Release date. Running time. We are all conscious that this system is not organised in our benefit. This creates a great pressure that reflects in our love life or family life. We suffer this lack of time, Latentoz - Oblomov* - Europe On Fire [EP] (File), this extreme difficulty to make money and do so many things that we are not interested in. Facing that reality, a lot of people get depressed and some others explode.
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Archived from the original on 16 March Los Angeles Times. USA Today. The Washington Post. Rotten Tomatoes. CBS Interactive. Time Inc. Chicago Sun-Times. He was born in in a town on the Volga named Simbirsk, which struck all who came to visit it, including the poet Lermontov, as the epitome of "sleep and laziness.
He came from a very prosperous merchant family, and was one of the few Russian writers of this period descended from such a ackground. Despite climbing the ladder to the highest ranks of the civil service, and even being appointed tutor to a presumed inheritor to the throne who died prematurely, it would appear that Goncharov could never shake off a certain sense of discomfort deriving from this relatively lowly origin.
He was known for his shy and retiring personality, and such reticence may well be attributed to a lingering uneasiness about his status in the carefully delineated Russian caste society. The merchant class in Russia had little, ifany, contact with the Western European values that had shaped the aristocracy, and was generally regarded as backward and obscurantist.
Goncharov was perhaps unable to overcome the psychological results of this inauspicious heritage, despite his success. He opened Goncharov to a wider cultural horizon and amore elegant and sophisticated way of life than was customary among the merchant class.
It may also have provided Goncharov with a tenant- landlord pattern that was later used in Oblomov in reverse, so that the upper- class anti-hero ultimately marries the lower-class landlady who has unstintingly Latentoz - Oblomov* - Europe On Fire [EP] (File) care of all his material needs, and whose devotion allows him to sink into a restful if self-defeating torpor.
Here he was following a pattern already depicted in Oblomov, in which the protagonist derives some satisfaction from tutoring the children of his landlady by a former marriage. Goncharov very early learned French and German—and English, too ,which was much less common; and he read widely in the Romantic literature of the time.
Initially sent to a School of Commerce at the urging of his mother, he later spoke of this establishment with loathing, and was then allowed to enroll in the department of philology at the University of Moscow.
Here he came into contact with some of the leading minds of his era, when Romanticism and Idealism and combinations thereof were imported from Germany and became all the rage in Russsian culture. In contrast with literary rivals such as Turgenev and Tolstoy, who inherited fortunes, and more like Dostoevsky, who was dependent on his writings for his income, Goncharov was forced to earn his living. On graduation he entered the civil service bureaucracy.
Reared I nthe lap of comfort and indolence, Oblomov had instinctively assumed that his life would continue to be much the same in the bureaucracy. Everything had to be done fast, everyone was always rushing somewhere non-stop In any event, he astonished all who knew him by accepting an appointment that required him to travel around the world. Inhe became secretary to Admiral Putyatin of the Russian Navy, entrusted with the task of inspecting Russian possessions in North America they were never reached and more importantly with seeking a commercial treaty with Japan it was never concluded.
Goncharov kept a notebook on his travels, and later published sketches of his impressions and observations in a work titled The Frigate Pallas, which met with some success.
It waswritten in the ironically subdued, semi-humoristic style cultivated in Oblomov, which he had already begun but found difficult to complete. Upon his return, Goncharov accepted a position in the censorship that supervised Russian publications, and retained it until his retirement in This exposed him to fierce criticism from the radicals, and even some of his more moderate friends found it difficult to accept the notion of a writer working as a censor.
No one studying nineteenth-century Russian culture can fail to be struck by the extent to which, contrary to what occurred after the Soviet takeover of power, radical criticism of the prevailing regime managed to appear in print.
Of course Russian writers used what came to be known as Aesopian language, which expressed their subversive ideas indirectly; but everyone knew how to read what was implied in the figurative imagery. Indeed ,Goncharov was criticized by other censors for his "liberalism," andhe approved some extremely radical articles on the assumption that ,as he wrote in one report, "extreme views show themselves to be flimsy before strict science and die away from the contact of critical analysis.
Despite the rigid self-control that allowed him to pursue a successful career, Goncharov was nonetheless assailed by inner obsessions that led to an episode whose equal it would be hard to find elsewhere in literary history. He began to work on Oblomov simultaneously with another book, which eventually became his third novel, Obryv, or The Precipice; and he often spoke with Turgenev of his plans for this latter work.
