I was very pleased to discover Pushkin's Дружба on Russian StackExchange :

Что дружба? Лeгкий пыл похмелья,  What is friendship? A slight fire of the carousal,
Обиды вольный разговор,           The insult's unrestrained talk,
Обмен тщеславия, безделья         An interchange of vanity and idleness,
Иль покровительства позор.        Or favour's stain.

(translation from user4419802)

I need help to improve the way I read the poem. Specifically :

(1) is there any record available online ? I only found this one but the music bothers me.

(2) Are the following accents correctly placed ? What's the accentuation of безделья ?

Что дру́жба? Ле́гкий пыл похме́лья,
Оби́ды во́льный разгово́р,
Обме́н тщесла́вия, безделья
Иль покрови́тельства позо́р.

(3) What's the rythmic pattern of the poem ? Is there a law explaining how each verse has to be cut in several parts ? Where are the caesurae ?

Any help would be appreciated !

  • I'd mention that Лёгкий in fact has the letter "ё", not "е", which are often interchangeable in written speech, but have different pronunciations.
    – svavil
    Dec 3, 2017 at 23:11

2 Answers 2


безде́лья, as the rhyming scheme suggests. The pattern is iambic tetrameter. Caesurae aren't integral to Russian syllabotonic verse; other than the one after дружба, they're largely a matter of individual interpretation by the reciter.

Regarding that recording, it's not only music that ought to bother you. It's an example of this sometimes-serendipitous, mostly-cringeworthy modern Russian trend of trying to make everything pop-culture-y. Here's my take — my vocal expression and the audio quality are what they are, but I've at least tried to emulate the classical Russian manner of reading poetry aloud.

  • Thank you very much. I'm very impressed by the quality of the informations I get on Russian S.E.
    – suizokukan
    Jul 5, 2015 at 17:00

Considering metrics, here Pushkin uses 4-iambus as he usually did (actually, he nearly always sticked to 4-iambus or 4-trochee). So at his home field he's absolutely brilliant.

The main scheme is iamb-iamb-pyrrhic-iamb yet the first line starts with the spondee while the last one mirrors it with the long anacrusis.

Caesurae is not a mandatory tool in Russian poetry. Usually each line is read at once except sentence's border (here the first line has a strict caesurae due to the question sign) with a full stop right after it. To save reader's breath Russian poets widely use pyrrhic so the voice goes low allowing one to breathe while the tempo never slows down.

  • Thank you very much : can you describe the rythm of the first and last verse ? I read "Что дру́жба? Ле́гкий пыл" as u - / u - / u u - / but what about похме́лья ? In "Иль покрови́тельства позо́р." where is the anacrusis ? At the end of the verse ?
    – suizokukan
    Jul 5, 2015 at 15:47
  • 1
    @suizokukan First line starts with spondee: - - / u - / u - / u - u The last line starts with pyrrhic (i.e. Russian anacrusis): u u / u - / u u / u - 1st and 3rd lines both have one additional unstressed syllable at the end (female rhyme). Although I have to add that both "Что" and "Иль" could be seen as "half-stressed" that is the reader has quite much freedom here.
    – Matt
    Jul 5, 2015 at 16:15
  • 1
    @suizokukan Not sure what you mean by short syllable. The letter "Й" is a consonant.
    – Matt
    Jul 5, 2015 at 17:17
  • 1
    @suizokukan There's no rule prohibiting unstressed vowel before two consonants. Russian language has many consonants and it's the author's art to combine them well. As a thumb rule two consonants are good while four consonants or two consecutive triples are bad. The stress helps sometimes to push the way through those triples and quadruples but it's an excess to stress after each pair of consonants.
    – Matt
    Jul 5, 2015 at 17:58
  • 1
    @suizokukan There's essentially no concept of a short/long syllable in Russian metrics; it's purely stressed/unstressed. Jul 6, 2015 at 4:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.