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Anthology of Russian literature from the earliest period to the ..., Volume 2 online

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understand that I ought to have played do-re-mi-fa-sol, and
nothing else, when my aunt visited me.

* * * Give me a tune, my darling, and I will give you a silver
rouble for it.'

'' I began do-re-mi-fa-sol.

'' 'Well, what is that? That is not even interesting. And
yet they told me that you had some talent. What kind (tf
talent is that ? I could understand if you played something
that would touch my soul. No, I don't think you have any
talent!' — What, I have no talent? Aunty thinks so.
Wait, I '11 prove you differently! — And I began secretly
from the teacher to learn As I go alone into the street^ and
I played it before my aunt; it was so touching that she
wiped her eyes, and said: * Now, that 's a different matter, —
now I see that you have talent ! '

'* Then I learned The hussar leaning on his sabre^ In a



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454 The Nineteenth Century

gloomy autumn evenings and finally, to cap the climax, a
quadrille from Fair Helen. Then I went back to the vil-
lage, — everybody was delighted. My repertoire was popu-
lar. No sooner did anyone call at our house, than fjather
began to boast:

' ' ' You ought to hear him play the violin ! Well, K61enka,
give us The hussar/

'* I took up an attitude and played The hussar ^ and by
degrees worked up to Fair Helen. In this manner I gave
concerts all summer, and I forgot everything I had learned
from my teacher, but above all I began to despise do-re*mi-
fa-sol, because that did not bring me any fame. And thus,
sir, I just stuck fast at the Fair Helen, yes, sir! Then,
suddenly, a passion for versifying came over me. Again a
hankering, — ^what will you do about that ? I began writing
verses 'standing, lying, sitting, walking.' I first did it
secretly, for poetry is a kind of love, — ^it seeks mystery and
solitude. Here again my accursed vanity ran away with me.
My verses were not bad. I showed them to a schoolmate or
two; they took them up and carried them around, and I be-
came the attested school poet. The director found out about
it, and he asked for my note-book, and approved of it: ' You
have, sir, a divine gift ! ' They came to me for every solemn
occasion: 'Bobr6v, write a poem I' And Bobr6v wrote it
and solemnly recited it. You understand what it led to.
Namely to this: Bobr6v began to try acrobatic feats, and to
write in bombastic style, to imitate Derzhdvin, and his
youthful poetry became flat. Consequently, nothing came
of that. By that time I was in the seventh form, and my
breast was filled with ecstades of a different sort I aban-
doned poetry, and was drawn to serious and clever books.
At first I drank deep from Byelfnski, than Dobrol3riibov, and
then Pfsarev fell among us. I graduated from the G3rm-
nasium, the university began "

Bobr6v stopped, rose from his seat, and began to walk
across the room, holding his hands behind his back.

''Yes, the university! I had brilliant ability, and what
came of it all? Do you know what? The devil knows



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Igniti Nikolievich Potitpenko 455

what! I was attracted to adenoe, and I wanted to learn the
history of the human race, and its creations, — so I became a
philologist, and began to swallow book after book. One of
the professors directed his attention to me, and had an eye
on me, — ^but it appeared to me that my country was not in
need of such a science; so I tamed about, and began study-
ing Smith, Mill, and Marx A year later, behold, I was

studjdng the law ! Yes, sir ! The law. And let me tell you
I showed ability in Smith-Mill-Marx too. I do not know
where I got all my eloquence, my indomitable logic, and so
forth. I found mistakes in Mill, so I would say: ' Here
and here Mill has made a mistake! ' Yes, sir! We natur-
ally recognised no authorities, except our own. Mill was to
us not a source of wisdom, but only an excuse for showing
the depth of our erudition before the ladies of our circle.

'' There were some good-looking women among them, let
me tell you. And it is really a wonder I did not get married
then! Upon my word, it is a wonder. For they nearly all
of them, one must say, paired off, and not just one way or
other, but in legal wedlock. Then half of them went off
with their wives, that is only natural. Though we had all
come together on Mill's platform, yet, everybody knows,
life is not Mill. Yes, sir! And thus I came out hale. I
must suppose that it was so because I was too late. The
respected fellow-members had picked out all the good-looking
ones, there was only left an indifferent lot, while I, after all,
had some esthetic taste. It did not take us long to crush
Mill — ^that 's it, we crushed him. It suddenly became as
evident as daylight that he was not good for anything, be-
cause the salvation of our country lay not at all in political
economy, but in anatomy and physiology. Well, the country
bad to be saved at all cost, and God forbid another man but
myself should save it, — that would have been a personal
insult.

