Part 2 out of 2
Hearing the terrors of the war, sore troubled,
By each new victim of the combat torn--
Nor friend, nor wife I give my utmost pity,
Nor do I for the fallen hero mourn.
Alas! the wife will find a consolation.
The friend by friend is soon forgot in turn.
But somewhere is the one soul that remembers--
That will remember unto death's dark shore,
Nor can the tears of a heart-stricken mother
Forget the sons gone down on fields of gore.
One soul there is that like the weeping willow
Can never raise its drooping branches more.
THE SONGS OF SIBERIAN EXILES
We stand unbroken in our places,
Our shovels dare to take no rest,
For not in vain his golden treasure
God buried deep in earth's dark breast.
Then shovel on and do not falter,
Humble and hopeful, clear we see--
When Russia has grown rich and mighty,
Our grandchildren will grateful be!
* * * * *
Though streams the sweat in rivers downward,
Our arms from shoveling grown weak,
Our bodies frozen to an ice crust
While we new strength in slumber seek--
Sweating or freezing, we will bear it!
Thirst-pain and hunger will withstand,
For each stone is of use to Russia,
And each is given by our own hand!
_Written to a band of political exiles including some of the highest
Oft through my native land I roved before,
But never such a cheerful spirit bore.
When on its mother's breast a child I spy--
Hope in my inmost heart doth secret cry,
"Boy, thou art born within a favoring time,
Thine eyes shall glad escape old sights of crime.
Free as a child, thou can'st prove all and be
The forger sole of thine own destiny.
Peasant remain,--as to thy father given--
Or like the eagle swing thyself to heaven!"
Castles in air I build! Man's spirit opes
To many ways to frustrate all my hopes.
Though serfdom's sad conditions left behind,
Yet there be countless snares of varied kind!--
Well! Although the people soon may rend thee,
Let me, oh Freedom, a welcome send thee!
_Written shortly after the freeing of the serfs_.
Farewell! Forget the days of trial,
Of grudge, ill humor, misery--
Tempests of heart and floods of weeping,
And the revengeful jealousy.
Ah, but the days whereon the sun rose
To light love's wonder, and begot
In us the power of aspiration,--
bless them and forget them not!
THE LOVE LETTER
Letter of love so strangely thrilling
With all your countless wonder yet,
Though Time our heart's hot fires have mastered,
Bringing a pang of pained regret!
The while your blest receiver holds you,
His banished passions still rebel,
No longer reason sacrifices
His sentiment,--so then farewell!
Destroyed be this love-token treasured!
For if 'tis read when time has flown,
Deep in the buried soul 'twill waken
The torment vanished days have known.
At first but a light scorn arousing
For silly childishness,--at last
With fiery yearning overwhelming,
And jealousy for all the past.
O Thou, from whom a myriad letters
Speak with the breath of love to me,
Though my gaze rest on thee austerely,
Yet, yet,--I cannot part with thee!
Time has revealed with bitter clearness
How little thou with truth wert blessed,
How like a child my own behaviour--
Yet, dear to me I still must save
This flower scentless, without colour,
From off my manhood's early grave!
WHAT THE SLEEPLESS GRANDAM THINKS
All through the cold night, beating wings shadowy
Sweep o'er the church-village poor,--
Only one Grandam a hundred years hoary,
Findeth her slumber no more.
Harkens, if cocks to the dawn be not crowing,
Rolls on her oven and weeps,
Sees all her past rising up to confront her--
O'er her soul shameful it creeps!
"Woe to me sinner old! Woe! Once I cheated--
When from the church door I ran,
And in the depths of the forest strayed hidden
With my beloved Ivan.
"Woe to me! Burning in hell's leaping fires
Surely will soon be my soul!
I took a pair of eggs once at a neighbor's--
Out from her hen--yes, I stole!
"Once at the harvest at home I did linger--
Swore I was deadly sick,--when
Taking my part in the drunken carousals
Saturday night with the men!
"Light was I ever with soldiers! Yet cursing
God's name, when from me at last,--
My own son they took for a soldier!
Even drank cream on a fast.
"Woe to me sinner! Woe to me wretched one!
Woe! My heart broken will be!
Holy Madonna, have pity, have mercy!
Into court go not with me!"
_The stoves of the peasants are built so that they can sleep on top of
them in the extreme cold of Winter_.
'Neath a giant tent
Of the heavens blue,
Stretch the verdant Steppes;
Range beyond the view.
On the distant rim
Lift the outlines proud,
Of their mountain walls
To the drifting cloud.
Through the Steppes there rolls
Stream on stream to sea,
Straying far and free.
Do I Southward gaze--
Like the ocean there,
Ripening fields of grain
Wave and ripple fair.
Softest velvet sod
Decks the meadow floor,
In the vineyards green
Swells the grape once more.
Do I Northward turn--
O'er the waste lands lone,
Soft as eider down
Are the snowflakes blown.
And his azure waves
High the ocean lifts,
On his cold blue breast
Now an iceberg drifts.
And as leaping flame
Burn the Northern lights,
On the darkness gleam
Through the silent nights.
Even so art thou,
Russian realm, become,--
Thou my native land,
Shield of Christendom!
