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The Pushkin Club is continuing with its series of events: 'Translators' Evenings', where translators of Russian poetry and prose read and discuss their work. Translators, academics, students and anybody interested in Russian literature are invited to discuss the relationship between the original text and the translation, compare (if available) different translations of the same original text and see how the art of translation helps literature to cross boundaries between languages and cultures.


ALEXANDER PUSHKIN (1799-1837) - is considered by many to be the greatest Russian poet and the founder of modern Russian literature.

Pushkin and Natálya Goncharóva: four love poems

A note on the text, by Roger Clarke

These four poems mark different stages in the development of Pushkin’s relationship with Natálya Goncharóva, whom he was eventually to marry.

Pushkin first became acquainted with Natálya in Moscow at the beginning of 1829.  In the spring of that year he asked to marry her, but received a temporising response from the family.  He spent the summer travelling in the Caucasus, Georgia and northern Turkey, and from Georgia addressed a kind of poetic postcard to Natálya (“Message from Georgia”), expressing his mixed feelings of sorrow at their separation and delight at their enduring affection. 

Later, after Pushkin’s return to Moscow, the courtship went less well, and by the end of the year he thought Natálya had rejected him.  In his disappointment he contemplated travelling overseas (“Escape”), but the Tsar refused permission.  By spring 1830 relations had once more improved; Natálya and her mother accepted Pushkin, and the couple were betrothed on 6 May.  Pushkin’s continuing elation at his engagement was expressed in “Madonna” two months later. 

The wedding, delayed by a cholera epidemic among other things, eventually took place in Moscow on 18 February 1831.  The match was surprisingly successful despite the disparity in ages, temperaments and interests.  Pushkin gives a remarkably intimate account of his relationship with his new wife in “A Different Kind of Love”.

My translations of these four poems retain Pushkin’s metre and rhyme schemes.  They also attempt to match in a clear, natural and expressive English the clarity, naturalness and expressiveness of Pushkin’s Russian, using a heightened diction only where Pushkin’s own words and subject matter suggest this (as, for instance, in the second half of “Madonna”).   For these reasons the translations are not – and could not be – wholly literal, though I have tried to remain true to the broad meaning and spirit of Pushkin’s writing.

to compare the texts, click the link:


Roger Clarke graduated from Cambridge University in Classics. During a career in the civil service he pursued his interest in languages, learning Russian and French, and developed a special interest in the writings of Alexander Pushkin. 

He has gained recognition as a literary translator for his Pushkin translations, including Eugene Onegin, Tales from Southern Russia (both Wordsworth Classics, 2005) and Love Poems (Alma Classics, 2013) alongside many other works.  He is also the Series Editor for Alma Classics’ project of publishing all Pushkin’s works in English.

Konstantin Nikolaevich Batyushkov was born in the northern Russian city of Vologda in 1787 into an old gentry family. He received a private education and acquired a good knowledge of Latin and modern languages. After serving in the ministry of education in St Petersburg, he took part in the European wars, witnessing the burning of Moscow and entering Paris with the victorious Russian army. A collection of his writings was published in 1817 to great acclaim; his poetry, with its epicurean themes, classical tone and formal beauty, greatly influenced the young Pushkin. (A century later Mandelstam wrote of Batyushkov: ‘No-one commands such curves of sound, / never was there such speech of waves.’) He was in Naples on diplomatic service in 1819-20, but succumbed to depression and incurable mental illness and eventually retired to Vologda, writing virtually nothing between 1822 and his death in 1855.

The poems to be discussed are ‘To my friends’ (an introduction to his published poems), some of the ‘Imitations of the Ancients’(his last completed poems before his mental collapse) and an ‘Imitation of Horace’ (comparable to those of Derzhavin and Pushkin) written during his years of mental illness and included in a private letter.


to compare the texts, click each link:



Peter France's photo.JPG

Peter France was professor of French at Edinburgh University. He has published widely on French, Russian and comparative literature, and most recently on the history, theory and practice of translation. His Poets of Modern Russia appeared in 1982, and he is the editor of the New Oxford Companion to Litearture in French and the Oxford Guide to Literature in English Translation, and the joint general editor of the Oxford History of Literary Translation in English. His translations include much Russian poetry, from Blok, Pasternak and Mayakovsky to Iosif Brodsky and (in particular) Gennady Aygi.  He has recently been translating Batyushkov, Baratynsky, Annensky and Mandelstam, and is the join editor of After Lermontov: Translations for the Bicentenary.


This is a Pushkin Club Event and all  are welcome.