A learnèd cat

2004 painting on cotton A learnèd cat 79×69 cm

A poem Ruslan and Ludmila by Alexander Pushkin
By an arc of sea a green oak stands;
to the oak a chain of gold is tied;
and at the chain’s end night and day
a learnèd cat walks round and round.
Rightwards he goes, and sings a song;
leftwards, a fairy tale he tells.
There’s magic! It’s a wood sprite’s haunt –
a rusalka sits among the boughs –
on footpaths no one has explored
are tracks of beasts no one has seen –
a hut stands there on chicken’s legs,
no windows in its walls, nor doors –
unnumbered wraiths stalk wood and dale –
at dawn the ocean waves roll in
and surge across the empty sands,
while from the limpid waters strides
a troop of thirty champions,
fine men, and their sea-tutor too –
a king’s son passing by that way
takes prisoner an awesome tsar –
up in the clouds for all to see
above the sweep of woods and waves
a wizard hauls a warrior brave –
a princess pines in prison there,
a brown-haired wolf her loyal page –
a mortar in a witch’s form
moves to and fro as if alive –
frail Tsar Kashchéy wilts by his gold.
The place breathes Russia… reeks of Rus!
I was there once: I sipped some mead;
I saw the green oak by the sea;
I sat beneath it, while the cat,
that learnèd cat, told me his tales.
One of those tales I still recall,
and this I’ll share now with you all…

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