Far away hast thou,
Throughout lands untold,
In thy glory fair,
Russia, been enrolled!
Art thou not in space
E'en o'er well supplied?
Where a spirit bold
Freely wanders wide!
Hast thou not alway
Gold and grain rich stored?
For thy friend a feast?
For thy foe a sword?
Guards and shields thee not
With a sacred might,
Holy altar forms,
Deeds of glory bright?
To whom hast thou e'er
Bent an humble knee?
Or before whom bowed
In the Kurgan deep,
Met in open fight,
Thou hast e'en subdued
The fierce Tartar's might.
Fought to bloody death
The Lithuanian horde,
The defiant Pole
Scattered with a sword.
And how long ago,
Black clouds, rising out
Of the distant West,
Compassed thee about?
'Neath the lightning flash
Sank the woods away,
Trembled the earth's breast,
Pierced with dismay.
And the inky smoke
Ruinous did rise
From the village burnt
To the cloudy skies.
Loudly to the fight
Then the Tsar did call--
Russia swift replied,
Coming one and all.
Women, children came--
Men from age to youth,
Gave their evil guest
Bloody feast in truth!
And in lonely fields
Under ice and snow,
To his endless sleep
Laid the victim low.
Where the snowstorms wild
Raised o'er him a tomb,
While the North wind sang
Dirges in the gloom.
Town and village too
Over all our land,
Now like ant hills swarm
With this Christian band.
Now from distant shores
O'er the cruel sea,
Ship on ship draws near
Homage paying thee.
Blooming are thy fields,
Soft thy forests sigh,
Hid in earth's dark breast
Golden treasures lie.
And to East and West,
To the South and North--
Flies thy louder fame
Through the wide world forth!
Holy Russia, thou
Dost deserve to be
"Mother" called by all,
In our love to thee!
For thy glory fair
We should face the foe,
And thy freedom guarding
Glad our lives bestow!
THE SONG OP THE SPENDTHRIFT
To seven kopek the heir,
Nor house nor land have I--
Live I--hey! I live then!
Die I--hey! I die!
In many realms the Fool
Can sleep no wink for care,
While yet the spendthrift snores
When dawns the morning fair.
Free as the wind he blows,
Door nor gate to balk him,
Riches, hey! Now give place!
Poverty goes walking!
Before me bends the rye
When through the fields I stray
And glad the forest hears
My pipe and song alway.
If one must bitter weep--
No man will see his tears,
If sadly bowed his head--
None save the partridge jeers.
If weary one, or not,
What matters anything?
Let him toss back his locks
And playful laugh and sing!
And if one die,--the grave
Will warm his hands and feet!
Dost to my song respond?
Nay? Then it is complete.
THE SPADE IS DEEP DIGGING A GRAVE IN THE MOULD
The spade is deep digging a grave in the mould....
O Life,--so o'erflowing with sorrows untold,
My life, so homeless and lonely and weary,
Life, as an Autumn night silent and dreary--
Bitter in truth is thy fate 'neath the sky,
And as a fire of the field wilt thou die!
Die then--no sad falling tear will recall thee,
Fast will the roof of thy pine coffin wall thee,
Heavy the earth falls upon the sad hearted--
Only one more from humanity parted;
One whose home-going no fond heart is tearing--
One for whom no soul will sorrow despairing!
Hark! What a silvery music is ringing!
Hark! What a careless and jubilant singing!
See on ethereal azure waves swinging,
Now the glad lark to her South-land is winging!
Silence, O Life full of doubting and fears,
Hushed first of all be the songs of men's tears!
Though blameless thy living
As Anchorite's fate,
Yet Gossip will find thee
Or early or late.
Through keyhole he enters
And stands at thy side,
Doors of wood nor of stone
Against him provide.
He pulls the alarm bell
At slightest excuse--
And down to thy grave
Will pursue with abuse.
Self defence nothing boots thee,
Thy flight he will worst--
To earth he will tread thee,
O Gossip be cursed!
IN A PEASANT HUT
Sultry dampness--pine chips smoking,
Off-scourings a span length,
In the corners webs of spiders,
Smut on dish and bench.
Sooty black the bare wall, crock stained,
Water--dry hard bread;
Groanings, coughings, children's whimper,
Wretched bitter need!
And a beggar's death for years of
Learn to put your trust in God here,
And to patient be.
WINTER NIGHT IN THE VILLAGE
O'er the church roof wanders
Mute and calm the moon,
Blue upon the snowdrifts
Sparkling silent down.
By the small pond dreaming,
Stands the church a'gleam--
With its gold cross twinkling
As a taper's beam.
Peaceful in the village
Darkness reigns and sleep,
Every hut is standing
Snowed in window deep.
Out upon the highway
Hushed and empty all,
Now the howling watch dogs
Even, silent fall.
After their day's labor
Young and old are pressed
Weak and worn, on their hard
Narrow place of rest.
In one cottage only
Shines a lamplight, where
A sick old hoary-head
Groans in soul-despair.
Death is near,--and of her
Grandchildren thinks she,
Smitten sore the orphans
Harvest time will be.