'* You can guess that the result of it was my going over
to the department of natural sciences. Just think of it! here
I again found myself upon the summit of my calling. I was
glued to a chair, and the microscope was glued to my nose.



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456 The Nineteenth Century

I sat there days and nights studying and analysing, and
don't imagine that it was without results. Indeed not! I
even made a discovery: I brought to light, studied, and de-
scribed some peculiar property of the blood corpuscle, yes,
sir! I do not remember what property that was, but it pro-
duced an impression, and they even printed my description
of it in some periodical. But while I was dissecting the
blood corpuscle, a new tendency was ripening within me.
The devil take it, another talent! Nature had implanted as
many of them within me as I could hold, and each one of
them was dying to show itself, and would not yield to any
other.

" I was drawn from time to time to the paper. I used
to sit by a kerosene lamp in the quiet of the night, and
sketch some scene. At times it was not half bad, and again
it was quite passable. Yes, sir! Some friend of mine read
it: * Oh, but you have literary talent, you ought to write! '
Well, pictures of success, reputation, and even fame, the
deuce take it, began to swarm before my eyes. Fame!
Whose head would it not turn ? What a£Eair would one not
throw to the dogs for it! ' And so, I was no longer sitting
over the microscope, but passed whole nights producing
artistic literary pictures. That took me from the province
to St. Petersburg, whither I hastened at once to find fame.
My first experiment was a success. They printed it, praised
it, and entered it in the column of the ' promising.' I was
in a hurry, in a terrible hurry, I wanted to pocket all fiune
at once, and, of course, I only made botch work of it, and
spoiled matters. My later works did not call forth any
praise, but were honoured with condescending silence. I was
beside myself, began to insist, to work still faster, and to
q)oil more and more. When an idea flashed through my
brain, I, instead of putting it away in a quiet comer of my
soul, and living and feeling it over, used to sit down at once
and work it out on paper. Something came out, but not
what it ought to have been. It turned out to be something
pale, something bom before its time. Yes, sir ! They would
print it, but more as ballast. And yet, there was talent.



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Sem6n Y&kovlevich Nidson 457

there really was, — everybody acknowledged it. But it was
something unfinished, like a phrase half spoken, a picture
half painted, furniture unpolished and unvarnished.

"At last, one more bent ! My old talent for music awoke
in me, and I rushed at once to a musical school. I, the
future composer, was studying harmony and counterpoint,
and again everybody found that I had talent. The world
of sounds swallowed me. I wanted to produce and create,
and before I had reached a fugue, I was writing little songs

and publishing them Ah, I did not finish here either.

My two songs had success, they were sung at concerts, yes,
sir, and I decided I could write an opera. What is the use
learning when you have talent? That is a good Russian
reason

*'And do you know what I am now ? I am a man without
any definite specialty. I am a Russian who has a thousand
talents and who is unfit for any definite business. I can
play on the violin a quadrille from Fair Helen^ I can write
a sonnet, I can discuss Russian literature and history, I
know a few things about Smith, Mill, and Marx, I have some
ideas about the blood corpuscle, I possess a literary style,
can compose a song, — and to sum all up, I am head-scribe
in a bureau, of course, through protection. Am I not the
same Ivdn ? We are both Russians. Both he and I can do
everything, and yet are good for nothing. Both of us have
a thousand talents apiece. Well ? He is the husband of
my cook, and I — am head-scribe! The positions are diflFer-
ent, but the sense of them is the same Yes, sir! "

Here Bobr6v rolled up a fat cigarette, gave a few puffs at
it, took his cap, and bid his host fiEurewell.

Semto Y&kovlevich N&dson. (1862-1887.)

Nddson's graadfatber was a Jew. His father, wbo had been a
good musician, died when he was bnt two years old, and he also
lost his mother and brothers early in yonth. He was taken care of
by relatives of his, and was sent to the Gymnasium, where he de-
voted himself to literature and music. His first printed poem ap-
peared when he was but fifteen years old. Soon after began to show



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458 The Nineteenth Century

themselves tlie symptoms of consumption to which he finally sno-
cnmbed. He went to the Caucasus, and was later sent to the south
of Prance. Yet, under the most adverse conditions, he produced a
series of poems of exquisite beauty, and gave promise of rivalling the
best Russian poets. Shortly before his death he was awarded the
Piishkin prize of five hundred roubles.

