Eugene Onegin – Chapters 7 & 8 Alexander Pushkin

Moscow, loved daughter of Russia,

where can we find your equal?

DMITRIEV

Eugene Onegin 7 8Chapter Seven

The beginning of Chapter 7 contains numerous quotes and I have noticed all through my reading of Eugene Onegin that the epigrams are a kind of clue to what will follow. So on reading the four quotes that adorn the first page of this chapter, it is clear that the action is going to take us to that great, revered city, Moscow.

A forlorn Tatyana remains in the countryside, nursing the remnant emotions of an unrequited love, like weeds that grow over the unvisited grave of the poet Lensky.

Dear Tatyana, lover of illusion:

Though there he’s no more to be found,

He’s left sad footprints on the ground.

We learn of the swift healing heart of Olga, wooed by another and whisked down the aisle, her tears dried up and replaced by a smile, abandoning her sister and confidant with not much of a glance behind. Tatyana bereft, walks unbidden, finds herself arriving at the country home of Eugene Onegin, his staff invite her in and show her round like a tourist visiting a noble home, the rooms where our hero entertained his solitary self.

At once Anisia came to greet her,

the doorway opened wide to meet her,

she went inside the empty shell,

in which our hero used to dwell.

Spying a collection of strange books she asks if she can return to read them, opening a window into his soul, one she is less sure of, the marks on the page don’t lie, revealing the thoughts of another reader. She comes to understand him via the page, though they are nothing like those she prefers to lose herself in.

The locals are not happy with her loveless state with no plans to marry, they advise her family to take her to Moscow, after a week of travelling they arrive to stay with family, where Tatyana will meet her cousins and slowly become drawn into their ways.

Moscow’s the place, the marriage-fair!

There’s vacancies in plenty there.

They make subtle changes to prepare her for the social activities and try to pry the secrets of her heart, she resists and even while attending the dance, thinks only of the woods, her flower garden and books .

But while she roams in thought, not caring

for dance, and din, and worldly ways,

a general of majestic bearing

has fixed on her a steady gaze.

Chapter Eight

The narrator expounds his poetic verse, carrying us forward, oft-times veering off course as if he were driving an open air carriage then taking his eye off the road to watch the clouds form or listen to birds and admire the wildflowers, then suddenly we are back in the ballroom, the driver his eyes back on the road and the events as we come to know them gradually unfold.

Tatyana is escorted to a ball and sitting quietly to the side, after all this time who does she spot but Eugene, just returned from travels and roaming, he arrives in the midst of this social whirlabout. Recognising her from a distance, though not sure, he asks the prince next to him, who she is:

Eugene Opera‘Can you say,

Prince, who in that dark-red beret,

just there, is talking to the Spanish

ambassador?’ In some surprise

the prince looks at him, and replies:

‘Wait, I’ll present you – but you banish

yourself too long from social life.’

‘But tell me who she is.’ ‘My wife.’

Two years have passed and time has not stood still, he is introduced to the princess and she is unmoved, he sees no trace of the Tatyana he knew and really isn’t sure if it is the same girl. The prince invites him to a soirée and uncharacteristically he responds in haste, eager to see Tatyana once more and is impatient for the evening to arrive. Tatyana playing the dutiful hostess is serene, Eugene falls for all that he has previously scorned, the madness of love. He finds no solace and surprise, surprise, what does he do, this lovesick fop, but write a letter!

Eugene 8No answer comes. Another letter

he sends, a second, then a third.

No answer comes. He goes, for better

or worse, to a soirée. Unheard

she appears before him, grim and frozen.

No look, no word for him: she’s chosen

to encase herself inside a layer

of Twelfth Night’s chilliest, iciest air.

He turns to his books and finds no reason and then as the seasons pass, one spring day he ventures out to see her, is given an audience with the women he can’t get out of his mind and finds the roles have switched, it is she who now lectures him, reminding him of his own behaviour in reprimanding her, she speaks of her love, but that she now belongs to another, to whom she will be true. She leaves the room and Eugene is thunder-struck – the husband arrives – and now we must leave them, this chase has gone on long enough.

The Verdict

Wow. I made it. A brilliant read-along and an entertaining read, although I am a somewhat cynical reader, in that I find it difficult to believe that Eugene Onegin could have become the man he ends up being, not just because of his character so firmly established, but surely after two years travelling he should have gained a kind of maturity that would have provoked a different outcome than this. Perhaps I should have read it 10 years ago when it was given to me!

Thanks to Marian at Tanglewood for organising the challenge, it’s been fabulous. I totally recommend you all give this classic epic poem a try!

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4 thoughts on “Eugene Onegin – Chapters 7 & 8 Alexander Pushkin

  1. Wow, what a lovely summary, Claire! Have you ever thought of becoming a writer? I really appreciate the deeper analysis in your posts. I had noticed the epigrams but possibly only because I’m reading Eliot’s Daniel Deronda at the same time and Eliot is the epigram-queen! Fortunately Pushkin’s are much easier to understand than hers! 🙂

    I, too, thought, “Wow. You’ve really learned nothing in two years of circumspection and (hopefully) grieving?!” I think the reader has to be a wee bit more of a romantic than I am to be able to hope for his future “salvation”.

    I am really looking forward to your final post. Are you, by any chance, going to be doing the Candide Read-Along in March? I hope so!

    Digressing for a moment, I just noticed in your bio that you are in France. We visited Paris and the south twice about 4 and 5 years ago for a couple of months each time and just loved it. We have plans to go back soon if we can swing it. I really miss my patisserie, the crazy French driving and the people. A memory that will never fade! 🙂

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    • Thanks Cleo for the feedback, I seem to have stumbled across the significance of the epigrams almost by accident, though I am fond of diversions, especially those that enlighten the reader and provide a larger context, important when we don’t have the cultural knowledge of traditions. If I had spent more time I am sure I would have uncovered even more of significance to the poem or the life and influences of the poet, it was certainly a fun diversion.

      We will never know what exactly happened to Onegin during those two years and perhaps it is for this reason that Pushkin is able to do with him whatever he wishes, rather than a natural transformation, it seems to me more of a tragic irony.

      I was not aware of the Candide Read-Along, but it sounds fun, I read it years ago and perhaps should read it again but in French, since I can now speak and read in French. 🙂 Yes, I have lived in France for about 8 years now and it really suits me, though I so appreciate being able to connect with readers in English through here, to keep up with the English language! I hope you get to return again soon. 🙂

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  2. Pingback: Eugene Onegin Chapters Five & Six | Word by Word

  3. What I find particularly tragic about Onegin is, by the end of the book, he is only about 28 years old. He’s lived through so much, but it’s hard to say whether he has learned enough to truly grow in character. I so wish Pushkin had written a sequel.

    Thank you for participating in the read-along! I’ve enjoyed reading your thoughts and beautiful synopses. 🙂

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