Ah the poor, poor children!
Now so young for strife,
All untried and helpless
In the woe of life!
Among stranger people
Older they will grow--
Evil hearts will lure them
Evil ways to go.
With disgrace too early
They will make a bond,
Shamed and God forsaken
Sink unto the ground.
Dear God, thyself take them,
Thy forsaken poor--
Staff and light be to them
And the sacred lamplight
Calm and silent strays;
On the holy pictures
Fall its trembling rays;
O'er the aged features,
O'er the dying form,
O'er the two small children
On the stove bench warm.
Sudden, through the stillness
Rings a merry cry--
And his jingling troika
Drives a reveller by!
Dies in silent distance
Sleighbell clangor strong,
And the careless, merry,
THE BIRCH TREE
From bald and sun-parched earth it rises,
One lonely birch, high towering--
Upon its withered crown wide spreading,
Green leafage never more will sing.
Up to the rim of the horizon
Where veiling mists all soft enclose,
Runneth the blossoming of flowers,
The Steppe's green ocean waving flows.
In green enchantment stands the Kurgan,
Where evening dampness doth enfold,
The night descends with sleep and coolness,
The morning sunbeams touch with gold.
Yet loveless, helpless stands the birch tree--
In heaven's grey, musing sad to view,
And from its branches fall like tear-drops
The gleaming pearls of morning dew.
Scattered, alas! her tender leaflets,
In howling storms,--so far, so wide!
Ne'er will the birch, to greet the Springtide,
Be fresh adorned in leafy pride!
NORTH AND SOUTH
Knowest thou the land of fragrance ardent glowing?
Where night sublimely sparkles on the flowing
Of the sea? Murmuring in starlight gleam--
Weaving about the heart a wonder dream?
Refulgent in the silvering moonbeams white,
In soft half darkness, gardens slumbering light;
Only the fountain's iridescent foam
Upon the grass falls splashing down--
And images of Gods with lips of silence
Sunk in deep musing gaze on every side--
While, eloquent of fallen majesty,
Ruins entwined with ivy tendrils be?
Soft pictured on the valley's verdant meadows
Dark cypress trees reflect their slender shadows;
Earth's bosom blooming in fecundity--
And freedom here man's joyful destiny.
Yet more than tropic's soft abundance thralling,
My stormy North-land wilderness is calling!
Her snowflake flocks, her gleaming midnight frosts,
The glory of grim forests on her coasts,
Green tinted Steppes with distant bluish rim--
The trooping clouds in heaven's spaces dim.
Unto the heart how the familiar cries!
The village mean that in the valley lies,
The wealthy cities' towering majesty,
The empty snow-fields' endless boundary,--
The changeful moods that all unbridled throng;
Spirit of Russia and of Russian song!
With joy now gushing forth,--with pain now ringing--
Unto the hearer's heart resistless singing.
Thou fairest picture! my breast with rapture sighs,
My spirits free, victorious arise!
A song breaks forth to Russia's praise and glory,
And tears of joy, the while I muse, are flowing.
And jubilant the kindling heart must cry--
Hail Russia, Hail! Thy loyal son am I!
Hark! Who knocks with bony fingers
On the hut's small window latch?
Hark! Who pulls away the stubble
Rustling, from the roofing thatch?
From the fields it is not Vintage,
Drunk and weary wavers home--
'Tis a spectre, meagre, gloomy,
As a nightmare dread become.
All subduing, all destroying,
In his ragged garment poor,
Drags he,--on his crutches limping--
Noiseless reeling through the door.
Like the usurer hard hearted,
For his last kopek in quest,
Coffer, cupboard both he opens,
Breaks the lock of case and chest.
Lordly rules he, late and early--
In the granary; when gone
Every kernel of provision,
The last cattle he will pawn.
From the land unto the cellar,
Clean the peasant's hut he keeps,
With a coarse and clumsy besom
Every tiny crumb he sweeps.
On the village highway also
Works and wins he over all,
From the threshing floor to stable--
From the sheepfold to the stall.
His approaching, sorrow follows--
On his coming, follows need,
On his greeting, follows sickness,
On his hand-shake Death succeeds!
So he seeks in all directions,
East and West and South and North--
And in empty field embraces
Thankfully his friend the Frost!
FADED THE FOOTSTEP OF SPRING FROM OUR GARDEN
Faded the footstep of Spring from our garden,
Sighing the Autumn wind vanishing goes,
Behold now, how close to us dreams are approaching--
Love, it is time for repose!
List, how the leafage in raindrops all tearful
Trembles and wails for a sorry defeat,--
All that was ours, that we once proudly boasted,
All, was a glittering cheat.
Dark as a funeral pall hanging over,
Fluttering clouds in their mockery close;
Sighing within us is silenced our singing--
Love, it is time for repose.
Deceitful from heaven's fair emerald rainbow,
Soft borrowed glamour of moonbeams doth woo;
Since even you to my faith were disloyal,
Love, my false Springtime were you!
Soon will the sunbeams last radiant shining
Trackless be hurled where the Autumn wind blows,
Slumber enmeshes my soul and the darkness--
Love, it is time for repose!
