Raskolnikov — Part 1: Chapter 1, Stanza 1

For some reason, a close personal frenemy of mine has decided to adapt Crime and Punishment into Onegin sonnet-stanzas. The first stanza of this (inadvertent?) double insult to 19th-century Russian literature is below.

Gluttons for Punishment may click here for subsequent stanzas.

Please criticize candidly.

That deed is done — if I but dare it…
That thing I can’t stop thinking of!’
So thinks, as he slinks from his garret,
One Rodión Raskólnikov.
His head is light; his stomach rumbles
As down the dingy stair he stumbles
Into the muggy summer throng.
Anonymous, he’s swept along.
The sunset oozes out a bloody
Light that stains the steamy streets,
And Rodion’s own blood now beats
To force his fevered brain to study
What banes his every waking thought:
‘How shall I execute that plot?’


  1. If Boccaccio (http://www.gerasenewritersconference.blogspot.com/2011/11/foxs-confessor-chapter-one.html), why not Dostoevsky? But I would have given it at least the pentameter treatment (more expository than quadrameter) and even the defiant hexameter would allow for greater exploration of feeling/psychological depth.

    But I’m all ears – and look forward to the rest!


  2. Jonathan Potter says

    Nice start. A light touch to counterpoint the heaviness of the novel. A Dantean comedia culled from dark Russian pages. An unknown prophecy of Fatima fulfilled, perhaps. I’m especially glad you filed this under Attached Earlobes. Keep going!

  3. Jonathan Potter says
  4. Matthew Lickona says

    I don’t know as I’ve ever seen “banes” the verb. I like it. Also, bold move rhyming thought and plot.

  5. Yowza! I can’t imagine a more unlikely pair—and yet this certainly works. It might be that poetry is almost always more amicable than prose (even torturous English hexameters), but I think that with the Onegin stanzas you might capture the comedic aspects of C&P (Yes, I mean that) better than old Dusty himself was able to manage. Looking forward to seeing more!

    • You say hexameter, I say quadrameter.

      Lets call the whole thing existential.


      • Agreed! The idea of not taking Dostoevsky so awfully seriously is inspired, and using Pushkin’s tetrameters seems a good way to go after the weird slapstick of C&P … English hexameter makes me think of Idylls of the King or somesuch, dialing up a ponderousness of Dostoevsky as well as the prolixity. Stick with the tetrameters!

  6. You can’t go wrong with the Russians.

  7. Jonathan Webb says

    No, you can’t go wrong with the Russians.

  8. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

    Sincere thanks to every one of you gentlemen for your feedback. As you may have guessed, I am my own worst frenemy, and hardly my own best critic. Your general impressions and technical suggestions are very welcome indeed.

    Mr JOB, The Fox’s Confessor helped inspire this project — though if you’d rather that were not generally known, I’ll spare you some shame-by-association and not broadcast the fact. Your suggestion to make more room for psychology or emotion by extending each line a foot or two reminds me of how much a poet can be like an engineer, having to make tradeoffs. Here, I see a tradeoff between the headlong speed of tetrameter and the space or depth afforded by pentameter (hexameter, etc.). I choose speed: Since Dostoevsky has already explored Raskolnikov’s psychology in great — sometimes instant-by-instant — detail, my own perverse experiment is to see if stripping the story down and speeding it up might add something to it. ‘A light touch to counterpoint the heaviness of the novel’, says Mr Potter, articulating well the author’s intent. And as Mr Finnegan suggests, I think a light telling of this heavy story might bring out some of Crime and Punishment‘s comedic aspects. But the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. And just about anyone who comments on this blog is a taste-tester whose tastes I trust.

    But framing this as a technical experiment — an attempt to retell a prolix prose story in sprightly verse — may be giving the author too much credit. Maybe he just wants to do a gimmick on Russian lit: Dressing up Dostoevsky’s febrile, destitute axe-murderer student in the style of Pushkin’s frosty, dandiacal duelist aristocrat. Vodka sipped from a champagne coupe. In that case, the Raskolnikov plot is no more important to this unimportant project than the Onegin stanza.

    God willing, there will be more Raskolnikov stanzas on the way. If the spirit moves you to read any of them, and if you think any of them can be improved — or would be better scrapped — don’t hesitate to say so. Please.

    • Ah! I’m sold. (Disregard my metrical moanings and prosodic prating – I’m a boor (see below)).

      I will read with your and Mr. Potter’s comments in mind. Very helpful.

      Also, delighted to think my Fox has inspired your Schismatic. Not at all ashamed of the association!

      Re: Matthew on “thought” vs. “plot” – I think that Robert Lowell’s work has given the poets that have followed aesthetic permission to use slant rhymes (thought/plot), head rhymes (stop/stand), pararhymes (tell/tall) and assonant rhymes (e.g. “boot” and “stool”) to our heart’s delight. I belive the main motive for using these alternative rhymes is in part to camouflage (poets can be as crafty as fictionists, you know) the ostentation of the traditional rhyme – which is a much too conventional convention for postmodern tastes but I think it also provides the poet a larger pallette from which to work. An inflected language, I think, never had to deal with the rigidness of the English rhyme – and while some might see in it decadence, I see rather greater aurial possiblities in it all.

      For further proof, look at Heaney’s and especially Walcott’s use of it in their work.


Speak Your Mind