“The Gypsies” is a narrative poem by Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin, written in 1824., and published in 1827. This poem belongs to the cycle of so-called “southern poems”, which we wrote during his exile at his mother’s Mihaylovski estate in northern Russia.
The main idea of this poem, and also the theme as well is testing the moral boundaries and the adjusting of the nobility to the customs of the common people. The plot begins when the Aleko, a noblesse from town joins the camp of Gypsies, who are living the completely opposite life from the one he was used to.
A concept popular during the era of romanticism was presenting the idea that a life spent far away from civilization, in complete harmony with nature is better when compared to the alienated life of people who are living in the cities.
That idea in this poem is represented by the Gipsy camp where life is lived differently, obeying to different laws, and also observing the freedom and love from another point of view.
The poem is written in verses, formed as a dialogue between the three of the main characters – Aleko, Zemfira and the old Gipsy man, and this poem is used as an inspiration for many operas as well.
Genre: narrative poem
Time: the period of two years
Place: Gipsy camp, the region in Moldavia
The poem begins with the description of a place by the river where the Gipsy camp is located in Bessarabia, a part of Moldavia. At a quiet evening, while families are preparing dinner, children are playing and singing, and one grizzled older man is lying by the river while his meal is getting cold.
He waits for his young daughter to return, as she is used to walking around whenever and wherever she wants, enjoying her freedom.His daughter Zemfira returns bringing a young man named Aleko, who is escaping the city laws and she offered him to join their camp.
The descriptive part ends here, and dialogue takes place. The old man accepts the young man despite his poverty, offering him a shelter and food if he is willing to accept their lifestyle. Aleko decided to stay, and Zemfira is keen on seducing him.
The old man wakes them the next morning because the entire camp was leaving. Their move is portrayed and described in details; the dogs are barking, donkeys carrying the children, old and young folks singing their tunes. Although poverty rules among them, they are not sad.
As a contrast to them, Aleko feels a bit blue, still worried despite the freedom he gained. He escaped the town and his old life, but his heart is led with passion, and he is aware the passion will wake up again inside him. Zemfira asks him if he regrets leaving his old life behind, but he assures her he wants to remain by her side, as she was a complete opposite from everything he knew about.
People in town are inhibited by the absence of freedom and love, and he thinks it is impossible to be happy without love.The old man warns him how different their lifestyle is compared with he way he used to live before. They are not used to luxury, so it is possible he won’t be remained satisfied with only having the freedom.
He remembers a man who once joined them. He had a young soul despite his old age, but he couldn’t adapt. His last wish was to be returned and buried in his hometown.
They are not used to luxury, so it is possible he won’t be remained satisfied with only having the freedom. He remembers a man who once joined them. He had a young soul despite his old age, but he couldn’t adapt. His last wish was to be returned and buried in his hometown.
Two years passed after Aleko joined the Gypsies and everything remained the same, with Gypsies always on the move, finding happiness at different places. Aleko got used to this new life far from town, and soon nothing reminded him of his former life anymore.
One day he heard Zemfira sings about adultery of a woman who luster for the young lover over her dull old husband. Aleko warned her to stop singing, as he doesn’t like the song, but she kept on. Zemfira even confessed Aleko the song is about him, as she doesn’t love him anymore, as she found a younger lover for herself.
The old man explains Aleko that it is only an old song which is singing for fun, and he heard it for the first time from his wife, as she was singing it while putting Zemfira to sleep by the fire when she was just a child.
One evening Zemfira tells her father she is not in love with Aleko anymore and wants to regain her freedom. Aleko talks in his sleep, calling Zemfira and some other name as well. Later he explains Zemfira his dream about another person who was standing between the two of them, so he lost his trust in everyone, including her as well.
Later he explains Zemfira his dream about another person who was standing between the two of them, so he lost his trust in everyone, including her as well.