There stood a beggar asking alms
By the cathedral gate,
His face bore torture marks of life--
Pale, tired, blind--like fate.
Thin, tired, pale and blind he begged
A crust of bread alone,
And some one pausing, placed within
His outstretched hand--a stone.
And even so I asked your love,
I brought my dreams, my life--the while
Unto my passion you replied
Only with your cold smile!
Darling, accept my bunch of perfumed roses;--
Because in royal beauty and in freshness sweet
They dared to rival you,--I cut them down and bound
The criminals and brought them to your feet.
_From the Georgian of Prince Tschawtschawadze_.
With joy in your heart and a smile on your lips
You admired the soft Southern night,
And do you know when your beautiful eyes
Were remarked, all the stars at the sight
Were put out and turned faint in the skies?
This morning they brought their complaint to the sun--
"In ether a star quite unknown!
If to-night this same comet shall shine
Whose radiance extinguished our own,
We must all, our old splendor resign!"
And sadly the sun made them answer,--"Alas!
Before her, I am pale at high noon;--
See, to-day all is rainy and cold,
'Tis the trace of defeat seen so soon,
'Tis the trace of eclipse you behold!"
* * * * *
O happy the being whose life from afar
Shall be lighted by such a lode star!
_From the Caucasian of Prince Oberlaine_.
WHISPERS AND THE TIMID BREATHING
Whispers and the timid breathing,
Nightingale's long trill,
Silver moonlight and the rocking
Of the dreaming rill;
Nightly light and nightly shadow,
Shadow's endless lace--
Neath the moon's enchanted changes
The Beloved's face.
Blinking stars as flash of amber,
Snowy clouds on-rush,
Tears and happiness and kisses--
And the dawn's red blush!
FROM "FETE CHENCHINE."
_Fete Chenchine, so-called, has no rival in impressionistic effects. The
above without a verb is a good instance of his peculiar caprice_.
THE TALES OF THE STARS
The stars of beauty, the stars of purity,
Have whispered their wonderful tales to the flowers!
The satiny petals have smiled as they heard,
And trembled the emerald leaves 'mid their bowers.
But infatuate flowers deep drunken of dew
Repeated these tales to the light swaying breeze--
Rebellious winds listening swift caught them up
And sang them o'er earth, o'er the mountains and seas!
Now, as the earth under Springtime's caresses:
With her verdant tissue is covered once more,
All my madly passionate soul overflows
With dreams of the stars and their radiant lore!
And throughout these days of my sorrow and toil,
Through these nights of my loneliness, darkness and rain--
Stars wondrous and radiant, I give back to you,
Your ethereal fancies again!
ONE DEAREST PAIR OF EYES I LOVE
One dearest pair of eyes I love!
Entranced my heart beneath their spell--
Clearer than clearest ray they are,
But where they are--I will not tell!
Through silk of wondrous lashes soft,
Their burning beams are flashing bright,
Upon my knees, a slave I kneel--
Before those miracles of light.
The storm is growing in my soul,
Tempest of pain and happiness--
I love one dearest pair of eyes,
But whose they are--I'll not confess!
A GIPSY SONG
Pile of embers in the darkness,
Sparks expire as they fly--
Night conceals us from the passing,
On the bridge we'll say good-by!
At the parting, shawl of crimson
Cross my shoulders thou shalt lace,
At an end the days swift passing,
Met within this shaded place.
In the morning, with first splendour,
All my life compelled to rove--
I shall leave with other gipsies
Seeking happiness and love.
How does fate foretell my future?
Who, to-morrow by my side,
O'er my heart will loose with kisses
Knots by thy dear hand fast tied?
Flash of embers in the darkness,
Sparks expire as they fly--
Night conceals us from the passing,
On the bridge we'll kiss good-by!
No word,--not e'en a sigh, my darling!
Together now the silence keeping;
In truth as o'er some grave stone leaning
The silent willows low are weeping,
And drooping o'er it so are reading--
I read in thy tired heart at last,
That days of happiness existed,
And that this happiness is past.
BY AN OPEN WINDOW
So sultry is the hour I throw the casement wide,
Fall on my knees beside it in the gloom,
And cowering before me lies the balmy night,
Wafted aloft the breath of lilac bloom.
The nightingale her plaint from a near thicket sobs,
I listen to the singer, share the woe--
With a longing for my home within me waking,
The home I looked on last so long ago!
And the nightingales of home with their familiar song!
And lilacs in my childhood gardens fair!
How the languors of the night possess my being,
Restoring my lost youth on perfumed air!
THE GRAND DUKE CONSTANTINE.
WITH THE GREATNESS OF GOD
With the greatness of God all my heart is on fire!
Such a beauty to earth does He lend--
He created eternity for our desire,
To our torment has given an end.
Ne'er have I sung in idle hours of dreaming,
With verse harmonious and sweet-voiced rhyme,
I have sung only when in tempest raging
My soul was shaken by a power sublime!
For each thought I have suffered and been troubled,
No dream creation painless from me torn,
The blessed lot of Poet not seldom seeming
A cross intolerable to be borne!