Inwhile Oblomov was appearing in installments, he accused Turgenev, with whom he had been on the best of terms, of having stolen some of the ideas for The Precipice and using them in his own novel A Nest of Gentlefolk inand then again a year later in On the Eve.
So Goncharov was far from being an engaging or ingratiating personality, and he had few intimate friends. His father dies, leaving a lot of debts behind him, but a dying uncle summons him to the country; and when he gets there he finds his uncle dead, and himself the inheritor of the estate. In the country, he is just as much bored as he was in St. A new neighbour arrives in the shape of Lensky, a young man fresh from Germany, an enthusiast and a poet, and full of Kant, Schiller, and the German writers.
Lensky introduces Onegin to the neighbouring family, by name Larin, consisting of a widow and two daughters. Lensky is in love with Latentoz - Oblomov* - Europe On Fire [EP] (File) younger daughter, Olga, who is simple, fresh, blue-eyed, with a round face, as Onegin says, like the foolish moon. The elder sister, Tatiana, is less pretty; shy and dreamy, she conceals under her retiring and wistful ways a clean-cut character and a strong will. Turgenev, with all his magic, and [ Pg 76] Tolstoy, with all his command over the colours of life, never created a truer, more radiant, and more typically Russian woman.
She is the type of all that is best in the Russian woman; that is to say, of all that is best in Russia; and it is a type taken straight from life, and not from fairy-land—a type that exists as much to-day as it did in the days of Pushkin.
She is the first of that long gallery of Russian women which Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Dostoyevsky have given us, and which are the most precious jewels of Russian literature, because they reflect the crowning glory of Russian life. Tatiana falls in love with Onegin at first sight. She writes to him and confesses her love, and in all the love poetry of the world there is nothing more touching and more simple than this confession.
It is perfect. If Pushkin had written this and this alone, his place among poets would be unique and different from that of all other poets. Possibly some people may think that there are finer achievements in the love poetry of the world; but nothing is so futile and so impertinent as giving marks to the great poets, as if they were passing an examination.
Onegin tells Tatiana he is not worthy of her, that he is not made for love and marriage; that he would cease to love her at once; that he feels for her like a brother, or perhaps a little more tenderly. It then falls out that Onegin, by flirting with Olga at a ball, makes [ Pg 78] Lensky jealous. They fight a duel, and Lensky is killed. Onegin is obliged to leave the neighbourhood, and spends years in travel. Tatiana remains true to her first love; but she is taken by her relatives to Moscow, and consents at last under their pressure to marry a rich man of great position.
In St. Petersburg, Onegin meets her again. Tatiana has become a great lady, but all her old charm is there. Onegin now falls violently in love with her; but she, although she frankly confesses that she still loves him, tells him that it is too late; she has married another, and she means to remain true to him.
And there the story ends. Latentoz - Oblomov* - Europe On Fire [EP] (File) in his Onegin succeeded in doing what Shelley urged Byron to do—to create something new and in accordance with the spirit of the age, which should at the same time be beautiful.
He did more than this. He succeeded in creating for Russia a poem that was purely national, and in giving his country a classic, a model both in construction, matter, form, [ Pg 79] and inspiration for future generations.
Perhaps the greatest quality of this poem is its vividness. Pushkin himself speaks, in taking leave, of having seen the unfettered march of his novel in a magic prism. Apart from this the poem is amusing; it arrests the attention as a story, and it delights the intelligence with its wit, its digressions, and its brilliance. It is as witty as Don Juan and as consummately expressed as Pope; and when the occasion demands it, the style passes in easy transition to serious or tender tones.
There is this likeness, that both poems deal with contemporary life, and in both poems the poets pass from grave to gay, from severe to lively, and often interrupt the narrative to apostrophize the reader.
But there the likeness ends. On the other hand, there is a vast difference. Onegin contains no adventures. Moreover, it is an organic whole: so well constructed that it fits into a stage libretto—Tchaikovsky made an opera out of it—without difficulty. There is another difference—a difference which applies to Pushkin and Byron in general. There is no unevenness in Pushkin; his work, as far as craft is concerned, is always on the same high level. You can admire the whole, or cut off any single passage and it will still remain admirable; whereas Byron must be taken as a whole or not at all—the reason being that Pushkin was an impeccable artist in form and expression, and that Byron was not.
