No Dryden, no Pope and no Gray’s “Elegy”

For English-language coverage of the protests in Russia, I’d probably recommend Kevin Rothrock‘s Twitter feed as a starting point. What’s different about this year’s Navalny-triggered protests are the high participation rate (relative to the population) outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg and the unusually high share of young people among the protesters, especially in the big cities.

I’ve thought about writing about the “outpourings of dissatisfaction” as an absent-minded witness and an infinitesimally minor participant – but the time for that hasn’t come yet. And – of course – as one witty Russian remarked around 1945, the more interesting this century is for the historian, the sadder it is for the contemporary.

On the other hand, as one of the great Russians wrote (with an attribution to Cicero), “blessed is he who visited this world // in its fateful moments: // the all-good [gods] had summoned him, // as an interlocutor, to their feast.”

Now for a dose of escapism: here’s Ian Shircore in Quadrant writing about Clive James and, in particular, The Fire of Joy:

The other last-gasp project, The Fire of Joy, would be a personal selection of English poems, with a good-humoured commentary on each…

The Fire of Joy was originally planned to include 100 poems, rather than the eighty-four that appear in the final volume. You can spot the gaps. There’s no Spenser or Sidney and nothing for a hundred years between Marvell’s “Definition of Love” and Burns’s “Tam o’ Shanter”—so no Dryden, no Pope and no Gray’s “Elegy”.

What, no Elegy? Vasily Zhukovsky‘s 1802 rendering of Gray’s poem into Russian was his first major achievement and set him off on a path to great success as a creative translator. Zhukovsky was only 19 then, and it wasn’t even his first attempt at translating the Elegy. But aside from the Russian dimension, why leave out the source of so many famous lines?

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