Oft have I sworn to evermore keep silence,
To mingle and be lost among the crowd,
But when the winds once more their strings are sweeping--
Aeolian harps must ever cry aloud;
And in the Spring the flooding streams on-rushing
Must downward plunge into the vale below,
When from the rocky peaks' high towering summits
The sun's warm rays have melted off the snow.
TO THE MUSE
Take from thy brow the laurel--cast it forth!
May it in dust lie 'neath thy feet;
The blood-flecked thorn crown hurl away--
As witness of thy pain alone 'tis meet!
Hark! The storm petrel shrieks!
Reef the sail canvas fast!
See, the Spirit of Storm with wildest commotion
Has to heaven's arched vaulting his coronal pressed,
While his heels dam the flood gates of ocean!
Furious storm-cloud his undulent drapery,
Girded round with the lightning wide flashing;
O'er the sea's leaden billows from his threatening hand
The thunderbolts are sent crashing!
To you,--you beggars in the forests proud,--
To pastures free, my hasting foot returns!
The May is come! It smiles and laughs aloud--
For Love's desire, freedom's bliss, it yearns.
Erased the marks of city slavery,
Here where the sun gleams gold through azure hours--
Here wrests the spirit from all bondage free,
The fields grown green and the syringa flowers!
Storms only, brought my youthful morning red,
And night of soul and wilderness of pains--
All in my breast is hushed and numb and dead,
The pulsing fever stopped within my veins;
Yet here, where Nature winds a wreath for me,
The arms stretch forth,--the weary glance devours--
And the arrested soul exults and sings,
The fields grow green and the syringa flowers!
IN MEMORY OF N.M.D.
Slumber soft,--oh thou my heart's beloved!
Death alone can bring eternal rest,
And in death alone 'neath tearless lashes
Shall thine eyes forever close be pressed;
In thy grave, no more with fevered doubting
Shall thy golden head tormented be,
In thy grave alone, thou'lt never long for
All that life so cruel robbed from thee.
Through the grass, white yet thy coffin shining--
O'er thy grave the cross is looming white,
As in silent prayer unto the heavens
Mournful gleaming through the cold blue night.
Now with tears my eyes are overflowing,
Hotter tears I ne'er before have wept--
All the bitter sorrows I have suffered
In one sobbing cry together swept.
Spring across the fields will be returning
With her silver nightingales, ere long--
Through the dusky nights of silence piercing
E'en thy grave with her inspiring song,
And the lindens whispering, will murmur--
Breathless die away, and sighing cease,
But thou--slumber soft my heart's beloved,
Death alone can bring eternal peace!
AT THE GRAVE OF N.M.D.
Forsaken am I now anew,
Night's sombre wings o'er me descending,
As tearless, meditating, dumb--
Above thy grave's low mound I'm bending.
Naught offers recompense for thee,
No hopes console or fears betray--
For whom now live I in this world?
For whom on earth now shall I pray?
In my dreams I saw heavens bespangled,
With silvery stars all adorned,
And pale green sorrowing willows
Drooping low o'er the pale blue pond.
I saw in syringa embowered
A cottage, and thou my heart's Dove--
And bowed was thy little curly head,
My beautiful sad pale Love!
Thou wert weeping, the teardrops shining
Were flowing from thy yearning gaze,
For love the roses wept also,
For joy sobbed the nightingale.
And every tear found consoling--
A greeting from near and from far,
The garden was lit by a glow worm,
Enraptured the heavens a star!
THE OLD GREY HOUSE
Thou hospitable old grey house,--A greeting unto thee!
With thy red ochre roofs,--vine trellised o'er;
The gardens fair laid forth in blooming luxury,
The fields in glinting beads of dew stretched endlessly,
Beneath the sun's fresh kiss a gilded floor!
A silvery ribbon through the flowering green--
The icy billows of the river foam,
Above her clay-white strand are verdant arbours seen,
Spun o'er with leafage, through the waking land between,
And where the azure river's currents roam.
Prattling, the river lisps of love and of repose--
And in the distance shimmers, faintly dies;
A flower, secret listening as its message flows,
A roguish kiss of gratitude in fragrance blows,
While beckoning stars smile from the silent skies.
I greet thee, home and mother! Joys now charm anew
That I believed but once to me were given;
Thee I forsook,--and now my last expiring view
Turns back from fruitless conflict to thy vision true,
Love, no more mine, nor hope nor peace of heaven!
Mother and home, I greet thee! O caress thy child
Whom weariness, regret, despair assail--
With sighing of thy groves in the soft wind beguiled,
With sunbeams of thy Springtime smiling fair and mild,
And with the liquid song of nightingales!
Let me once only weep in the assurance blest
That I am not girt round with human scorn,
Let me but sleep once more upon thy gentle breast,
Forgetting in my childish, deeply-dreaming rest
The loss and failure of my life forlorn!
CALL HIM NOT DEAD
Call him not dead,--he lives!
Ah you forget
Though the pyre lies in ruin the fires upward sweep,
The string of the harp is broken but her chords still weep,
The rose is cut but it is blooming yet!
