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THE MODERN DRAMA SERIES
EDITED BY EDWIN BJOeRKMAN
THE LIFE OF MAN
BY LEONID ANDREYEV
THE LIFE OF MAN
TWO PLAYS BY
TRANSLATED FROM THE RUSSIAN
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY
LITTLE, BROWN, AND
BY LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY.
_This edition is authorized by Leonid Andreyev, who has
selected the plays included in it._
_All Dramatic rights reserved by
CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF PLAYS BY LEONID ANDREYEV
THE LIFE OF MAN
For the last twenty years Leonid Andreyev and Maxim Gorky have
by turns occupied the centre of the stage of Russian literature.
Prophetic vision is no longer required for an estimate of their
permanent contribution to the intellectual and literary development
of Russia. It represents the highest ideal expression of a period
in Russian history that was pregnant with stirring and far-reaching
events--the period of revolution and counter-revolution. It was a
period when Russian society passed from mood to mood at an extremely
rapid tempo: from energetic aggressiveness, exultation, high hope,
and confident trust in the triumph of the people's cause to apathetic
inaction, gloom, despair, frivolity, and religious mysticism. This
important dramatic epoch in the national life of Russia Andreyev
and Gorky wrote down with such force and passion that they became
recognized at once as the leading exponents of their time.
Despite this close external association, their work differs
essentially in character. In fact, it is scarcely possible to
conceive of greater artistic contrasts. Gorky is plain, direct, broad,
realistic, elemental. His art is native, not acquired. Civilization
and what learning he obtained later through the reading of books have
influenced, not the manner or method of his writing, but only its
purpose and occasionally its subject matter. It is significant to
watch the dismal failure Gorky makes of it whenever, in concession to
the modern literary fashion, he attempts the mystical. Symbolism is
foreign to him except in its broadest aspects. His characters, though
hailing from a world but little known, and often extreme and extremely
peculiar, are on the whole normal.
Andreyev, on the other hand, is a child of civilization, steeped in
its culture, and while as rebellious against some of the things of
civilization as Gorky, he reacts to them in quite a different way.
He is wondrously sensitive to every development, quickly appropriates
what is new, and always keeps in the vanguard. His art is the
resultant of all that the past ages have given us, of the things that
we have learned in our own day, and of what we are just now learning.
With this art Andreyev succeeds in communicating ideas, thoughts, and
feelings so fine, so tenuous, so indefinite as to appear to transcend
human expression. He does not care whether the things he writes about
are true, whether his characters are real. What he aims to give is a
true impression. And to convey this impression he does not scorn
to use mysticism, symbolism, or even plain realism. His favorite
characters are degenerates, psychopaths, abnormal eccentrics, or just
creatures of fancy corresponding to no reality. Frequently, however,
the characters, whether real or unreal, are as such of merely
secondary importance, the chief aim being the interpretation of an
idea or set of ideas, and the characters functioning primarily only as
a medium for the embodiment of those ideas.
In one respect Gorky and Andreyev are completely at one--in their
bold aggressiveness. The emphatic tone, the attitude of attack, first
introduced into Russian literature by Gorky, was soon adopted by most
of his young contemporaries, and became the characteristic mark of the
literature of the Revolution. By that token the literature of
Young Russia of that day is as easily recognized as is the English
literature of the Dryden and Pope epoch by its sententiousness.
It contrasts sharply with the tone of passive resignation and
hopelessness of the preceding period. Even Chekhov, the greatest
representative of what may be called the period of despondence,
was caught by the new spirit of optimism and activism, so that he
reflected clearly the new influence in his later works. But while in
Gorky the revolt is chiefly social--manifesting itself through
the world of the submerged tenth, the disinherited masses, _les
miserables_, who, becoming conscious of their wrongs, hurl defiance
at their oppressors, make mock of their civilization, and threaten the
very foundations of the old order--Andreyev transfers his rebellion
to the higher regions of thought and philosophy, to problems that
go beyond the merely better or worse social existence, and asks the
larger, much more difficult questions concerning the general destiny
of man, the meaning of life and the reason for death.
Social problems, it is true, also interest Andreyev. "The Red Laugh"
is an attack on war through a portrayal of the ghastly horrors of the
Russo-Japanese War; "Savva," one of the plays of this volume, is
taken bodily (with a poet's license, of course) from the actual
revolutionary life of Russia; "King Hunger" is the tragedy of the
uprising of the hungry masses and the underworld. Indeed, of the works
written during the conflict and for some time afterward, all centre
more or less upon the social problems which then agitated Russia.
But with Andreyev the treatment of all questions tends to assume a
universal aspect. He envisages phenomena from a broad, cosmic point of
view; he beholds things _sub specie aeternitatis._ The philosophical
tendency of his mind, though amply displayed even in works like
"Savva"--which is purely a character and social drama--manifests
itself chiefly by his strong propensity for such subjects as those
treated in "To the Stars," "The Life of Man," and "Anathema." In these
plays Andreyev plunges into the deepest problems of existence, and
seeks to posit once more and, if possible, to solve in accordance with
the modern spirit and modern knowledge those questions over which the
mightiest brains of man have labored for centuries: Whence? Whither?
What is the significance of man's life? Why is death?
If Spinoza's dictum be true, that "a wise man's meditation is not
of death but of life," then Andreyev is surely not a wise man. Some
philosophers might have written their works even without a guarantee
against immortality, though Schopenhauer, who exercised a influence on
the young Andreyev, was of the opinion that "without death there would
hardly be any philosophy"; but of Andreyev it is certain that the bulk
of his works would not have been written, and could not be what they
are, were it not for the fact of death. If there is one idea that can
be said to dominate the author of "The Life of Man," it is the idea of
death. Constantly he keeps asking: Why all this struggling, all this
pain, all this misery in the world, if it must end in nothing? The
suffering of the great mass of mankind makes life meaningless while
it lasts, and death puts an end even to this life. Again and again
Andreyev harks back to the one thought from which all his other
thoughts seem to flow as from their fountain-head. Lazarus, in the
story by that name, is but the embodiment of death. All who behold
him, who look into his eyes, are never again the same as they were;
indeed, most of them are utterly ruined. "The Seven Who Were Hanged"
tells how differently different persons take death. Grim death lurks
in the background of almost every work, casting a fearful gloom,
mocking the life of man, laughing to scorn his joys and his sorrows,
propounding, sphinx-like, the big riddle that no Oedipus will ever be
able to solve.