In Mozart and Salieri we see the contrast between the genius which does what it must and the talent which does what it can.
The story is based on the unfounded anecdote that Mozart was poisoned by Salieri out of envy. This dramatic and beautifully written episode has been set to music as it stands by Rimsky-Korsakov. This scene has been recently set to music by Rakhmaninov. A scene from Faust between Faust and Mephistopheles is original and not [ Pg 82] of great interest; Angelo is the story of Measure for Measure told as a narrative with two scenes in dialogue.
RusalkaThe Water Maid, is taken from the genuine and not the sham province of national legend, and it is tantalizing that this poetic fragment remained a fragment. Here, too, he proved a pioneer. In this extremely vivid story he anticipates Gogol in his lifelike pictures of country life. It tells of an Italian improvisatore who, at a party in St. Petersburg, improvises verses on Cleopatra and her lovers.
As it is, he furnished Gogol whose acquaintance he made in with the subject of two of his masterpieces— Dead Souls and The Revisor. The province of Russian folk-lore and legend from which Pushkin took the idea of Rusalka was to furnish him with a great deal of rich material. It was in that in friendly rivalry with Zhukovsky he wrote his first long fairy-tale, imitating the Russian popular style, The Tale of Tsar Saltan. Up [ Pg 84] till now he had written only a few ballads in the popular style.
This fairy-tale was a brilliant success as a pastiche ; but it was a pastiche and not quite the real thing, as cleverness kept breaking in, and a touch of epigram here and there, which indeed makes it delightful reading.
The tale is written in unrhymed rhythmical, indeed scarcely rhythmical, lines; all trace of art is concealed; it is a tale such as might have been handed down by oral tradition in some obscure village out of the remotest past; it has the real Volkston ; the good-nature and simplicity and unobtrusive humour of a real fairy-tale.
The subjects of all these stories were told to Pushkin by his nurse, Anna Rodionovna, who also furnished him with the subject of his ballad, The [ Pg 85] Bridegroom. Pushkin called Anna Rodionovna his last teacher, and said that he was indebted to her for counteracting the effects of his first French education. In he finished a poem called The Brazen Horsemanthe story of a man who loses his beloved in the great floods in St. The poem contains a magnificent description of St. During the last years of his life, he was engaged in collecting materials for a history of Peter the Great.
His power of production had never run dry from the moment he left school, although his actual work was interrupted from time to time by distractions and the society of his friends. All the important larger works of Pushkin have now been mentioned; but during the whole course of his career he was always pouring out a stream of lyrics and occasional [ Pg 86] pieces, many of which are among the most beautiful things he wrote.
His variety and the width of his range are astonishing. It is Miltonic in conception and Dantesque in expression; the syllables ring out in pure concent, like blasts from a silver clarion. It is, as it were, the Pillars of Hercules of the Russian language. Nothing finer as sound could ever be compounded with Russian vowels and consonants; nothing could be more perfectly planned, or present, in so small a vehicle, so large a vision to the imagination.
Even a rough prose translation will give some idea of the imaginative splendour of the poem—. And the Seraphim with six wings appeared to me at the crossing of the ways: And he touched my eyelids, and his fingers were as soft as sleep: and like the eyes of an eagle that is frightened my prophetic eyes were awakened. He touched my ears and he filled them with noise and with sound: and I heard the Heavens shuddering and the flight of the angels in the height, and the moving of the beasts that are under the waters, and the noise of the growth of the branches in the valley.
He bent down over me and he looked upon my lips; and he tore out my sinful tongue, and he took away that which is idle and that which is evil with his right hand, and his right hand was dabbled with blood; and he set there in its stead, between my perishing lips, the tongue of a wise serpent. And he clove my breast asunder with a sword, and he plucked out my trembling heart, and in my cloven breast he set a burning coal of fire. A guardsman, Heckeren-Dantes, had been flirting with his wife.
Pushkin received an anonymous letter, and being wrongly convinced that Heckeren-Dantes was the author of it, wrote him a violent letter which made a duel inevitable. A duel was fought on the 27th of February,and Pushkin was mortally wounded. Such was his frenzy of rage that, after lying wounded and unconscious in the snow, on regaining consciousness, he insisted on going on with the duel, and fired another shot, giving a great cry of joy when he saw that he had wounded his adversary.