BRIEF BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES
ALEXANDER SERGJEWITSCH PUSHKIN was born at Moscow, May 26, 1799. His
first poetical influence came from his nurse who taught him Russian
tales, legends and proverbs, and to whom, with loving recognition, he
was grateful to the end of his life. His grandmother and this nurse
taught him to read and write. In his seventh year he began the study of
foreign languages; German, French,--which was as his mother tongue to
him,--and mathematics, which he hated. At nine the passion of reading
possessed him and he devoured his father's library, which included the
French erotics, Voltaire, Rousseau, and the Encyclopedists. His own
first poetical work was indeed written in French. In 1811 he was sent to
the school then just opened, at Tzarskoe Selo near Petersburg. Here,
however, he learned little, the students being more interested in
drinking bouts and platonic relations with barmaids and actresses; in
spite of which the art of poetry was worshiped and Pushkin with others
among his friends published a journal in manuscript that circulated
their own contributions. He was later graduated from the Alexandrovsky
Lyceum, the highest and most splendid civil school of that time, and
entered the department of Foreign Affairs. Although he retained his
entire sympathy with the poetic brotherhood, he now frequented the
salons of the titled aristocracy and gave himself up to the vortex of
luxurious society. Because of his political satires and too free
opposition to the government, he was sent away from Petersburg in 1820,
and attached to the Governor of the South Russian Colonies. Here he fell
ill and went to the Caucas for recovery. It was in the Crimea that he
learned to know and wonder over Byron. He remained three years in
Kischinew,--in the service chiefly of wine, women and cards. In 1823 he
went to Odessa as attache of the General Governor Count Woronzow, whom
he pursued with biting epigram,--until in 1824 the poet of "Russlan and
Ludimilla" was removed from the service and banished to his mother's
estates by order of the Tsar Alexander I.
These two years of unwilling retirement worked mightily upon the soul of
Pushkin so filled with storm and stress. He struck off the chains of
Byron and steeped himself in Shakespeare; writing at this period his
drama of Boris Godunow. Nicholas First amnestied the poet and recalled
him to Moscow, instituting himself censor of all future work; likewise
placing Pushkin under the all-powerful Chief of Police Count
Benkendorff, from whom Lermontoff later had also so much to suffer. In
1829 Pushkin went to the Caucas and with the Russian army to Erzum. In
1830 he inherited from his father the management of But Boldino, where
he finished "Onegin," and three other dramas. In 1831 he was married at
Moscow to Natalie Nikolajewa Gontsharowa, whose beauty had for three
years held him in her toils. In the same year he was appointed to the
foreign office again. In 1833 the poem was published that won him his
fatal commission. Pushkin fell, as did Lermontoff later, a victim of the
envy and hatred of high society. At this time many responsible positions
were held in Russia by Frenchmen who had fled the terrors of the
revolution. Such a French emigre was D'Anthes, who pursued the wife of
Pushkin with his compromising attentions, until at a ball the poet was
almost forced to challenge him. The pistol duel, that Count Benkendorff
with cunning foresight did nothing to prevent, took place June 27, 1837.
In two days the poet was free from his tormentors forever. He was buried
in the Swatjatorgorische cloister and statues have been erected to his
honor at Petersburg, Moscow and many other cities throughout Russia. His
service to Russian literature can only be compared with that of Dante
for Italy,--since there was practically no Russian poetry before Pushkin
and he may be said to have created the Russian language as it is spoken
MICHAIL JURJEWITSCH LERMONTOFF was born October 14, 1814, at Moscow.
From his father he inherited the love of brilliant society, from his
mother the love of music and an unusually sensitive temperament. When he
was but two and a half years old his mother died and he became the idol
of his grandmother, by whom he was spoiled, until the wilfulness of
youth became the arrogance and domineering quality so distinguishing his
maturity. Being a delicate child, his grandmother took him at the age of
ten to the Caucas,--which he deeply loved ever after. In 1827 he was
placed in the Adelige Pension at Moscow, having been previously much
influenced by a German nurse who inspired him with a love of German
legend and poetry, and also by his tutor, an officer in the Napoleonic
guard, who had taught him French. Up to 1831 he was under the German
unfluence [Transcriber's note: sic] in literature, but then he came
under the influence of Byron, and from this time he was never free of
the impression of the poet so congenial to his own spirit and nature. In
1830 he was matriculated by the Moscow University as a student of moral
and political science. In 1832 he went to what is now the Nicolai
Military school in Petersburg, where he wrote his censurable and erotic
poems that were passed about by thousands and won an immense popularity
with the jeunesse dore of the time, but which were regarded as
discreditable by the more serious and thoughtful society. In November,
1832, he was appointed Second Lieutenant in the Life Guard Hussar
regiment, and the young poet now plunged into the vortex of society life
as Pushkin had before him. In 1836 appeared his "Song of the Tsar Ivan
Wassiljewitsch,"--a truly classical achievement in the record of
literature. In 1837 came the poem on the death of Pushkin, that stirred
the aristocratic world and caused his banishment to the Caucas by the
Emperor Nicholas I. In April of the year 1840 he was again banished to
the Caucas for his duel with the son of the historian de Barante, where
he distinguished himself by his valor in conflict with the Tscherkes. In
February of 1841 we find the poet again at Petersburg, where the second
edition of his masterpiece, "A Hero of Our Own Time," was just
appearing. Yet toward the end of April again he was obliged to leave,--
this time through the influence and hatred of the Countess Benkendorff.