For it is not merely the destructive power of death, not merely its
negation of life, that terrifies our author. The pitchy darkness
that stretches beyond, the impossibility of penetrating the veil that
separates existence from non-existence--in a word, the riddle of
the universe--is, to a mind constituted like Andreyev's, a source of
perhaps even greater disquiet. Never was a man hungrier than he with
"the insatiable hunger for Eternity"; never was a man more eager to
pierce the mystery of life and catch a glimpse of the beyond while yet
Combined with the perplexing darkness that so pitifully limits man's
vision is the indifference of the forces that govern his destiny. The
wrongs he suffers may cry aloud to heaven, but heaven does not hear
him. Whether he writhe in agony or be prostrated in the dust (against
all reason and justice), he has no appeal, societies, the bulk
of mankind, may be plunged in misery--who or what cares? Man is
surrounded by indifference as well as by darkness.
Often, when an idea has gained a powerful hold on Andreyev, he pursues
it a long time, presenting it under various aspects, until at last
it assumes its final form, rounded and completed, as it were, in some
figure or symbol. As such it appears either as the leading theme of an
entire story or drama, or as an important subordinate theme. Thus
we have seen that the idea of death finds concrete expression in the
character of Lazarus. The idea of loneliness, of the isolation of the
individual from all other human beings, even though he be physically
surrounded by large numbers, is embodied in the story of "The City."
Similarly the conception of the mystery and the indifference by which
man finds himself confronted is definitely set forth in the figure of
_Someone in Gray_ in "The Life of Man."
The riddle, the indifference--these are the two characteristics of
human destiny that loom large in Andreyev's conception of it as set
forth in that figure. _Someone in Gray_--who is he? No one knows. No
definite name can be given him, for no one knows. He is mysterious
in "The Life of Man," where he is _Man's_ constant companion; he is
mysterious in "Anathema," where he guards the gate leading from
this finite world to eternity. And as _Man's_ companion he looks on
indifferently, apparently unconcerned whether _Man_ meets with good or
bad fortune. _Man's_ prayers do not move him. _Man's_ curses leave him
It is Andreyev's gloomy philosophy, no doubt, that so often causes
him to make his heroes lonely, so that loneliness is developed into
a principle of human existence, in some cases, as in "The City,"
becoming the dominant influence over a man's life. Particularly the
men whom life has treated senselessly and cruelly, whom it has dealt
blow after blow until their spirits are crushed out--it is such men in
particular who become lonely, seek isolation and retirement, and slink
away into some hole to die alone. This is the significance of the
saloon scene in "The Life of Man." The environment of the drunkards
who are withdrawn from life, and therefore lonely themselves,
accentuates the loneliness of _Man_ in the last scene. It is his
loneliness that Andreyev desired to bring into relief. His frequenting
the saloon is but an immaterial detail, one of the means of
emphasizing this idea. To remove all possible misunderstanding on this
point, Andreyev wrote a variant of the last scene, "The Death of Man,"
in which, instead of dying in a saloon surrounded by drunkards, _Man_
dies in his own house surrounded by his heirs. "The _loneliness_ of
the dying and unhappy man," Andreyev wrote in a prefatory note to this
variant, "may just as fully be characterized by the presence of the
However, for all the gloom of his works, Andreyev is not a pessimist.
Under one of his pictures he has written: "Though it destroys
individuals, the truth saves mankind." The misery in the world may be
ever so great; the problems that force themselves upon man's mind may
seem unanswerable; the happenings in the external world may fill his
soul with utter darkness, so that he despairs of finding any meaning,
any justification in life. And yet, though his reason deny it, his
soul tells him: "The truth saves mankind." After all, _Man_ is not a
failure. For though misfortunes crowd upon him, he remains intact in
soul, unbroken in spirit. He carries off the victory because he does
not surrender. He dies as a superman, big in his defiance of destiny.
This must be the meaning Andreyev attached to _Man's_ life. We find
an interpretation of it, as it were, in "Anathema," in which _Someone_
sums up the fate of _David_--who lived an even sadder life than _Man_
and died a more horrible death--in these words: "David has achieved
immortality, and he _lives immortal_ in the deathlessness of fire.
David has achieved immortality, and he _lives immortal_ in the
deathlessness of light which is life."
Andreyev was born at Orel in 1871 and was graduated from the gymnasium
there. According to his own testimony, he never seems to have been a
promising student. "In the seventh form," he tells us, "I was always
at the bottom of my class." He lost his father early, and often went
hungry while studying law at the University of St. Petersburg. In the
University of Moscow, to which he went next, he fared better. One of
the means that he used to eke out a livelihood was portrait painting
to order, and in this work he finally attained such proficiency that
his price rose from $1.50 apiece to $6.00.
In 1897 he began to practise law, but he gave most of his time to
reporting court cases for the "Courier," a Moscow newspaper, and later
to writing _feuilletons_ and stories. He tried only one civil case,
and that one he lost. His work in the "Courier" attracted Gorky's
attention, and the older writer zealously interested himself in
In 1902 his story named "The Abyss" appeared and created a sensation
immediately. Even Countess Tolstoy joined in the dispute which raged
over this story, attacking it as matter unfit for literature. But the
verdict of Andreyev's generation was in his favor. Since then nearly
every new work of his has been received as an important event in
Russia and has sent the critics scurrying to his attack or defence.