It was only a slight wound in the hand. It was not until he reached home that his anger passed away. He died on the 29th of February, after forty-five hours of excruciating suffering, heroically borne; he forgave his enemies; he wished no one to avenge him; he received the last sacraments; [ Pg 91] and he expressed feelings of loyalty and gratitude to his sovereign.
He was thirty-seven years and eight months old. Pushkin began his career with liberal aspirations, and he disappointed some in the loyalty to the throne, the Church, the autocracy, and the established order of things which he manifested later; in turning to religion; in remaining in the Government service; in writing patriotic poems; in holding the position of Gentleman of the Bed Chamber at Court; in being, in fact, what is called a reactionary.
But it would be a mistake to imagine that Pushkin was a Lost Leader who abandoned the cause of liberty for a handful of silver and a riband to stick in his coat. Pushkin could not escape being influenced by it; but he was no more a rebel then, than he was a reactionary afterwards, when again the very air which the whole of educated society breathed was conservative and nationalistic.
It may be a pity that it [ Pg 92] was so; but so it was. It is no good making a revolution if you have nothing to make it with. The Decembrists by their premature action put the clock of Russian political progress back for years. The result was that men of impulse, aspiration, talent and originality had in the reign of Nicholas to seek an outlet for their feelings elsewhere than in politics, because politics then were simply non-existent.
But apart from this, even if the opportunities had been there, it may be doubted whether Pushkin would have taken them. He was not born with a passion to reform the world. He was neither a rebel nor a reformer; neither a liberal nor a conservative; he was a democrat in his love for the whole of the Russian people; he was a patriot in his love of his country.
He was like Goethe in his attitude towards society, and the attitude of the social and official world towards him resembles the attitude of Weimar towards Goethe. During the first part of his career he gave himself up to pleasure, passion, and self-indulgence; after he was thirty he turned his mind to more serious things.
It would not be exact to say he became deeply religious, because he was religious by nature, and he soon discarded a fleeting phase of scepticism; but in spite of this he was a victim of amour-propre ; and he wavered between contempt of the society around him and a petty resentment against it which took the shape of scathing and sometimes cruel epigrams. There is one fact, however, which accounts for much. What pleased the public were the dazzling colours, the sensuous and sometimes libidinous images of his early poems; the romantic atmosphere; especially anything that was artificial in them.
They had not yet eyes to appreciate the noble lines, nor ears to appreciate the simpler and more majestic harmonies of his later work. Thus it was that they passed Boris [ Pg 95] Godunov by, and were disappointed in the later cantos of Onegin. This was, of course, discouraging. Nevertheless, it is laughable to rank Pushkin amongst the misunderstood, among the Shelleys, the Millets, of Literature and Art; or to talk of his sad fate.
To talk of him as one of the victims of literature is merely to depreciate him. He was exiled. Yes: but to the Caucasus, which gave him inspiration: to his own country home, which gave him leisure. He was censored. Yes: but the Emperor undertook to do the work himself.
Had he lived in England, society—as was proved in the case of Byron—would have been a far severer censor of his morals and the extravagance of his youth, than the Russian Government. Besides which, he won instantaneous fame, and in the society in which he moved he was surrounded by a band not only of devoted but distinguished admirers, amongst whom were some of the highest names in Russian literature—Karamzin, Zhukovsky, Gogol.
The chief characteristic of his genius is its universality. There appeared to be nothing he could not understand nor assimilate. He is a poet of everyday life: a realistic poet, and above all things a lyrical poet. He is not a dramatist, and as an epic writer, though he can mould a bas-relief and produce a noble fragment, he cannot set crowds in motion.
He revealed to the Russians the beauty of their landscape and the poetry of their people; and they, with ears full of pompous diction, and eyes full of rococo and romantic stage properties, did not understand what he was doing: but they understood later. For a time he fought against the stream, and all in vain; and then he gave himself up to the great current, which took him all too soon to the open sea. Like Peter the Great, he spent his whole life in apprenticeship, and his whole energies in craftsmanship.
He was a great artist; his style is perspicuous, plastic, and pure; there is never a blurred outline, never a smear, never a halting phrase or a hesitating note. His diction is the inseparable skin of the thought. You seem to hear him thinking. He was gifted with divine ease and unpremeditated spontaneity. His soul was sincere, noble, and open; he was frivolous, a child of the world and of his century; but if he was worldly, he was human; he was a citizen as well as a child of the world; and it is that which makes him the greatest of Russian poets.
