Saturday, November 19, 2016

Woe from Wit (excerpts) - Alexander Griboyedov


The French! With all their fashion shops and streets,
Their books and writers and artists,
They break our hearts, they make our mony fly,
I wonder why
God will not save us from their needles, pins,
Their bonnets, hats and all the other things.


For heaven's sake! You're the only one
That can amaze me. Here in Moscow there is nothing new.
There was a party yesterday, tomorrow there'll be two.
Someone has managed to get married
Another hasn't and is worried.
Nothing has changed. Good gracious!
The same old poems, the same old conversations.


And all these people I'm fated now to see,
I'll soon be sick and tired of living here.
Though after travelling East and West
We're find the smoke of Homeland best.


Don't talk about the fire. Don't tease.
So much has changed ever since:
The roads, the houses, the pavements and all . . .


The houses are new, the prejudices are old.
You should be pleased because a prejudice never dies,
It will survive the years, the fashions and the fires.


I wonder who the judges are!
With age they show hostility to freedom,
They read the press that dates as far
Back as the Crimean war. They call it wisdom.
They're quick to criticize and curse
And always sing the same old song,
They never think they can be wrong.
The older these men are the worse.


Maybe, it isn't fit
That I should ask you. Tell me, be so kind,
Whom do you love?


Good heavens! All mankind.


And whom do you prefer?


Well, there are relatives...


You love me most of all!


Some of them, that is.


I'll tell you what I thought about:
These aged women tend to get quite hot,
They always need someone around
To serve them as a lightening-rod.
Molchalin, he's the kind of man
That can appease disputes like no one can!
He'll pat a dog, he'll show his greatest skill
In playing cards! He's another Zagoretsky!
You told me all his merits then,
You must have failed to mention some of them.

(speaking humbly)

No, there are books and books. You know,
If I were engaged in censorship,
I'd deal with fables: Oh! I Love them so!
The mockery of lions, eagles, sheep,
No matter what one thinks,
They're animals, and yet their kings.


There in that room they have an incidental meeting:
The little Frenchan from Bordeau, puffed up with pride
Was telling them: he had a fright
To go to the Barbarian Russia. So he came and found
There was caressing all around.
With not a single Russian face,
The language spoken was Francaise.
It looked as though he were in France
Among his friends, in his province,
And if you saw him, he would appear
To you as if he were a petty monarch here,
With clinging ladies, always looking smart,
He's happy here, while we arn't.
There came a storm of exaltation
With screames and moans and violent elation.
«Oh France! The land beyond compare!» --
Two sister countess came out to declare --
The lesson they had learnt in their green years.
There is no arguing with countess.
I said I wanted everyone to hear it,
I wished that God could crush the evil spirit
Of meaningless blind slavish immitation
And fill someone with inspiration,
The one that would be able to
Deter us with a solid hand
From miserable longing for a foreign land.
I may be called
An old-believer, yet I think
Our North is worse a hundrefold
Since I adopted the new mode,
Having abandoned everything:
Our customs and our conditions,
The language, moral values and traditions,
And, in exchange of the grand gown,
Regadless of all trends
And common sense,
We put on this apparel of a clown:
A tail, a funny cut -- oh, what a scene!
It's tight and doesn't match the face;
This funny, gray-hairedshaven chin!
«Which covers thee discovers thee!» -- there's a phrase.
If we adopt traditions from abroad with ease
We'd better learn a little from Chinese,
Their ignorance of foreign lands.
Shall we awaken from the power of ailien fashions
So that our wise and cheerful Russians
Might never think us to be Germans?
«Can European culture be compared
With our culture?» -- I once heard.
«How can the words such as "madamme", "mademoiselle"
Be turned to Russian? Is it "girl"?»
No sooner than I said it, fancy,
They burst out laughing. They laughed at me.
«Ha! Girl! Ha-ha, isn't it wonderful!
Ha -- Girl! Ha-ha, isn't it aweful!»
I got so angry and I cursed,
I was about to retort,
But they broke up, dispersed.
I'll tell you what:
Both here in Moscow and in Petersburg, you know,
A man that hates pretence and all that's done for show
And is unfortunate to have in mind
A few ideas of some kind
And wants to openly speak out!
Look out..
(Looks around, everybody is dancing a waltz. The older people make their ways to card tables)

(Translated in English by A.Vagapov, 1993)

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