His first drama, "To the Stars," appeared while the Russians were
engaged in fighting for liberty (1905), and, naturally enough, it
reflects that struggle. "Savva" was published early the next year, and
"The Life of Man" later in the same year. The production of "Savva"
is prohibited in Russia. It has been played in Vienna and Berlin, and
recently it was staged again in Berlin by "Die Freie Buehne," meeting
with signal success.
A CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF PLAYS
By LEONID ANDREYEV
TO THE STARS (K Zviezdam), 1905;
SAVVA (Savva), 1906;
THE LIFE OF MAN (Zhizn Chelovieka), 1906;
KING HUNGER (Tzar Golod), 1907;
THE BLACK MASKS (Chiorniya Maski), 1908;
THE DAYS OF OUR LIFE (Dni Nashey Zhizni), 1908;
ANATHEMA (Anatema), 1909;
ANFISSA (Anfissa), 1909;
GAUDEAMUS (Gaudeamus), 1910;
THE OCEAN (Okean), 1911;
"HONOR" ("Chest"), 1911 (?);
THE PRETTY SABINE WOMEN (Prekrasniya Sabinianki), 1911;
PROFESSOR STORITZYN (Professor Storitzyn), 1912;
CATHERINE (Yekaterina Ivanovna), 1913;
THOU SHALT NOT KILL (Ne Ubi), 1914.
SAVVA or IGNIS SANAT
A PLAY IN FOUR ACTS
YEGOR IVANOVICH TROPININ, _innkeeper in a monastic suburb. An elderly
man of about fifty, with an important manner and a item, dignified way
ANTON _(Tony), anywhere from thirty-five to thirty-eight, bloated
from drinking and always under the influence of alcohol. His face is
bloodless, sad, and sleepy. He has a sparse beard, speaks slowly and
painfully, and never laughs._
OLYMPIADA _(Lipa), twenty-eight years old. She is fair and rather
good-looking. There is a touch of monastic severity in her dress._
SAVVA, _twenty-three, large, broad-shouldered, with a suggestion of
the peasant in his looks. He walks with a slight stoop, elbows out,
feet in. The motions of his hands are rounded and graceful, his palms
being turned up as if he were carrying something. His features are
large and rough-hewn, and his cheeks and chin are covered with a
soft light down. When agitated or angry, he turns gray as dust, his
movements become quick and agile, and his stoop disappears. He wears
the blouse and boots of a workingman._
PELAGUEYA, _a freckled, colorless woman, of about thirty, wearing the
ordinary dress of her class. She is dirty and untidy._
SPERANSKY GRIGORY PETROVICH, _an ex-seminarist; tall, very lean, with
a pale, long face, and a tuft of dark hair on his chin. He has long,
smooth hair parted in the middle and falling on each side of his
face. He is dressed either in a long, dark overcoat or in a dark
FATHER KONDRATY, _a friar, forty-two years old, ugly, narrow-chested,
with swollen, animated eyes._
VASSYA, _a novice, a strong and athletic youth of nineteen. He has a
round, cheerful, smiling face, and curly, lustrous hair._
KING HEROD, _a pilgrim, about fifty. He has a dry, emaciated face,
black from sunburn and road dust. His gray, dishevelled hair and beard
give him a savage appearance. He has only one arm, the left. He is as
tall as Savva._
A FAT MONK.
A GRAY MONK.
A MAN IN PEASANT OVERCOAT. _Monks, pilgrims, cripples, beggars, blind
men and women, monstrosities._
_The action takes place at the beginning of the twentieth century in a
rich monastery celebrated for its wonder-working ikon of the Saviour.
There is an interval of about two weeks between the first and the last
THE FIRST ACT
_The interior of a house in a monastic suburb. Two rooms, with a third
seen back of them. They are old, ramshackle, and filthy. The first one
is a sort of dining-room, large, with dirty, low ceiling and smeared
wall-paper that in places has come loose from the wall. There are
three little windows; the one giving on the yard reveals a shed, a
wagon, and some household utensils. Cheap wooden furniture; a large,
bare table. On the walls, which are dotted with flies, appear pictures
of monks and views of the monastery. The second room, a parlor, is
somewhat cleaner. It has window curtains of muslin, two flower-pots
with dried geraniums, a sofa, a round table covered with a tablecloth,
and shelves with dishes. The door to the left in the first room leads
to the tavern. When open, it admits the sound of a man's doleful,
It is noon of a hot and perfectly still summer's day. Now and then the
clucking of hens is heard under the windows. The clock in the belfry
of the monastery strikes every half-hour, a long, indistinct wheeze
preceding the first stroke.
Pelagueya, who is pregnant, is scrubbing the floor. Seized with
giddiness, she staggers to her feet and leans against the wall,
staring before her with a vacant gaze._
Oh, God! _(She starts to scrub the floor again)_
LIPA _(enters, faint from heat)_
How stifling! I don't know what to do with myself. My head seems full
of pins and needles. _(She sits down)_ Polya, say, Polya.
What is it?
Oh, I can't stand it. _(She opens the window, then takes a turn round
the room, moving aimlessly and, glancing into the tavern)_ Tony's
sleeping too--behind the counter. It would be nice to go in, bathing,
but it's too hot to walk to the river. Polya, why don't you speak? Say
Scrubbing, scrubbing, all the time.
And in a day from now the floors will be dirty again. I don't see what
pleasure you get from working the way you do.
I have to.
I just took a peep at the street. It's awful. Not a human being in
sight, not even a dog. All is dead. And the monastery has such a queer
look. It seems to be hanging in the air. You have the feeling that if
you were to blow on it, it would begin to swing and fly away. Why are
you so silent, Polya? Where is Savva? Have you seen him?
He's in the pasture playing jackstones with the children.
He's a funny fellow.
I don't see anything funny about it. He ought to be working, that's
what he ought to be doing, not playing like a baby. I don't like your
No, Polya, he is good.
Good? I spoke to him and told him how hard the work was for me.