At the same time, he sought and served beauty, strenuously and faithfully; he was perhaps too faithful a servant of Apollo; too exclusive a lover of the beautiful.
He never descended into Hell. Every great man is either an artist or a fighter; and often poets of genius, Byron and Heine for instance, are more pre-eminently fighters than they are artists. Pushkin was an artist, and not a fighter. And this is what makes even his love-poems cold in comparison with those of other poets. Although he was the first to make notable what was called the romantic movement; and although at the beginning of his career he handled romantic [ Pg 99] subjects in a more or less romantic way, he was fundamentally a classicist—a classicist as much in the common-sense and realism and solidity of his conceptions and ideas, as in the perspicuity and finish of his impeccable form.
And he soon cast aside even the vehicles and clothes of romanticism, and exclusively followed reality.
His work is beyond the reach of critics, whether favourable or unfavourable, for it lives in the hearts of his countrymen, and chiefly upon the lips of the young. In his notes there is the following passage—. He was struck solely by the picture of a man bound to a wild horse and borne over the steppes. A poetical picture of course; but see what he did with it. What a living creation! What a broad brush! But do not expect to find either Mazepa or Charles, nor the usual gloomy Byronic hero.
Byron was not thinking of him. He presented a series of pictures, one more striking than the other. The romantic movement in Russia was, as far as Pushkin was concerned, not really a romantic movement at all.
And yet, for want of a better word, one is obliged to call it the romantic movement, as it was a new movement, a renascence that arose out of the ashes of the pseudo-classical eighteenth century convention. The claim of his friend and fellow-student, Baron Delvigto fame, rests rather on his friendship with Pushkin to whom he played the part of an admirable critic than on his own verse.
He died in The name Lermontov is said to be the same as the Scotch Learmonth. The story of his short life is a simple one. He was born at Moscow in He visited the Caucasus when he was twelve. He was taught English by a tutor. He went to school at Moscow, and afterwards to the University. He left in owing to the disputes he had with the professors.
Petersburg; and two years later he became an officer in the regiment of the Hussars. In he was transferred to Georgia, owing to the scandal caused by the outspoken violence of his verse; but he was transferred to Novgorod inand was allowed to return to St.
Petersburg in the same year. In he was again transferred to the Caucasus for fighting a duel with the son of the French Ambassador; towards the end of the year, he was once more allowed to return to St. In [ Pg ] he went back for a third time to the Caucasus, where he forced a duel on one of his friends over a perfectly trivial incident, and was killed, on the 15th of July of the same year.
In all the annals of poetry, there is no more curious figure than Lermontov. He was like a plant that above all others needed a sympathetic soil, a favourable atmosphere, and careful attention.
Considerable light is thrown on the contradictory and original character of the poet by his novel, A Hero of Our Latentoz - Oblomov* - Europe On Fire [EP] (File)the first psychological novel that appeared in Russia.
The hero, Pechorin, is undoubtedly a portrait of the poet, although he himself said, and perhaps thought, that he was merely creating a type. The hero of the story, who is an officer in the Caucasus, analyses his own character, and lays bare his weaknesses, follies, and faults, with the utmost frankness. The presence of enthusiasm turns me to ice, and intercourse with a phlegmatic temperament would turn me into a passionate dreamer. Have I offended any one? Do I belong to that category of people whose mere presence creates antipathy?
I have become incapable of noble impulses. I am afraid of appearing ridiculous to myself. I am like a man yawning at a ball, who does not go home to bed because the carriage is not there, but as soon as the carriage is there, Good-bye!
Why was I born? And since then how often have I played the part of the axe in the hands of fate. Like the weapon of the executioner I have fallen on the necks of the victims, often without malice, always without pity.
My love has never brought happiness, because I have never in the slightest degree sacrificed myself for those whom I loved. I loved for my own sake, for my own pleasure And if I die I shall not leave behind me one soul who understood me. Some think I am better, others that I am worse than I am. Some will say he was a good fellow; others he was a blackguard. It will be seen from these passages, all of which apply to Lermontov himself, even if they were not so intended, that he must have been a trying companion, friend, or acquaintance.
He could not bear not to make himself felt, and if he felt that he was unsuccessful in accomplishing this by pleasant means, he resorted to unpleasant means. And yet, at the same time, he was warm-hearted, thirsting for love and kindness, and capable of giving himself up to love—if he chose. During his period of training at the Cadet School, he led a wild life; and when he became an officer, he hankered after social and not after literary success.