Pity the stately cypress trees is given in John Pollen's Rhymes
from the Russian, and a few shorter poems, by Mrs. M. S. Walker,
in Pree Russia, vol. xiii., No. 5.

MY FRIEND, MY BROTHER!

My friend, my brother, weary, suffering brother, whoever
you be, be not discouraged: let untruth and evil have full
sway upon earth that is watered with tears, let the sacred
ideal be crushed and defamed, let them shed the innocent
blood: — believe me, the time is coming when Baal will
perish, and Love will return upon earth!

Not with a crown of thorns, nor oppressed with chains,
nor with a cross upon his bent shoulders, — he will come into
the world in his strength and splendor, in his bands a bright
torch of glory. There will be in the world neither tears, nor
warring, nor crossless graves, nor serfs, nor cheerless, dead-
ening want, nor the sword, nor pillory.

O my friend! That bright vision is not a dream, nor an
empty hope: look about you, — everywhere evil oppresses
too much, everywhere night is too dark! The world will
grow tired of torments, will drown in the blood, will get
weary of senseless battles, — and it will raise to Love, to un-
hampered Love its eyes, full of yearning prayer

POETRY

Many years ago she descended from the quiet shades of
Paradise into our world, in a garland of fragrant roaes, with
a youthful smile, charming, naked, and proud of her inno-
cent beauty. She brought with her unknown feelings, the
harmony of heaven, and loyalty to dreams, — and her law
was art for art's sake, and her command was to serve beauty.

But at her first steps they tore and trod into the dust her



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Ant6n Pivlovich Chekhov 459

superb flowers, — and her beautiful virgin features were
shrouded in a dark cloud of doubts and sorrow; and her
former hymns are no more! The storm's breath carried
tracklessly away her exultant sounds, — and her song breathes
fire of her soul's anguish, and thorns wound her divine brow.



Pity the stately cypress trees;

How freshly green they spring!
Ah! why amidst their branches, child,

Have you put up your swing ?
Break not a single fragrant bough.

Oh, take thy swing away
To heights where thick acacias bloom;

Mid dusty olives play!
Thence you can see the ocean.

And, as your swing ascends,
Through greening boughs a sunny glimpse

The sea in laughter sends
Of white sails in the distance dim,

Of white gulls far away,
Of white flakes foaming on the sands,

A fringe of snowy spray.
— From J. Pollen's Rhymes from the Russian.

Ant6n P&vlovich Ch6khov. (x86o-.)

Chekhov is the son of a former serf. He was bom in the city of
Taganr6g, where he went through the Gymnasinm. He then at-
tended the Moscow University, where he graduated from the Depart-
ment of Medicine in 1884. He began early to contribute short stories
to various periodicals, and established his reputation in 1887 upon
the appearance of his first collected volume. Of his longer stories
some of the most artistic are The Steppe^ Fires, The Memoirs of an
Unknown Man, A Wearisome Story, A pessimistic vein runs
through all his productions, and all his characters seem to be fit sub-
jects for the psychiatrist ; this is especially the case in two of his
dramas, The Mew and Three Sisters, in which there is not one re-
deeming person, and where the very language of the dramatis
personam is nothing but a series of semi-articulated hysterical ejacula-



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46o The Nineteenth Century

tions. He is a great fiavonrite with the Rnstian reading pnblic, bat
the foreigner will lay aside his books with great admiration for his
talent and with a shndder at the hopeless condition of Russian
society.

In English has appeared but Philosophy at Home, in Short Stories,
October, 1891.

IN THE COURT-ROOM

In the cinnamon-colotired governmental building of the
county seat of N., in which the meetings of the Agronomic
Council alternate with those of the Justices of the Peace, of
the Departments of Peasant Affairs, of the Sale of Liquor,
of Military Conscription, and of many more, a division of
the Circuit Court was one gloomy autumn day assembled to
take up its cases. A local administrator had made a pun in
regard to this cinnamon-coloured building:

" Here is Miss Justice, here is Police, here is Milioe, — a
r^ular Institute for Noble Young Ladies."

