Pushkin: To Dawe. Esq. (From Russian)

And today we have Pushkin's internalized racism on display. His great-grandfather from his mother's side was kidnapped from modern-day Eritrea by the Ottoman Empire and then ransomed as a slave to the Russian Empire in the service of Peter the Great. 
Though contemporary accounts (including his own) of his strange "negroid" appearance are almost certainly exaggerated to a degree, Pushkin's features were clearly distinctive to his peers enough to be remarked on. He would seem to have been a shade or two more tan than contemporary portraitists (who were not in the habit of depicting skin-tone with overmuch realism) would have us believe. He did spend his life thinking (and at times being told) he was ugly for being one eighth African, had a habit of drawing caricatures of himself in which "Moorish" features such as his lips were exaggerated, and references to him as a "mulatto" by people who knew him are commonplace. 
He also devoted much in conversation to how he attributed the impulsive and "uncivilized" aspect he perceived in his personality to his own non-European heritage, and even celebrated it on occasion. His obsession over this perceived otherness of his (and occasional turns of phrase such as pod nébom Áfriki moiéi "beneath the skies of my Africa" in Eugene Onegin), as well as the unfinished draft of his novel "The Negro of Peter the Great" have given license to many American scholars to try and claim Pushkin as "a black poet" in the modern sense of the word. The study of Pushkin's relationship to blackness is an important one, but in my view the question of whether a 19th century Russian aristocrat should or should not be called "black" or "of color" in the sense Americans mean by those terms is probably quite badly framed, and tells us more about our modern anxiety over Dead White Men than anything else. 
George Dawe was an English portrait-artist who had the habit of doing spontaneous pencil sketches of people he met.

To Dawe. Esq.
By A.S. Pushkin
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Why would your sublime pencil draw
The features of my negroid face?
Though meant for future eyes, the devil
Has advocates for its disgrace.

Draw Miss Olénina instead.
When inspiration flames the heart,
Nothing but youth and beauty ever
Should summon genius to art.


The Original:

To Dawe, Esq.

Зачем твой дивный карандаш
Рисует мой арапский профиль?
Хоть ты векам его предашь,
Его освищет Мефистофель.

Рисуй Олениной черты.
В жару сердечных вдохновений,
Лишь юности и красоты
Поклонником быть должен гений.

Romanization:

Začém tvoy dívnïy karandáš
Risúyet moy arápskiy prófil'?
Xot' tï vekám yevó predáš,
Yevó osvíščet Mefistófel'.

Risúy oléninoy čertḯ.
V žarú serdéčnïx vdoxnovéniy,
Liš yúnosti i krasotḯ
Poklónnikom bït' dólžen géniy.

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