Pushkin: The Talisman (From Russian)

The Talisman
By Alexander Pushkin
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original Russian

Where the sea forever splashes
On a desolate rock face,
Where the moon more warmly sparkles

In sweet hours of evening haze,
Where the harems do their service
To the lax Mohammedan,
An enchantress, with caresses,
Handed me a Talisman.

With caresses there she bade me:
“Guard this Talisman aright.
Secret power it possesses.
Love has deemed it yours tonight.
Neither plague nor grave nor aging
My beloved, will it ban,
Nor shall you survive the blizzard
Aided by my Talisman,

Neither will it help you gather
Pearls from Oriental seas,
Nor persuade the Prophet's faithful
To pledge you their loyalties,
Nor to arms of love and friendship
From this sad and foreign land
Shall you journey north and homeward
Driven by my Talisman.

But, should traitor eyes entrap you,
Darling, in a sudden spell,
Or if lips in dark of evening
Love you not but kiss too well,
Then, my love, from every evil

Wound that would your heart unman,
From oblivion, from betrayal,
Be your shield my Talisman."

The Original

Александр Пушкин

Там, где море вечно плещет
На пустынные скалы,
Где луна теплее блещет
В сладкий час вечерней мглы,
Где, в гаремах наслаждаясь,
Дни проводит мусульман,
Там волшебница, ласкаясь,
Мне вручила талисман.

И, ласкаясь, говорила:
"Сохрани мой талисман:
В нем таинственная сила!
Он тебе любовью дан.
От недуга, от могилы,
В бурю, в грозный ураган,
Головы твоей, мой милый,
Не спасет мой талисман.

И богатствами Востока
Он тебя не одарит,
И поклонников пророка
Он тебе не покорит;
И тебя на лоно друга,
От печальных чуждых стран,
В край родной на север с юга
Не умчит мой талисман...

Но когда коварны очи
Очаруют вдруг тебя,
Иль уста во мраке ночи
Поцелуют не любя -
Милый друг! от преступленья,
От сердечных новых paн,
От измены, от забвенья
Сохранит мои талисман!"


  1. I'm impressed with how well you managed the rhyme scheme.

  2. a good translation. and common, this is not a racism but a romanticism :-) you cannot apply modern cathegories to a poet who lived two centuries ago.

  3. I believe you are seeing racism where there is none.

    Pushkin himself was looked down upon as he had the tight curly hair and the nose of his ancestor - who was an african slave.

  4. I know all about his great grandfather Ibrahim (nicknamed Gannibal) and his "moorish" facial features. (a) It is still possible to be racist even if you are a victim of racism. There are black Americans who are victims of racism who harbor racial stereotypes about Arabs or Asians and therefore racist. (b) Pushkin himself seems to have been more concerned with his hair, nose and cheek bones than anyone else, convinced that it made him ugly and impure. Moreover, he always worried that his african blood might lead him to do something stupid or violent unbefitting of a civilized white Russian. If anything, that is internalized racism of a very sad type. Pushkin had all kind of stupid ideas about race, and even expressed thoughts about how certain groups (the Tunguz of Siberia) were racially less capable of governing themselves than certain other racial groups (i.e. Slavs.)

    No, Pushkin was a racist if ever there was one. The fact that he felt himself inferior and prone to savagery for having african ancestry only confirms that..

    This is all leaving aside Pushkin's misogyny, which also permeates this poem

  5. Do you have any theories on Pushkin and the Masons?