"Well," he says, "if you want to be a horse, pull." What did he come
here for? I wish he'd stayed where he was.
He came home to see his folks. Why, it's ten years since he left. He
was a mere boy then.
A lot he cares for his folks. Yegor Ivanovich is just dying to get
rid of him. The neighbors don't know what to make of him either. He
dresses like a workingman and carries himself like a lord, doesn't
speak to anybody and just rolls his eyes like a saint. I am afraid of
Nonsense. He has beautiful eyes.
Can't he see that it's hard for me to be doing all the housework
myself? A while ago he saw me carrying a pail full of water. I was
straining with all my might. He didn't even say good morning; just,
passed on. I have met a lot of people in my life, but never anybody
whom I disliked so much.
I'm so hot, everything seems to be turning round like wheels. Listen,
Polya, if you don't want to work, don't. No one compels you to.
If I won't work, who will? Will you?
No, I won't. We'll hire a servant.
Yes, of course, you have plenty of money.
And what's the use of keeping it?
I'll die soon and then you'll get a servant. I won't last much longer.
I have had one miscarriage, and I guess a second child will be the end
of me. I don't care. It's better than to live the way I do. Oh! _(She
clasps her waist)_
But for God's sake, who is asking you to? Stop working. Don't scrub.
Yes, stop it, and all of you will be going about saying: "How dirty
the house is!"
LIPA _(weary from the heat and Pelagueya's talk)_
Oh, I'm so tired of it!
Don't you think I feel tired too? What are you complaining about
anyhow? You are a lady. All you have to do is pray and read. I don't
even get time to pray. Some day I'll drop into the next world all of
a sudden just as I am, with my skirt tucked up under my belt: "Good
morning! How d'you do!"
You'll be scrubbing floors in the next world too.
No, in the next world it's you who'll be scrubbing floors, and I'll
sit with folded hands like a lady. In heaven we'll be the first ones,
while you and your Savva, for your pride and your hard hearts--
Now, Polya, am I not sorry for you?
YEGOR IVANOVICH TROPININ _(enters, still sleepy, his beard turned
to one side, the collar of his shirt unbuttoned; breathing heavily)_
Whew! Say, Polya, bring me some cider. Quick! _(Pause)_ Who opened the
It's hot. The stove in the restaurant makes it so close here you can't
Shut it, shut it, I say. If it's too hot for you, you can go down into
But what do you want to have the window shut for?
Because. Shut it! You have been told to shut the window--then shut it!
What are you waiting for? _(Lipa, shrugging her shoulders, closes the
window and is about to leave)_ Where are you going? The moment your
father appears, you run away. Sit down!
But you don't want me.
Never mind whether I want you or not--sit down! Oh, my! _(He yawns and
crosses himself)_ Where is Savva?
I don't know.
Tell him I'll turn him out.
Tell him so yourself.
Fool! _(He yawns and crosses himself)_ Oh, Lord Jesus Christ, have
mercy on us sinners! What was it I was dreaming about just now?
I don't know.
Who asked you? You stupid, how could you tell what I was dreaming?
You've got brains, haven't you?
PELAGUEYA _(handing him cider)_
There. Put it down and don't "there" me. _(Takes the jug and drinks)_
What was I talking about? _(Pelagueya finishes scrubbing the floor)_
Oh yes, about the Father Superior. A smart fellow he is. You'll have
to go a long way to find another like him. He had the old coffin
exchanged for a new one. The pilgrims chewed the old one to pieces,
so he put a new one in its place. He put a new one in place of the
old one. They'll chew this, one to pieces too, the fools! Anything you
give them, the fools! Do you hear or don't you?
I hear. What's so remarkable about it? A swindle, that's all.
What's remarkable about it is that, he didn't ask your advice. They
chewed the old one to pieces, so he put a new one in its place exactly
like it; Yes, just exactly like the one in which the saint lay before.
Remember us in heaven where thou dwellest, O Saint! _(He crosses
himself and yawns)_ You can lose your teeth on this one too. They
chewed the old one to pieces completely. Where are you off to? Sit
I can't, it's so hot in here.
But I can. Sit down, you won't melt. _(Pause)_ They chewed up the old
one, so he put up a new one. Where is Savva?
He's playing; jackstones with the children.
I'm not asking you. What time is it?
It just struck two.
Tell him I'll turn him out. I won't stand it.
Stand what? Be reasonable.
I won't stand it. Who is he anyway? Never at home in time for dinner.
He comes and feeds like a dog by himself--knocks about at night and
doesn't lock the gate. I went out yesterday and found the gate wide
open. If we are robbed, who'll pay for it?
There are no thieves here. What thieves have you ever seen in this
What thieves? A lot. When all people are asleep, he is knocking about.
Who ever heard of such a thing?
But if he doesn't want to sleep, what is he to do?
What, you too? He doesn't want to? Let him go to bed, and he'll sleep.
No one wants to sleep, but once you lie down you fall asleep. He
doesn't want to? I know him. Who asked him to come? He was making
bank-notes over there--then why didn't he stay where he was and do
what he pleased? What business has he here?
What bank-notes? Not real ones. Nothing is done to you for making real
bank-notes. Counterfeit bank-notes, that's what. Not the sort of thing
you get patted on the head for, when you are caught, no sirree! It's
very strict now. I'll go to the police captain and tell him: "It's
like this--just search him."
You are the only, one who doesn't know it. Everybody else knows it.
Well, about the Lord we know better than you. You needn't appeal to
Him. I want you to tell Savva that I am not afraid of him. He didn't
strike the right person. I'll just make him skip. I'll turn him out.
Let him go where he came from. The idea of my having to be responsible
for his robberies. Who's ever heard of such a thing?
You are not quite wide awake, father, that's what's the matter with
I am wide awake all right, and have been for a long time. What I'd
like to know is, are _you_ wide awake? Look out, Lipa, don't let it
happen to you too.