For the third time he went to the Caucas in exile. Here in Petigorsk he
was forced into close relation with one Major Nikolai Solomonowitsch
Martynow,--whom he did not spare from his well deserved scorn. Aroused
by the local society that pursued the poet with hatred and envy,
Martynow challenged him at a ball. The seconds, as also the entire city,
expected a harmless outcome only, especially as Lermontoff, as was known
to his adversary, had declared he should shoot in the air. He held his
hand high with the pistol stretched aloft; Martynow approached, aimed,
fired, and silently the poet fell dead. Thus his own lament for Pushkin
came to be worthily written for himself--
"The murderer contemptuous gazing
Did steadfastly his weapon aim--" etc., etc.
At the foot of the Machook mountains, July 27, 1841, in the
twenty-seventh year of his age, the poet died. After a year the body was
claimed by his grandmother, who lived at this time in the Pensa
district, and his remains were removed to be fitly honored in the family
village of Tarchany. In connection with the tragedy, it is pitiful to
remember that his grandmother wept herself blind over the death of the
COUNT ALEXIS CONSTANTINOWITSCH TOLSTOY was born at Petersburg on the 6th
of September, 1817. At the age of six weeks he was taken away from the
city to Little-Russia, by his mother and maternal uncle, who was
distinguished in Russian literature under the pseudonym of Anton
Perowskij. By this uncle he was brought up, enjoying a singularly happy
and unclouded childhood. Being an only child he played much alone,
living in his dreams and imagination and early developing a love for
poetry. At the age of eight or nine years he was taken by his parents to
Petersburg where he was presented to the heir to the throne, and allowed
to play with his children. The good will shown him at that time he never
lost throughout his entire life. The year following he was taken to
Germany, and while in Weimar was permitted to visit Goethe, which made a
lasting impression upon him. Up to the age of seventeen when he took his
examinations for the University at Moscow, he lived both in Russia and
abroad. After the death of his uncle, who made him his heir, he became
attached, by the wish of his mother, to the Russian Mission at
Frankfort. Later he returned to enter the Second Division of the
Chancellery of His Majesty. At the time of the coronation of Alexander
Second at Moscow, he was appointed to become His Majesty's aide de camp;
an honor he declined, not caring for a military career. He was afterward
made Chief Master of the Royal Hunt, a position he held until the day of
his death. From the age of sixteen he had always written poetry, but not
until 1855 did he begin to publish his lyrics and epics in the journals.
His passion for poetry was extended toward all other forms of art. At
thirteen years of age he made his first journey through Italy,--to
Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome and Naples, and his soul grew large with
enthusiasm for every manifestation of beauty, so that upon his return to
Russia he was really homesick for Italy. He said himself that it was
solely due to his passion for hunting that his poems were written in the
major key,--while those of so many of his countrymen were written in the
minor. Count Tolstoy died on the 28th of September, 1875, at his estates
in the government of Tshernigow, where he lies buried.
His most important works were a romance, a dramatic poem, Don Juan,--and
the dramatic trilogy, The Death of Ivan the Terrible, Tsar Fedor
Ivanowitsch and Tsar Boris.
APOLLON NIKOLAJEWITSCH MAIKOW was born June 4, 1821, at Moscow. His
father was a painter; his brothers had rendered important service to
Russian literature in history and criticism. As a boy he was instructed
in the literature of Russia by the afterward famous Gontscharow. At the
age of fifteen he began to write verse. His original intention was to
become a painter, but the weakness of his eyes and his increased
devotion to poetry decided him otherwise.
He studied jurisprudence at the University of St. Petersburg for several
years, and his final collection of poems was published in 1842, which
was greeted with enthusiasm by the famous critic Belinsky. In the same
year, using the gold he received from the Emperor Nicholas I, he went
abroad. He spent nearly a year in Italy, heard lectures at the College
de France and the Sorbonne during his stay in Paris, and spent some time
in Prague. For a time he served in the Ministry of Finance and from 1852
in the Foreign Censorship office at Petersburg; being President of that
office at the time of his death which occurred in March, 1897.
NIKOLAI ALEXAJEWITSCH NEKRASSOW was born in November, 1821, in a village
of a Polish province. His father married the daughter of a Polish
magnate against the opposition of her parents. The marriage turned out
unhappily. There were fourteen children and the poet always thought of
his mother as a saint and his father as a tyrant,--which appears in
several of his lyric poems. His childhood was spent in Greschenewo
where the family had inherited an estate. He was sent to the government
school or gymnasium, only until the fifth class. At sixteen he went to
Petersburg to pursue a military career by the will of his father. His
desire for knowledge drove him toward the University, but his father
refused his every request, and during his student years he went hungry
very often. He wrote vaudevilles for the Alexander theatre under an
assumed name, and not until 1840 published his first volume of verse. In
his fortieth year he brought out an anthology of Russian poets that was
sufficiently successful to give him a living. In his fiftieth year his
health seemed failing, and he went abroad to Italy, where the disaster
seemed happily averted. The journal with which he had been connected
being now suppressed, he became connected with another for two years. In
December, 1877, he died, widely mourned and called "the singer of
Russian folk song."
