Chatsky, about to leave the ball, is buttonholed by Repetilov (pronounced Repetílov). In Russian there are two verbs for “to lie,” one to lie out and out, the other to fabricate. Repetilov is that uniquely Russian type who flies into a sort of ecstasy when lying.
Call me a barbarian!
For vicious living I’m your man.
I’ve traveled in an idle, worthless set,
been mad for balls, the whirl of social life,
ignored my children, cheated on my wife,
gambled recklessly, piled debt on top of debt,
defaulted on a mortgage, ruined my best friend,
kept a ballerina, no, not one, but three,
and kept them simultaneously.
went drunk and missing for a fortnight,
set conscience, law, religion all on end.
I tell you—
Your lies are out of sight.
Lie of course, but exercise restraint.
Yours would make the stoutest heart grow faint.
And later, in a parody of liberal secret societies:
But why get so worked up? What for?
To stir the pot, to stir the pot, mon cher!
To stir the pot? Nothing more?
Now’s no time or place to give an explanation.
I can only tell you it’s a state affair;
we’re in the early stages of our preparation.
Such men! In short, Prince Gregory, for one,
Eccentric? Funny? There’s no comparison!
A dedicated Anglophile:
clips his vowels, crops his hair,
You haven’t met him? Wait awhile,
you will. Let’s see: Who else is there?
Eudókimus Vorkúlov: What a singing voice!
Ah, Non lashiarmi no no no!
That’s his aria of choice.
Then Boris and his brother, Leo,
splendid fellows, say no more.
But if it’s genius that you’re looking for,
Udúshev, Ípolit Markélich—he’s your man.
You must have read him once upon a time.
I used to be his biggest fan.
No new work for ages! It’s a crime!
Flog these idlers—it will serve them right—
and sentence them to write, write, write!
He’s published articles still widely read
in reprint: Shards. Envision. Nought.
What is Nought about? Better left unsaid.
How much he knows! And all of it self-taught.
We’re keeping him for when the time is ripe.
Our leader is a Russian without peer.
Why name him when his portrait makes it clear
just who he is, a dueling, fractious type;
was exiled to Kamchatka, trekked a thousand miles
returning via the Aleutian Isles.
Some skeletons, no player by the book,
but any clever man is half a crook.
When nobility of soul or honor is addressed,
his flaming cheeks and bloodshot eyes
clothe him in the aspect of a man possessed.
He breaks out weeping, and the whole room cries.
Where are people to be found like these?
Among them all, no mediocrities
except myself—a lazy dog, not up to snuff.
But I’ve been known, when thinking hard enough,
to come up with a genial pun or turn of phrase
to turn into a vaudeville: six will write the verse,
another six compose, another six rehearse
and all the rest supply applause and praise.
You laugh, but brother, we enjoy ourselves, we do!
My heart is good, if my abilities are few,
that’s why I’m liked, why I’m forgiven for my lies!
translated from Russian by Betsy Hulick