It. _(He yawns and crosses himself)_ If mother were to rise from her
grave now and see her children, she would be delighted. Fine children,
she would say. I have nursed you, and brought you up, and what's the
result? Regular good-for-nothing scamps. Tony'll soon begin to drink
again. I can see it on his face. Who's ever heard of such a thing?
People will soon be coming here for the feast-day, and I'll have to
work alone for the whole bunch. Polya, hand me that match from the
floor--there. No, not there, you blind goose. There, you stupid.
PELAGUEYA _(hunting for the match)_
I don't see it.
I'll take you by the back of your neck and give you such a shaking
that you'll see mighty quick. There it is, damn you!
Oh, God, what a blistering heat!
There it is. Where are you crawling? Under the chair. There, damn you!
SAVVA _(enters gayly, the pocket of his blouse full of jackstones)_ I
won six pair.
Well, the idea!
I finished that rascal Misha, cleared him all up. What are you
mumbling about there?
Nothing. Only I wish you'd address me a little more politely.
SAVVA _(paying no attention to him)_
Lipa, I won six pair.
How can you play in such heat?
Wait, I am going to put the jackstones away. I have eighteen pair now.
Misha, the little rascal, plays well. _(He goes out)_
I don't want to see him any more. Tell him to get out of here at once.
All right, I will.
Don't say "all right," but do what your father tells you. A fine lot
of brats--that's a sure thing! Yes, yes. _(Goes)_ If mother saw them--
He speaks of mother as if he weren't the one that drove her to an
early grave. He talked her to death, the old scold! He just talks and
talks, and nags and nags, and he doesn't know himself what he wants.
To be with you is like being caught in the wheel of a machine. My head
is spinning round and round.
Then why don't you go away with your Savva? What are you waiting for?
Look here, why are you angry with me?
I am not angry. I am telling the truth. You don't want to marry. You
are disgusted with all your beaux. Why don't you go into a convent?
I won't go into a convent, but I will go away from here, soon enough,
Well, go! No one is keeping you. The road is wide open.
Ah, Polya, you are angry and sulky with me. You don't know how I spend
my nights thinking about you. At night I lie awake and think and think
about you, and about all the people that are unhappy--all of them.
What do you want to think about me for? You had better think about
And no one knows it. Well, what's the use of talking? You couldn't
understand anyhow. I am sorry for you, Polya. _(Pelagueya laughs)_
What's the matter?
If you are sorry for me, why don't you carry out that pail? The way I
am, I shouldn't be lifting heavy things. Why don't you help me, if you
are so sorry for me?
LIPA _(her face darkening, then brightening again)_ Give it to me.
_(She picks up the pail and starts to carry it away)_
Hypocrite! Let go! Where are you going? _(She carries out the pail and
returns for the other things)_
SAVVA _(entering; to his sister)_
Why is your face so red?
Say, Pelagueya, has Kondraty inquired for me?
Kondraty! What Kondraty?
Kondraty, the friar; he looks something like a sparrow.
I didn't see any Kondraty. Like a sparrow! That's a funny way of
Tell Tony to come here, won't you?
Tell him yourself.
PELAGUEYA _(calls through the door before she goes out into the
tavern)_ Anthony, Savva wants you.
What do you want him for?
What a queer habit you have here of plying a person with questions all
the time. Where, who, why, what for?
LIPA _(slightly offended)_
You needn't answer if you don't want to.
TONY _(enters, speaking slowly and with difficulty)_
Who wants me?
I am expecting Kondraty here--you know Kondraty, don't you? Send him
in when he comes.
Who are you?
And send in two bottles of whiskey too, do you hear?
Maybe I do and maybe I don't. Maybe I'll send the whiskey and maybe I
What a sceptic. You've grown silly, Tony.
Leave him alone, Savva. He has got that from the seminary student,
from Speransky. Anyhow, he is full of--
TONY _(sitting down)_
I didn't get it from anybody. I can understand everything myself. The
blood has congealed in my heart.
That's from drink, Tony. Stop drinking.
The blood has congealed in my heart. You think I don't know what's
what. A while ago you weren't here with us, and all of a sudden you
came. Yes, I understand everything. I have visions.
What do you see? God?
There is no God.
And no devil either. There's nothing, no people, no animals, nothing.
What is there then?
There are only faces, a whole lot of faces. It's faces, faces, faces.
They are very funny, and I keep laughing all the time. I just sit
still, and the faces come jumping and gliding past me, jumping and
gliding. You've got a very funny face too, Savva. _(Sadly)_ It's
enough to make one die of laughter.
SAVVA _(laughing gayly)_
What kind of a face have I?
That's the kind of face you have. _(Pointing his finger at him)_ She
also has a face, and she. And father too. And then there are
other faces. There are a lot of faces. I sit in the tavern and see
everything. Nothing escapes me. You can't fool me. Some faces are
small and some are large, and all of them glide and glide--Some are
far away, and some are as close to me as if they wanted to kiss me or
bite my nose. They have teeth.
All right, Tony, now you can go. We'll talk about the faces later.
Your own face is funny enough.
Yes, of course. I, too, have a face.
All right, all right. Go now. Don't forget to send in the whiskey.
As in the daytime so at night. A lot of faces. _(From the door)_ And
in regards to whiskey, maybe I'll send it and maybe I won't. I can't
SAVVA _(to Lipa)_
Has he been that way a long time?
I don't know. I think so. He drinks an awful lot.
No wonder. You're enough to drive a man to drink. Cranks. _(Exit)_
My, how stifling! I don't know what to do with myself. Say, Savva, why
aren't you nicer to Polya? She is such a wretched creature.
A slavish soul.
It isn't her fault if she's that way.
Nor mine either.
Oh, Savva, if you only knew the terrible life people lead here. The
men drink, and beat their wives, and the women--
You say it so calmly. I have been waiting very much to have a talk
You'll soon be leaving us, I suppose.
