Friday, February 8, 2013

Apollo's call

To continue with yesterday's topic of conversation I would like to share with you a way to resolve the contradiction outlined by Russia's arguably greatest poet, who more or less created what is now known as the Russian literary language and its classical literature, Alexander Pushkin. His private and public life was rather complicated, but one thing is crystal-clear: he certainly neither buried nor betrayed his extraordinary talent. 

He is notoriously impossible to translate (although you might know his work indirectly, via the genre of opera), so here is his strategy in prose (this is a literal translation of a poem): 

As long as Apollo does not call the poet for holy sacrifice, he is cowardly immersed in vain worries of this world. His sacred lyre is silent, his soul cold and asleep; and he might be the very least amongst the miserable children of this world. 

But once the divine word touches his sensitive ear, the poet’s soul would give a start, as an awakened eagle. He languishes in the world’s games and eschews people’s talk. He would not bow his proud head to the feet of popular idol. 

He runs, wild and harsh, filled with sounds and confusion, to the coasts of stark waves, to the groves of roaring oaks...  
So, basically, be as Epicurean as you please, but once Apollo calls you for sacrifice, it's over. No pain avoidance anymore, no tranquility.

Epicurus, one might guess, would answer to this that there is no Apollo. I feel fairly sure, though, that Pushkin (albeit not as devout a Christian as he was formally supposed to be) didn't actually believe in Apollo -- at least not as literally as Epicurus' contemporaries might have done.   
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