more can be said?
What more can I add to that one fact?
For now I know it is in your power
To punish me contemptuously for this act.
But you, keeping for my unhappy lot
Even one drop of sympathy
Will not entirely abandon me.
At first I wished to remain silent;
Believe me, my shame, my agony,
You never ever would have heard.
As long as hope remained preserved

That rarely, even once a week,
I'd see you in our country house,
To hear your voice, to hear you speak,
To say a few words, and then, and then
To think, and think, and think again
All day, all night, until the next meeting.

But it is said you are unsociable,
And in this backwater all is tedious to you,
While we… well here we shine at nothing,
Although we're glad to welcome you.

Why did you come to visit us?
In this forgotten rural home
Your face I never would have known
Nor known this bitter suffering.
The fever of inexperience
In time (who can tell?) would have died down,
And I'd have found another lover,
Dear to my heart, to whom I'd be true,
And a loving wife, and virtuous mother.

Another!… No, no one on this earth
Is there to whom I'd give my heart!
That is ordained by highest fate…
That is heaven's will - that I am yours;
My life till now was but a pledge,
Of meeting with you, a forward image;
You were sent by heaven of that I'm sure,
To the grave itself you are my saviour…

In dreams you have appeared to me,
Though yet unseen, I held you dear,
Your glance and strangeness tortured me,
To my soul your voice was loud and clear
From long ago… It was not a dream!
You came, and I knew that very instant,
I was struck dumb, my heart flared up,
And in my thoughts said "He is the one!"
Is it not true? I heard you often:
In the silence did you not speak to me,
Both when I helped the poor, and when
With prayer I sought to ease and soften
The pain inside my anguished head?
And at this very moment, is it not you,
Oh sweetest, lovely vision who
In the night's transparency flits by
And quietly nestles by the bed's head?
And you, who with love and rapturously
Whispered a word of hope to me?

Who are you, my guardian angel?
Or a wily devil, a tempter fatal?
Disperse these doubts, this agony.
Perhaps all this is nothingness,
A foolish mind's self-aberration,
And something other is fate's decree…

So be it! Whatever my destiny,
To you I give it from this day,
Before you the tears roll down my cheek,
And your protection I beseech…
For consider: here I am alone,
No one understands what I say,
My reason tortures me every day,
And silently I am doomed to perish.
You I await: With a single glance
Revive the hope that's in my heart,
Cut short this heavy dream I cherish,
Deserving, I know, reproach and scorn.

I finish - I tremble to read it through,
With shame and terror my heart sinks low,
But your honour is my guarantee
And to that I entrust my destiny.

Contrary to her expectations, Onegin does not write back. When they meet in person, he rejects her advances politely but dismissively and condescendingly.
This famous speech is often referred to as Onegin's Sermon: he admits that the letter was touching, but says that he would quickly grow bored with marriage and can only offer Tatyana friendship; he coldly advises more emotional control in the future, lest another man take advantage of her innocence.
Later, Lensky mischievously invites Onegin to Tatyana's name day celebration, promising a small gathering with just Tatyana, Olga, and their parents. When Onegin arrives, he finds instead a boisterous country ball, a rural parody of and contrast to the society balls of St. Petersburg of which he has grown tired. Onegin is irritated with the guests who gossip about him and Tatyana, and with Lensky for persuading him to come.
He decides to avenge himself by dancing and flirting with Olga.
Olga is insensitive to her fiancé and apparently attracted to Onegin.
Earnest and inexperienced, Lensky is wounded to the core and challenges Onegin to fight a duel; Onegin reluctantly accepts, feeling compelled by social convention.

During the duel, Onegin unwillingly kills Lensky. Afterwards, he quits his country estate, traveling abroad to deaden his feelings of remorse.
Tatyana visits Onegin's mansion, where she looks through his books and his notes in the margins, and begins to question whether Onegin's character is merely a collage of different literary heroes, and if there is, in fact, no "real Onegin". Tatyana, still brokenhearted by the loss of Onegin, is convinced by her parents to live with her aunt in Moscow in order to find a suitor.
Several years pass, and the scene shifts to St. Petersburg. Onegin has come to attend the most prominent balls and interact with the leaders of old Russian society. He sees the most beautiful woman, who captures the attention of all and is central to society's whirl, and he realizes that it is the same Tatyana whose love he had once spurned.

Rotonda con la panca Onegin | Parco dedicato a Pushkin | Chelyabinsk, Russia

Now she is married to an aged prince (a general). Upon seeing Tatyana again, he becomes obsessed with winning her affection, despite the fact that she is married. However, his attempts are rebuffed. He writes her several letters, but receives no reply.
Eventually Onegin manages to see Tatyana and offers her the opportunity to finally elope after they have become reacquainted. She recalls the days when they might have been happy, but concludes that that time has passed.
Onegin repeats his love for her.

Onegin's Letter to Tatyana

I know it all: my secret ache
will anger you in its confession.
What scorn I see in the expression
that your proud glance is sure to take!
What do I want? what am i after,
stripping my soul before your eyes?
I know to what malicious laughter
my declaration may give rise!

I noticed once, at our chance meeting,
in you a tender pulse was beating,
yet dared not trust what I could see.
I gave no rein to sweet affection;
what held me was my predilection,
my tedious taste for feeling free.

Dmitry Kardovsky (Russian artist, 1866-1943) | Eugene Onegin

No, every minute of my days,
to see you, faithfully to follow,
watch for your smile, and catch your gaze
with eyes of love, with greed to swallow
your words, and in my soul explore
your matchlessness, to seek to capture
its image, then to swoon before
your feet, to pale and waste...what rapture!

But I'm denied this: all for you
I draq my footsteps hither, yonder;
I count each hour the whole day through;
and yet in vain ennui I squander
the days that doom has measured out.
And how they weigh! I know about
my span, that fortune's jurisdiction
has fixed; but for my heart to beat
I must wake up with the conviction
that somehow that same day we'll meet...

how fearful is my obsession
to clasp your knees, and at your feet
to sob out prayer, complaint, confession,
and every plea that lips can treat;
meanwhile with a dissembler's duty
to cool my glances and my tongue,
to talk as if with heart unwrung,
and look serenely on your beauty!...

But so it is: I'm in no state
to battle further with my passion;
I'm yours, in a predestined fashion,
and I surrender to my fate.

Faltering for a moment, she admits that she still loves him, but she will not allow him to ruin her and declares her determination to remain faithful to her husband. She leaves him regretting his bitter destiny.

Monument to Alexander Pushkin and Eugene Onegin in Yoshkar Ola