Then I won't have any chance to talk to you. You are scarcely ever at
home. This is the first time, pretty nearly. It seems so strange that
you should enjoy playing with the children, you a grown man, big as a
No, Lipa, they play very well. Misha is very good at the game, and
I have a hard time holding up my end of it. I lost him three pairs
Why, he is only ten years old.--
Well, what of it? The children are the only human beings here. They
are the wisest part of the--
LIPA _(with a smile)_
And I? How about me?
SAVVA _(looking at her)_
You? Why, you are like the rest.
_[A pause. Being offended, Lipa's languor disappears to some extent._
Maybe I bore you.
No, you make no difference to me one way or another. I am never bored.
LIPA _(with a constrained smile)_
Thank you, I am glad of that at least. Were you in the monastery
to-day? You go there often, don't you?
Yes, I was there. Why?
I suppose you don't remember--I love our monastery. It is so
beautiful. At times it looks so pensive. I like it because it's so
old. Its age gives it a solemnity, a stern serenity and detachment.
Do you read many books?
I used to read a lot. You know I spent four winters in Moscow with
Aunt Glasha. Why do you ask?
Never mind. Go on.
Does what I say sound ridiculous?
No, go on.
The monastery is really a remarkable place. There are nice spots there
which no one ever visits, somewhere between the mute walls, where
there is nothing but grass and fallen stones and a lot of old, old
litter. I love to linger there, especially at twilight, or on hot
sunny days like to-day. I close my eyes, and I seem to look far,
far into the distant past--at those who built it and those who first
prayed in it. There they walk along the path carrying bricks and
singing something, so softly, so far away. _(Closing her eyes)_ So
softly, so softly.
I don't like the old. As to the building of the monastery, it was done
by serfs, of course; and when they carried bricks they didn't sing,
but quarrelled and cursed one another. That's more like it.
LIPA _(opening her eyes)_
Those are my dreams. You see, Savva, I am all alone here. I have
nobody to talk to. Tell me--You won't be angry, will you?--Tell me,
just me alone, why did you come here to us? It wasn't to pray. It
wasn't for the feast-day. You don't look like a pilgrim.
I don't like you to be so curious.
How can you think I am? Do I look as if I were curious? You have
been here for two weeks, and you ought to see that I am lonely. I am
lonely, Savva. Your coming was to me like manna fallen from the sky.
You are the first living human being that has come here from over
there, from real life. In Moscow I lived very quietly, just reading my
books; and here--you see the sort of people we have here.
Do you think it's different in other places?
I don't know. That's what I should like to find out from you. You have
seen so much. You have even been abroad.
Only for a short time.
That makes no difference. You have met many cultured, wise,
interesting people. You have lived with them. How do they live? What
kind of people are they? Tell me all about it.
A mean, contemptible lot.
Is that so? You don't say so!
They live just as you do here--a stupid, senseless existence. The
only difference is in the language they speak. But that makes it still
worse. The justification for cattle is that, they are without
speech. But when the cattle become articulate, begin to speak, defend
themselves and express ideas then the situation becomes intolerable,
unmitigatedly repulsive. Their dwelling-places are different
too--yes--but that's a small thing. I was in a city inhabited by a
hundred thousand people. The windows in the house of that city are all
small. Those living in them are all fond of light, but it never occurs
to anyone that the windows might be made larger. And when a new house
is built, they put in the same kind of windows, just as small, just as
they have always been.
The idea! I never would have thought it. But they can't all be like
that. You must have met good people who knew how to live.
I don't know how to make you understand. Yes, I did meet, if not
altogether good people, yet--The last people with whom I lived were
a pretty good sort. They didn't accept life ready-made, but tried to
make it over to suit themselves. But--
Who were they--students?
No. Look here--how about your tongue--is it of the loose kind?
Savva, you ought to be ashamed!
All right. Now then. You've read of people who make bombs--little
bombs, you understand? Now if they see anybody who interferes with
life, they take him off. They're called anarchists. But that isn't
quite correct. _(Contemptuously)_ Nice anarchists they are!
LIPA _(starting back, awestruck)_
What are you talking about? You can't possibly be in earnest. It isn't
true. And you in it, too? Why, you look so simple and talk so simply,
and suddenly--I was hot a moment ago, but now I am cold, _(The rooster
crows-under the window, calling the chickens to share some seed he has
There now--you're frightened. First you want me to tell you, and
Don't mind me, Savva, it's nothing. It was so unexpected. I thought
such people didn't really exist--that they were just a fiction of the
imagination. And then, all of a sudden, to find you, my brother--You
are not joking, Savva? Look me straight in the eye.
But why did you get frightened? They are not so terrible after all. In
fact, they are very quiet, orderly people, and very deliberate. They
meet and meet, and weigh and consider a long time, and then--bang!--a
sparrow drops dead. The next minute there is another sparrow in its
place, hopping about on the very same branch. Why are you looking at
Oh, nothing. Give me your hand--no, your right hand.
How heavy it is. Feel how cold mine are. Go on, tell me all about it.
It's so interesting.
What's there to tell? They are a brave set of people, I must admit;
but it is a bravery of the head, not of the hands. And their heads are
partitioned off into little chambers; they are always careful not to
do anything which is unnecessary or harmful. Now you can't clear a
dense forest by cutting down one tree at a time, can you? That's what
they do. While they chop at one end, it grows up at the other. You
can't accomplish anything that way; it's labor lost. I proposed a
scheme to them, something on a larger scale. They got frightened,
wouldn't hear of it. A little weak-kneed they are. So I left them.
Let them practise virtue. A narrow-minded bunch. They lack breadth of
You say it as calmly as if you were joking.
No, I am not joking.
Aren't you afraid?
I? So far I haven't been, and I don't ever expect to be. What worse
can happen to a man than to have been born? It's like asking a man who
is drowning whether he is not afraid of getting wet. _(Laughs)_
So that's the kind you are.