He did not achieve it immediately; at first he was not noticed, and when he was noticed he was not liked. His looks were unprepossessing, and one of his legs was shorter than the other. His physical strength was enormous—he could bend a ramrod with his fingers. Noticed he was determined to be; and, as he himself says in one of his letters, observing that every one in society had some sort of pedestal—wealth, [ Pg ] lineage, position, or patronage—he saw that if he, not pre-eminently possessing any of these,—though he was, as a matter of fact, of a good Moscow family,—could succeed in engaging the attention of one person, others would soon follow suit.
This he set about to do by compromising a girl and then abandoning her: and he acquired the reputation of a Don Juan. Later, when he came back from the Caucasus, he was treated as a lion. All this does not throw a pleasant light on his character, more especially as he criticized in scathing tones the society in which he was anxious to play a part, and in which he subsequently enjoyed playing a part.
But perhaps both attitudes of mind were sincere. He probably sincerely enjoyed society, and hankered after success in it; and equally sincerely despised society and himself for hankering after it. As he grew older, his pride and the exasperating provocativeness of his conduct increased to such an extent that he seemed positively seeking for serious trouble, and for some one whose patience he could overtax, and on whom he could fasten a quarrel.
And this was not slow to happen. The epoch, the atmosphere and the society were the worst possible for his peculiar nature; and the only fruitful result of the friction between himself and the society and the established order of his time, was that he was sent to the Caucasus, which proved to be a source of inspiration for him, as it had been for Pushkin.
You feel that he will never submit or yield; but then he died young; and the Russian poets often changed, and not infrequently adopted a compromise which was the same thing as submission. Lermontov was, like Pushkin, essentially a lyric poet, still more subjective, and profoundly self-centred. His attempts at the drama imitations of Schiller and an attempt at the manner of Griboyedov were failures.
But, unlike Pushkin, he was a true romantic; and his work proves to us how essentially different a thing Russian romanticism is from French, German or English romanticism. He began with astonishing precocity to write verse when he was twelve.
His earliest efforts were in French. He then began to imitate Pushkin. While at the Cadet School he wrote a series of cleverly written, more or less indecent, and more or less Byronic—the Byron of Beppo —tales in verse, describing his love adventures, and episodes of garrison life.
Lermontov owed nothing to his contemporaries, little to his predecessors, and still less to foreign models. It is true that, as a school-boy, he wrote verses full of Byronic disillusion and satiety, but these were merely echoes of his reading.
The gloom of spirit which he expressed later on was a permanent and innate feature of his own temperament. Later, the reading of Shelley spurred on his imagination to emulation, but not to imitation. He sought his own path from the beginning, and he remained in it with obdurate persistence. He remained obstinately himself, indifferent as a rule to outside events, currents of thought and feeling.
And he clung to the themes which he chose in his youth. His mind to him a kingdom was, and he peopled it with images [ Pg ] and fancies of his own devising. The path which he chose was a narrow one. It was a romantic path. He chose for the subject of the poem by which he is perhaps most widely known, The Demonthe love of a demon for a woman.
The colours are as fresh to-day as when they were first laid on. The heroine is a Circassian woman, and the action of the poem is in the Caucasus. He dreams of finding in Tamara the joys of the paradise he has foregone. And he [ Pg ] pours out to her one of the most passionate love declarations ever written, in couplet after couplet of words that glow like jewels and tremble like the strings of a harp, Tamara yields to him, and forfeits her life; but her soul is borne to Heaven by the Angel of Light; she has redeemed her sin by death, and the Demon is left as before alone in a loveless, lampless universe.
The poem is interspersed with descriptions of the Caucasus, which are as glowing and splendid as the impassioned utterance of the Demon. Lermontov followed up his first draft of The Demon originally planned inbut not finished in its final form until with other romantic tales, the scene of which for the most part is laid in the Caucasus: such as Izmail BeyHadji-AbrekOrsha the Boyar —the last not a Caucasian tale. These were nearly all of them sketches in which he tried the colours of his palette.
But with Mtsyrithe Novicein which he used some of the materials of the former tales, he produced a finished picture. The child grows up home-sick at heart, and one day his longing for freedom becomes ungovernable, and he escapes and roams about in the mountains. He loses his way in the forest and is brought back to the monastery after three days, dying from starvation, exertion, and exhaustion.