IVAN SSAWITSCH NIKITIN was born October 3, 1824, at Woronesh. Though his
life was poor in external circumstances, it was all the richer within.
His best biography is his own work, "From the Diary of a Seminarist."
His life opened under rather auspicious influences, for his father owned
a candle factory and was so prosperous that his business amounted yearly
to a hundred thousand roubles. A shoemaker taught the precocious boy to
read, and he was put to school at first in the local school, but this
was exchanged in 1841 for the Seminary. Both here and at home he was,
however, more cudgelled than educated, and his soul was threatened with
suffocation in scholastic confusion. Only one consolation was always
his; literature and poetry. While here the first great misfortune
befell. His father's business failed, the house was turned into an inn
and Ivan, instead of attending the University, as he had expected, was
obliged to sell candles, not only in his father's shop, but as that was
soon taken from him, even in the market place. After a few months his
mother died and his father sacrificed his last remaining possessions for
drink. He insulted and even attacked his son, bidding him leave his
house, and the poor boy was compelled to render the most menial service
to all. For ten long years this condition lasted, yet Ivan remained a
In 1853 at the opening of the Crimean war, his patriotic hymn, "To
Russia," appeared in the Woronisher _Times_. This was received with
applause and a circle of intelligent men gathered about him who were
friendly and helpful in their disposition toward him. In 1856 Count
Alexis Tolstoy, the great poet, prepared a volume of his poems for
publication and the imperial family sent him costly gifts. His condition
became improved and by 1859 he had amassed a capital of two thousand
roubles, with which he opened a book-shop, hoping to enlighten the
darkness of his country. To this ideal he gave all his strength and his
money. In 1860 Nikitin went to Petersburg and Moscow to establish
connections with the leading publishing houses; from which no small
literary acquaintance arose. In the Spring of 1861 he suffered from a
throat trouble which developed into bronchial tuberculosis of which he
died on October 16, 1861. His trials with his father and those caused by
his father's extreme intemperance were considered to have greatly
hastened his lamented death.
CONSTANTINE MICHAILOWITSCH FOFANOW was born at Petersburg, May 30, 1862.
He is not a highly educated man, and is now living, after a series of
misfortunes, happily surmounted, at Gatschina.
SEMIJON JAKOLOWITSCH NADSON was born at Petersburg, December 26, 1862.
On his father's side he was of Hebrew extraction. His grandfather had
formerly embraced the orthodox faith, and his father, from whom he
inherited his musical talent, died in an asylum, in the extreme youth of
the poet. His mother, after contracting a second marriage, which ended
unhappily, died at the age of thirty-one, of consumption. The boy
learned to read and write at the age of four, from an old servant. At
nine he had read widely. In 1875 he suffered from religious doubts, and
even lost his faith in humanity, but his violin and Nature were still of
unfailing support even in this crisis. Before her death his mother had
placed him in the second Cadet Corps as a "pensionnaire." At first he
did well, but soon he began to neglect his school work for poetry. A
poem of his soon appeared in print, and that same year he fell in love
with a girl of sixteen who died with rapid consumption; the M.D.B. of
his poems. Smitten by this blow, he left the school and went to the
Pawlonische Military School. Here he contracted a lung trouble and was
sent to the Caucas. He remained there a year, but was always haunted by
thought of the military career before him, for which he was morally and
physically unfit. His dear dream of the University could not be
realized, and on his return he went again to the military school for two
years of camp life and maneuvres. In September, 1882, he was made second
lieutenant of a Caspian regiment and stationed at Kronstadt. Already the
young poet was making himself known through the journals, and in 1884 he
left off his hated military service. For a short time he was connected
with _Die Woche_, but already signs of tuberculosis had appeared and he
found that a journey abroad was indispensable. On the funds raised by
influential friends, and the prize awarded him by the Russian Literary
Society, he was enabled to go abroad this same year, accompanied by a
friend of his mother. He went to Wiesbaden, Nice, Mentonne, Berne, was
operated upon three times for the trouble in his foot, but to no avail.
His only desire became to return to his native land to die. In the
summer of 1885, he went back to Kiew, where for a time he seemed to
improve and was able to write some criticisms for the journals. When his
left lung gave out, he moved to Yalta in the Crimea. Here he received
the glad news that the Academy had given him the Pushkin award of five
In November he bequeathed all he had written to the literary fund; whose
Nadson capital now amounts to more than two hundred thousand roubles
from the sale of his works. He died in January, 1889. His body was
brought to Petersburg and interred with public honors. His grave, which
is near other celebrated Russian writers, is adorned by a bust from the
hand of the famous sculptor Antokolsky. His poetry enjoys a popularity
beyond that of any one poet in Russian, and has been carried to the
eighteenth edition of one hundred and twenty thousand volumes each.
Sketches of the lives of the poets here represented by a single poem are
omitted as unnecessary to enjoyment of their work.