One thing I learned from them: respect for dynamite. It's a powerful
instrument, dynamite is--nothing like it for a convincing argument.
You are only twenty-three years old. You have no beard yet, not even a
SAVVA _(feeling his face)_
Yes, a measly growth; but what conclusions do you draw from that?
Fear will come to you yet.
No. If I haven't been frightened so far by watching life, there's
nothing else to fear. Life, yes. I embrace the earth with my eyes, the
whole of it, the entire little planetoid, and I can find nothing more
terrible on it than man and human life. And I am not afraid of man.
LIPA _(scarcely listening to him; ecstatically)_
Yes, that's the word. That's it. Savva, dear, I am not afraid of
bodily suffering either. Burn me on a slow fire. Cut me to pieces. I
won't cry. I'll laugh. I know I will. But there is another thing I am
afraid of. I am afraid of people's suffering, of the misery from which
they cannot escape. When in the stillness of the night, broken only by
the striking of the hours, I think of how much suffering there is all
around us--aimless, needless suffering; suffering one doesn't even
know of--when I think of that, I am chilled with terror. I go down on
my knees and pray. I pray to God, saying to Him: "Oh, Lord, if there
has to be a victim, take me, but give the people joy, give them peace,
give them forgetfulness. Oh, Lord, all powerful as Thou art--"
I have read about a man who was eaten by an eagle, and his flesh grew
again overnight. If my body could turn into bread and joy for the
people, I would consent to live in eternal torture in order to feed
the unfortunate. There'll soon be a holiday here in the monastery--
There is an ikon of the Saviour there with the touching inscription:
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden--
And I will give you rest." I know.
It is regarded as a wonder-working ikon. Go there on the feast-day.
It's like a torrent pouring into the monastery, an ocean rolling
toward its walls; and this whole ocean is made up entirely of human
tears, of human sorrow and misery. Such monstrosities, such cripples.
After witnessing one of those scenes, I walk about as in a dream.
There are faces with such a depth of misery in them that one can never
forget them as long as one lives. Why, Savva, I was a gay young
thing before I saw all that. There is one man who comes here every
year--they have nicknamed him King Herod--
He is here already. I've seen him.
Yes, he has got a tragic face.
Long ago, when still a young man, he killed his son by accident, and
from that day he keeps coming here. He has an awful face. And all of
them are waiting for a miracle.
Yes. There is something worse than inescapable human suffering,
Inescapable human stupidity.
I don't know.
I do. Here you see only a small fragment of life, but if you could see
and hear all of it--When I first read their newspapers, I laughed and
thought it was a joke. I thought they were published in some asylum
for the insane. But I found it was no joke. It was really serious,
Lipa, really serious. And then my head began to ache with an
intolerable pain. _(He presses his hand to his forehead)_
Your head began to ache?
Yes. It's a peculiar pain. You don't know what it is like. Few people
know what it is. And the pain continued until I resolved--
To annihilate everything.
What are you saying?
Yes, yes, everything. All that's old.
LIPA _(in amazement)_
Man is to remain, of course. What is in his way is the stupidity
that, piling up for thousands of years, has grown into a mountain. The
modern sages want to build on this mountain, but that, of course,
will lead to nothing but making the mountain still higher. It is
the mountain itself that must be removed. It must be levelled to its
foundation, down to the bare earth. Do you understand?
No, I don't understand you. You talk so strangely.
Annihilate everything! The old houses, the old cities, the old
literature, the old art. Do you know what art is?
Yes, of course I know--pictures, statues. I went to the Tretyakov art
That's it--the Tretyakov, and other galleries that are bigger still.
There are some good things in them, but it will be still better to
have the old stuff out of the way. All the old dress must go. Man must
be stripped bare and left naked on a naked earth! Then he will build
up a new life. The earth must be denuded, Lipa; it must be stripped
of its hideous old rags. It deserves to be arrayed in a king's mantle;
but what have they done with it? They have dressed it in coarse
fustian, in convict clothes. They've built cities, the idiots!
But who will do it? Who's going to destroy everything?
Yes, I. I'll begin, and then, when people get to understand what I am
after, others will join in. The work will proceed merrily, Lipa. The
sky will be hot. Yes. The only thing not worth destroying is science.
That would be useless. Science is unchangeable, and if, you destroyed
it to-day, it would rise up again the same as before.
How much blood will have to be shed? Why, it's horrible!
No more than has been shed already--and there'll be rhyme and reason
to it, at least. _(Pause; the hens cluck in the yard; from the same
direction comes Tony's sleepy voice_: "Polya, father wants you. Where
did you put his cap?")
What a scheme! Are you not joking, Savva?
You make me sick with your "you are joking, you are joking."
I am afraid of you, Savva. You are so serious about it.
Yes, there are many people who are afraid of me.
If you would only smile a little.
SAVVA _(looking at her with wide-open eyes and a frank face, and
breaking abruptly into a clear, ringing laugh)_ Oh, you funny girl,
what should I be smiling for? I'd rather laugh. _(Both laugh)_ Are you
afraid of tickling?
Stop it! What a boy you are still!
All right. And Kondraty, isn't here yet. I wonder why. Do you think
the devil has taken him? The devil is fond of monks, you know.
What strange fancies you have. Why, now you are joking--
SAVVA _(somewhat surprised)_
They are not fancies.
My fancies are different. You are a dear now, because you talk to
me. In the evening I'll tell you all about myself. We'll take a walk
together, and I'll tell you everything.
Very well, I'll listen. Why shouldn't I?
Tell me, Savva, if I may ask--are you in love with a woman?
Ah, switched around to the subject of love after all--just like a
woman! I hardly know what to say. I did love a girl, in a way, but she
didn't stick it out.
Stick out what?
My love, or perhaps myself. All I know is that one fine day she went
away and left me.
Nothing. I remained alone.
Have you any friends, comrades?
Any enemies? I mean is there anyone whom you particularly dislike,
whom you hate?