Aleko confesses to the old man his sorrow for the lost of Zemfira’s love, and the old man tries to comfort him, trying to excuse Zemfira’s infidelity due to her youth.
She is free-spirited and unable for staying faithful, but Aleko was sad while he remembered her former love and the nights they spent happily together, kissing and talking about everything. Now, that passion is gone.
An old man then told him a story about his experience with Mariula, Zemfira’s mother who he met when he was young as well. Their happiness lasted for only a year, until another gypsy camp took place by them, leaving after two days, and Mariula decided to follow them after she met a new lover. She left the Zemfira with an old man who was heartbroken and full of hate towards women in general.
She left the Zemfira with an old man who was heartbroken and full of hate towards women in general.
Aleko wanted to know why he didn’t revenge by killing Mariula and her new lover, but the old man answered him that the youth has a freedom of a bird impossible of taming.
One evening Aleko saw Zemfira with her new lover, as they parted from each other while arranging the next meeting. He kills her lover in a rage while Zemfira tried to calm him down, but he kills her as well because she was accusing him of committing a crime.
The next scene describes the funeral of Zemfira and her lover. They were buried together in Aleko’s presence. After the burial, the old man approached Aleko asking him to go away from their camp. Although they don’t share the same laws as the rest of the men, they don’t approve the murders to stay, so camp left without Aleko.
Epilog warns us about the dangers hidden in the gypsy way of life because it is impossible to free oneself from the love or destiny.
Characters: Aleko, Zemfira, old man, the young lover
A young noblesse from town who escaped his former life inhibited by laws, without any freedom or love present. He meets a young gypsy Zemfira and joins her camp, becoming accepted by her father, and he falls deep in love with her.
He is portrayed as a decent young man who finally found some peace and freedom after he escaped his past. He never becomes capable of fully adapting to this new lifestyle without strict laws and rules about morals and justice.
As the old men predicted, he wants the freedom only for himself, remaining selfish when Zemfira stopped loving him. He commits a crime out of jealousy, ending alone, not belonging anywhere.
A young gypsy who seduced Aleko, at the beginning of the poem portrayed as she loves him sincerely. Her father describes her as a young girl wishing to experience freedom and life, so he gave her the freedom to live as she likes, aligning with the customs of their society. He warns Aleko that she is unable for fidelity.
She has some similarities with her mother, who also abandoned her husband because of another lover, who she knew for only a couple of days. She is defiant, confronting Aleko directly as she tells him she isn’t in love with him anymore, triggering his jealousy, so he kills her at the end.
The old man
A decent old man who accepts the unknown young man named Aleko, offering him shelter and a chance for experiencing this new way of life, as he would be able finding freedom and life suitable for himself.
He warns him about his daughter’s character and temper, explaining to him that love and freedom are uncontrollable by nature.
He is a complete opposite of Aleko, who solves his problems with violence and revenge. When Aleko murders his daughter, he warns him politely to leave them for good, as they don’t want to live with the murder.
Alexander Pushkin Biography
Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin was a Russian poet, born on 6th of July, 1799. in Moscow. He is known as one of the best Russian poets and a father of Russian literature in general. At his early age, he is left in the care of peasants Nikita Kozlov and Arina Yakovleva.
Pushkin was a descendant of the old noble family by his father’s side while his mother was a granddaughter of Gannibal, famous Ethiopian prince who had a lot of influence on the emperor Peter the Great.
As a child, he was sent away to Lyceum near St. Petersburg. He begins writing his poems during his schooling, and after graduating, he was well known in poetic circles. At first, he was influenced with traditional classicism, but later he started writing on manners of romanticism. He was spending his time in the company of many intellectuals who made his creativity even stronger.
His most famous works are “Mozart and Salieri, “Weeding in the Time of Plague”, “Captain’s Daughter”, “Dubrovski”, “Gypsies”, and his greatest accomplishment is a novel “Evgenij Onegin”.
He dies on January 29th,1837., succumbing the shooting consequences.