Happy Birthday, Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin!

5 facts you may not know about the poet:

1. He wrote many poems for his maternal grandmother Maria Alekseyevna (“My confidante of magical old times”). It was she who taught him Russian (at that time the first language of the Russian nobility was French).

Of Mamushka could I not say a word,
Of nights mysterious made so bright by her
In her old night-cap, and her threadbare gown
Driving bad spirits off with prayers, frowns,
Devoted, crossing herself o’er my bed?

2. He was married on the day of my birthday! 🙂 February 18, 1831

3. His wife, Natalya Pushkina, was supposed to be a shrew. 78 letters from Pushkin to Natalya have survived. It is obvious from their tender and deeply intimate tone that the poet, at least, did not think she was awful. Instead, the letters unmistakably evince his tender friendship, true devotion, sympathy, caring, and indeed: “I love your soul much more than your face.” Pushkin may have truly sympathized with his sweet young damsel in distress. Natalya, having no dowry, had few suitors, to her mother’s great disappointment.Yet Natalya’s mother, Natalya Ivanovna, greatly disapproved of Pushkin: he had scarce means, but ample troubles with the government, as well as a checkered romantic past.

4. He died at the age of 37, fighting a duel (!!!) with Georges-Charles de Heeckeren d’Anthès. He was a French officer serving with the Chevalier Guard Regiment, who had been attempting to seduce Natalya. Pushkin’s early death is still regarded as a catastrophe for Russian literature.

5. Of the four children from his marriage to Natalya, his daughter, Maria, is touted as a prototype of Anna Karenina

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite Pushkin poems:

The Captive

A captive, alone in a dungeon I dwell,
Entombed in the stillness and murk of a cell.
Outside, in the courtyard, in wild, frenzied play,
My comrade, an eagle, has punced on his prey.
Then, leaving it, at me he looks as if he
In thought and in purpose at one were with me.
He looks at me so, and he utters a cry.
“‘Tis time,” he is saying, “from here let us fly!
“We’re both wed to freedom, so let us away
To where lonely storm clouds courageously stray,
Where turbulent seas rsh to merge with the sky,
Where only the winds dare to venture and I!..

(Info courtesy: A great part of this feature was derived largely from the information at www.alexanderpushkin.com)

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