God, I say--the one whom you call your Saviour.
Don't dare speak that way! You've gone out of your mind!
Ah! I touched your sensitive spot, did I?
Don't you dare!
I thought you were a gentle dove, but you have a tongue like a
snake's. _(He imitates the movements of a snake's tongue with his
Good Lord! How dare you, how can you speak like that of the Saviour?
Why, one dares not look at him. Why have you come here?
_[Kondraty appears at the door of the tavern, looks around, and enters
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost!
Amen! You're very late, my gracious lord!
I did the will of him who sent me. I was picking young little
cucumbers for the Father Superior. He has them made into a dainty dish
which he loves dearly for an appetizer. My, what infernal heat! I was
in pools of perspiration before I got through.
SAVVA _(to Lipa)_
You see, here is a monk. He likes a drink. His cussing vocabulary
isn't bad. He is no fool, and as to women--
Don't embarrass the young lady, Mr. Tropinin. In the presence of a
And furthermore, he doesn't believe in God.
He is joking.
I don't like such jokes. What have you come here for?
I am here by invitation.
I have some business with him.
LIPA _(without looking at Savva)_
What have you come here for?
For nothing that concerns you. You had better have a talk with him. He
is a chap that possesses a great deal of curiosity. He's not a fool,
either, but knows what's what.
LIPA _(looking searchingly at Savva)_
I know him well, I know him very well.
To my regret I must admit it's true. I have the unenviable fortune of
being known as a man who does not observe the outer forms of conduct.
It is on account of that characteristic I was fired from my position
as government clerk, and it's on that account I am now frequently
condemned to live for weeks on nothing but bread and water. I cannot
act in secret. I am open and above-board. In fact, I fairly cry aloud
whatever I do. For example, the circumstances under which I met you,
Mr. Tropinin, are such that I am ashamed to recall them.
Don't recall them then.
KONDRATY _(to Lipa)_
I was lying in a mud puddle in all my dignity, like a regular hog.
But I am not ashamed to speak of it; first, because many people saw
it, and of course nobody took the trouble to get me out of it except
Savva Yegorovich, and secondly, because I regard this as my cross.
A fine cross!
Every man, Miss Olympiada, has his cross. It isn't so very nice to be
lying in a mud puddle. Dry ground is pleasanter every time. And do you
know, I think half of the water in that puddle was my own tears, and
my woeful lamentations made ripples on it--
That's not quite so, Kondraty. You were singing a song: "And we're
baptized of him in Jordan"--to a very jolly tune at that.
You don't say! What of it? So much the worse. It shows to what depths
a man will descend.
Don't assume a melancholy air, father. You're quite a jovial fellow by
nature, and the assumption of grief doesn't go well with your face, I
True, Savva Yegorovich, I was a jolly fellow; but that was before I
entered the monastery. As soon as I came here I took a tumble, so to
speak; I lost my joviality and serenity and learned to know what real
_[Tony enters and remains standing in the doorway gazing ecstatically
at the monk._
KONDRATY _(stepping nearer and speaking in a lowered voice)_ There is
no God here--there's only the devil. This is a terrible place to live
in, on my word it is, Mr. Savva. I am a man with a large experience.
It's no easy thing to frighten me. But I am afraid to walk in the hall
The ordinary one. To you, educated people, he appears in a nobler
aspect of course; but to us plain, simple people, he reveals himself
as he really is.
How can I tell? I never saw the horns; but that's not the point,
although I may say that his shadow clearly shows the horns. The thing
is that we have no peace in our monastery; there is always such a
noise and clatter there. Everything is quiet outside; but inside there
are groans and gnashing of teeth. Some groan, some whine, and some
complain about something, you can't tell what. When you pass the
doors, you feel as if your soul were taking leave of the world behind
every door. Suddenly something glides from around the corner.--and
there's a shadow on the wall. Nothing at all--and yet there's a
shadow on the wall. In other places it makes no difference. You pay
no attention to such a trifle as a shadow; but here, Savva Yegorovich,
they are alive, and you can almost hear them speak. On my word of
honor! Our hall, you know, is so long that it seems never to end. You
enter--nothing! You see a sort of black object moving in front of
you, something like the figure of a man. Then it stretches out, grows
larger and larger and wider and wider until it reaches across the
ceiling, and then it's behind you! You keep on walking. Your senses
become paralyzed. You lose all consciousness.
SAVVA _(to Tony)_
What are you staring at?
What a face!
And God too is impotent here. Of course we have sacred relics and a
wonder-working ikon; but, if you'll excuse me for saying so, they have
What are you saying?
None whatever. If you don't believe me, ask the other monks. They'll
bear me out. We pray and pray, and beat our foreheads, and the result
is nothing, absolutely nothing. If the image did nothing else than
drive away the impure power! But it can't do even that. It hangs there
as if it were none of its business, and as soon as night comes, the
stir and the gliding and the flitting around the corners begin again.
The abbot says we are cowards, poor in spirit, and that we ought to
be ashamed. But why are the images ineffective? The monks in the
But it's hard to believe it. It's impossible. They say that the
devil stole the real image long ago--the one that could perform
miracles--and hung up his own picture instead.
Oh, God, what blasphemy! Why aren't you ashamed to believe such vile,
horrid stuff? You who are wearing a monk's robe at that! You really
ought to be lying in a puddle--it's the proper place for you.
Now, now, don't get mad. Don't mind her, Father Kondraty, she doesn't
mean it. She is a good girl. But really, why don't you leave the
monastery? Why do you want to be fooling about here with shadows and
KONDRATY _(shrugging his shoulders)_
I would like to leave; but where am I to go? I dropped work long ago.
I am not used to it any more. Here at least I don't have to worry
about how to get a piece of bread. And as for the devil _(cautiously
winking to Savva as he turns to the window and fillips his neck with
his fingers)_ I have a means against him.
Well, let's go out and have a talk. You, face, will you send us some