Before he dies he pours out his confession, which takes up the greater part of the poem. He confesses how in the monastery he felt his own country and his own people forever calling, and how he felt he must seek his own people. He describes his wanderings: how he scrambles down the mountain-side and hears the song of a Georgian woman, and sees her as she walks down a narrow path with a pitcher on her head and draws water from the stream.
At nightfall he sees the light of a dwelling-place twinkling like a falling star; but he dares not seek it. He loses his way in the forest, he encounters and kills a panther. In the morning, he finds a way out of the woods when the daylight comes; he lies in the grass exhausted under the blinding noon, of which Lermontov gives a gorgeous and detailed description—. Perishing of hunger and thirst, fever and delirium overtake him, and he fancies that he is lying at the bottom of a deep stream, where speckled fishes are playing in the crystal waters.
In this poem Lermontov reaches the high-water mark of his descriptive powers. Its pages glow with the splendour of the Caucasus. This poem is written as a folk-story, in the style of the Bylinyand it in no way resembles a pastiche. Imaginative he is, but he is never lost in the dim twilight of Coleridge.
Compared even with Musset and Victor Hugo, how much nearer the earth Lermontov is than either of them! Victor Hugo dealt [ Pg ] with just the same themes; but in Lermontov, the most splendid painter of mountains imaginable, you never hear. Or take Musset; Musset dealt with romantic themes si quis alius ; but when he deals with a subject like Don Juan, which of all subjects belonged to the age of Pushkin and Lermontov, he writes lines like these—. Here again we are confronted with a different kind of imagination.
Or take a bit of sheer description—. The objects themselves suffice. Lermontov sang of disappointed love over and over again, but never did he create a single image such as—.
In his descriptive work he is more like Byron; but Byron was far less romantic and far less imaginative than Lermontov, although he invented Byronism, and shattered the crumbling walls of the eighteenth century that surrounded the city of romance, and dallied with romantic themes in his youth.
All his best work, the finest passages of Childe Haroldand the whole of Don Juanwere slices of his own life and observation, choses vues ; he never created a single character that was not a reflection of himself; and he never entered into the city whose walls he had stormed, and where he had planted his flag.
This does not mean that Lermontov is inferior to the Western romantic poets. It [ Pg ] simply means that the Russian poet is—and one might add the Russian poets are—different. And, indeed, it is this very difference,—what he did with this peculiar realistic paste in his composition,—that constitutes his unique excellence. So far from its being a vice, he made it into his especial virtue. Lermontov sometimes, in presenting a situation and writing a poem on a fact, presents that situation and that fact without exaggeration, emphasis, adornment, imagery, metaphor, or fancy of any kind, in the language of everyday life, and at the same time he achieves poetry.
A case in point is his long poem on the Oprichnik, which has been mentioned; and some of the most striking examples of this unadorned and realistic writing are to be found in his lyrics. The language is the language of ordinary everyday conversation. Every word the officer says might have been said by him in ordinary life, and there is not a note that jars; the speech is the living speech of conversation without being slang: and the result is a poignant piece of poetry.
All Russian poets have this gift of reality of conception and simplicity of treatment in a greater or a lesser degree; perhaps none has it in such a supreme degree as Lermontov.
How in the world did he do it? Thus, what Matthew Arnold said about Byron and Wordsworth is true about Lermontov—there are moments when Nature takes the pen from his hand and writes for him. In Lermontov there is nothing slovenly; but there is a great deal that is flat and sullen. But if one reviews the great amount of work he produced in his short life, one is struck, not by its variety, as in the case of Pushkin,—it is, on the contrary, limited and monotonous in subject,—but by his authentic lyrical inspiration, by the strength, the intensity, the concentration of his genius, the richness of his imagination, the wealth of his palette, his gorgeous colouring and the high level of his strong square musical verse.
And perhaps more than by anything else, one is struck by the blend in his nature and his work which has just been discussed, [ Pg ] of romantic imagination and stern reality, of soaring thought and earthly common-sense, as though we had before us the temperament of a Thackeray with the wings of a Shelley.
Lermontov is certainly, whichever way you take him, one of the most astonishing figures, and certainly the greatest purely lyrical Erscheinung in Russian literature. With the death of Lermontov inthe springtide of national song that began in the reign of Alexander I comes to an end; for the only poet he left behind him did not survive him long.
This was his contemporary Koltsovthe greatest of Russian folk-poets.
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