But, no doubt to justify the proverb that with seven nurses
a child generally loses an eye, this building produces a
heavy, oppressive sensation in a man who is neither officially
connected nor feuniliar with it, by its melancholy, barrack-
like appearance, by its age, and by the complete absence of
any and all comforts, either within or without. Even in
bright spring days it looks as if it were covered by a dense
shade, and on clear, moonlit nights, when the trees and the
houses of the citizens are welded into one continuous shadow
and are merged in a quiet sleep, it alone rises awkwardly
and out of place, like a crushing rock, over the modest land-
scape, spoils the general harmony, and stays awake, as
though it could not rid itself of the grievous memory of
past, unforgiven sins. Within, everything is bam-like and
exceedingly unattractive. It is curious to see how easily all
these elegant prosecutors, members, leaders, who at home
will raise a row at the slightest sign of escaping coal gas or
a mere speck on the floor, get used to the buzzing ventilators,
the nauseating smell of smoking candles, and the dirty,
eternally sweating walls.



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Ant6n Pivlovich Chekhov 461

The session of the Circuit Cotirt began at ten o'clock.
They at once took up the docket, being evidently in a hurry.
The cases were disposed of one after the other, taking up
no more time than a '' mass without the singing/' so that no
sensible being could have formed a complete, conceptual
picture of that variegated crowd that moved about like a
freshet, of all the motions, speeches, misfortunes, truth,
lies By two o'clock much was accomplished: two peo-
ple were sentenced to perpetual imprisonment ; one privileged
person was deprived of all his rights and sentenced to im-
prisonment in the jail; one man was found innocent, and
one case was postponed.

Precisely at two o'clock the presiding judge announced
that now was to be taken up the case of*' the indictment
found ag^nst the peasant Nikoldy Kharldmov for the mur-
der of his wife." The composition of the court remained
the same as in the previous case, only the defence was re-
presented by a new individual, — a young, beardless candi-
date for judicial honours, in a coat with bright buttons.

*' Bring in the defendant! " ordered the presiding judge.

But the defendant was prepared even before, and he
marched toward the bench. He was a tall, muscular peas-
ant, about fifty-five years of age, completely bald, with a
repulsive, hirsute face, and a long red beard. He was
followed by a small, wizened soldier with a gun.

When almost near the bench, there happened a slight
accident to this guard. He suddenly stumbled and dropped
his gun, but he immediately caught it in its fall, giving his
knee a severe knock with the butt. Either from pain or,
perhaps, from embarrassment at his awkwardness the soldier
blushed crimson.

After the customary questions to the defendant, the re-
arrangement of the jury, the roll-call, and the oath of the
witnesses, — they began the reading of the bill of the indict-
ment. A narrow-chested, pale-faced secretary, who had
grown much too thin for his uniform and had a plaster on
his cheek, — ^he looked like a walking clinic, — read rapidly,
like a sexton, in a subdued, heavy bass, without raising or



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462 The Nineteenth Century

lowering his voice, as if afraid to exert his longs; he was
seconded by the ventilator that kept on buzzing behind the
judge's chair, and from this there resulted a sound that gave
to the stillness of the room a soporific, narcotic character.

The presiding judge, who was not an old man, with an
exceedingly tired face, and near-dghted, was sitting in his
chair without stirring, and holding the palm of his hand near
his brow, as if to keep the sun out of his eyes. During the
buzzing of the ventilator and of the secretary he was think-
ing of something. When the secretary stopped for a second
to draw breath before beginning a new page, he suddenly
started and looked at the audience with his blinking eyes,
then he leaned over the ear of the fellow-judge by his side;
and asked him with a sigh:

** You, Matvy^y Petr6vich, are stopping at DemyAnov's ?"

''Yes, at Demydnov's," answered the member, also
startled.

** Next time I think I shall stop there myself. I declare,
it is impossible to stop at Tipyak6v*s. There is such a
noise there all night long! They make a racket, they cough,
and the children cry. It *s just impossible to stand it! ''

The associate prosecutor, a full-faced, well-fed, dark-com-
plexioned man, in gold spectacles, and with a beautiful,
well-groomed beard, sat immovably, like a statue, and, lean-
ing his cheek on his closed hand, read Byron's Cam. His
eyes were full of ardent attention, and his brows rose admir-
ingly higher and higher. Now and then he threw himself
against the back of his chair, looked for a moment indiffer-
ently ahead of him, and then was once more lost in his
reading.

