Pushkin: Advancing from the Rear (From Russian)

Here's another instance of Pushkin's obscene side, this one far less serious and far more jocular.

Advancing from the Rear
By A.S. Pushkin
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original Russian

Beside Istómina the dancer,
Lay naked general Orlóv.
When things got hot, this man in action
Was not much to take notice of.
Meaning no insult, that hetaera
Got out her magnifying glass
And said "Er, love...I'd really like to
See what you use to fuck my ass."


L1-4: Every nobleman in St. Petersburg was trying to get into the pants of the ballerina Avdotia Istomina, including one Alexander Pushkin. Though Pushkin never succeeded in bedding her, General Alexei Orlov (veteran of the Napoleonic wars and celebrated commander) managed to get the famously beautiful Istomina to have a fling with him. This, clearly, was not something Pushkin took well.
It was a common in-joke among aristocratic circles that Orlov, though brave and a skilled commander, was no great pistolero. In a pistol-duel with cavalryman Michael Lunin, Orlov missed the latter twice at a distance of twelve paces. Lunin, a crack shot, found this so sad and pathetic that he fired his two shots into the air and offered Orlov marksmanship lessons, a humiliation which neither Orlov nor the Russian aristocracy's gossipmongers ever forgot.

L5-8: The original Russian reads

Ne dúmav mílogo obídet',
Vzyalá Laísa mikroskóp
I govorít "Pozvól' uvídet',
Čem tï menyá, moy mílïy, yób."

(Not wishing to offend her darling
That Lais got the microscope 
And said "Would you mind if I see
What it was you used to fuck me, darling.")

Laísa "Lais" here is an allusion to Lais of Corinth and/or Lais of Hyccara, two famed ancient Greek courtesans (or perhaps they were the same person, we don't really know) whom "cultured" francophone Russians would have recognized, and whose use here would have been understood as a high-register, classical, Gallicizing euphemism for "ho, slut, skank". Paired with the very low-register iob "fuck", it immediately stands out as part of a high-low juxtaposition of the sort Pushkin was no stranger to. To emphasize just how striking the Russian verb would have been, and to mimick the comical rhyming of microskop "microscope" and iob "fuck", I have given Istomina a magnifying glass and made her take it up the ass, so to speak.


Орлов с Истоминой в постеле...
А.С. Пушкин

Орлов с Истоминой в постеле
В убогой наготе лежал.
Не отличился в жарком деле
Непостоянный генерал.
Не думав милого обидеть,
Взяла Лаиса микроскоп
И говорит: «Позволь увидеть,
Чем ты меня, мой милый, ёб».

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