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Alexander Pushkin – To stroll in one’s own wake

November 6, 2014

I value little those much-vaunted rights
that have for some the lure of dizzy heights;
I do not fret because the gods refuse
to let me wrangle over revenues,
or thwart the wars of kings; and ‘tis to me
of no concern whether the press be free
to dupe poor oafs or whether censors cramp
the current fancies of some scribbling scamp.
These things are words, words, words. My spirit fights
for deeper Liberty, for better rights.
Whom shall we serve – the people or the State?
The poet does not care – so let them wait.
To give account to none, to be one’s own
vassal and liege, to please oneself alone,
to bend neither one’s neck nor inner schemes
nor conscience for obtaining that which seems
power but is a flunkey’s coat; to stroll
in one’s own wake, admiring the divine
beauties of Nature and to feel one’s soul
melt in the glow of man’s inspired design
– this is the blessing, these are rights!

Iz pindemonte‘ [1836], translated by Vladimir Nabokov


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