The counsel for the defence moved the blunt end of his
pencil over the table and, bending his head aside, was medi-
tating something. His youthful face expressed nothing but
unchangeable, cold ennui, such as is to be seen in the faces
of schoolboys and officials who are obliged to sit day after
day in one and the same place and to see all the time the
same faces and the same walls. The forthcoming speech
did not worry him in the least. What kind of a speech is



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Ant6n Pivlovich Chekhov 463

it any way ? By order of the authorities he will delfver it
without passion or fire before the jury, according to an old
stereot3rped form, feeling all the time that it is colourless and
tiresome, and then he will gallop through mud and rain to
the station, then — ^to the capital, to get soon another order
for some other county seat, where he will make another
speech It 's tiresome!

The defendant at first coughed nervously into his sleeve
and grew pale, then the quiet, the universal monotony and
the ennui were communicated to him also. He looked with
a dull respect at the uniforms of the judges, at the tired
faces of the jury, and calmly blinked with his eyes. The
judicial surroundings and procedure, waiting for which his
heart had been pining in the prison, now acted upon him
most soothingly. He did not meet here at all what he could
have expected. Over him hung the accusation of murder,
and yet he did not meet here any threatening faces, nor
scorning glances, nor loud phrases of revenge, nor any sym-
pathy for his unusual fate; not one of those who were going
to judge him had turned their long, inquiring glances upon
him. The murky windows, the voice of the secretary, the
pose of the prosecutor, — all that was imbued with chancery
indifference and exhaled a cold breath, as though the mur-
derer were a simple appurtenance of the chancery, or as
though not living men were judging him, but some unseen
machine which God knows who had introduced.

The composed peasant did not know that they were here
as used to the dramas and tragedies of life as one gets used
to deaths in a hospital, and that in this very machine-like
indifference lay the whole terror and the whole hopelessness
of his position. I am sure that if he did not remain silent,
but rose and began to plead and implore for mercy with
tears in his eyes, to repent with fervour, if he died in despair^
— all that would break against their dull nerves and habit
like a billow against a rock.

When the secretary had finished, the presiding judge for
some reason rubbed the table, for a long time blinked at the
defendant, and then asked him, lazily moving his tongue:



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464 The Nineteenth Century

'* Defendant, do you plead guilty to having killed yout
wife on the night of June 9th ? "

'^ By no means/' answered the defendant, rising and hold-
ing the coat over his breast.

After that the court hurriedly passed over to the examina-
tion of the witnesses. There were examined two women,
five peasants, and the coroner who had held the inquest
All of them, mud-bespattered and tired from their march
and from the long waiting in the witness room, sad and
gloomy, deposed the same thing. They declared that Khar-
Idmov had lived "well" with his wife, just like anybody
else: he used to strike her only when he was intoxicated.
On the 9th of June, about sundown, the woman was found
in the hall with her skull split open; an axe was lying near
her in a pool of blood. When they tried to find Nikoldy, in
order to tell him of the misfortune, he was neither in the
house, nor in the street. They b^^an to run up and down
the village to find him, they went to all the taverns and
cabins, but he could not be found. He had disappeared,
and two days later he came himself to the office, pale, tat-
tered, and trembling in his whole body. He was bound
with ropes and placed in the lockup.

** Defendant," said the presiding judge to ELharldmov,
''can't you explain to the court where you kept yourself
during the two days after the murder ? "

** I wandered over the field, without eating or drinking."

** Why did you hide yourself, if you did not kill her ? "

** I was frightened. I was afiraid I 'd be sentenced."

" Ah! Very well, take your seat! "

The last witness was the county physician who had made
the autopsy on the old woman. He communicated to the
court ever3rthing he could remember from his notes of the
autopsy and from what he had managed to work out as he
was walking to the court in the morning.

The presiding judge looked with half-closed eyes at his
new shining, black suit, at his dandyish necktie, at his mov-
ing lips, and in his brain somehow stirred by itself the lazy
thought: ** Bverybody wears now short coats; then why did



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Ant6n Pivlovich Chekhov 465

he have made such a long one ? Really, why a long one,
and not a short one ? "

Behind the presiding judge was heard the cautious creak
of boots. It was the associate prosecutor who had gone to
the table to take up some document

'' Mikhafl Vladfmirovich/' he leaned down to the ear of



Online LibraryLeo WienerAnthology of Russian literature from the earliest period to the ..., Volume 2 → online text (page 36 of 40)