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The Complete Poems of Tyutchev In An English Translation by F.Jude
The Complete Poems of Tyutchev In An English Translation by F.Jude. – [б.м.]. – 2000.
I dedicate this book to Dr. R. Lane of the University of Durham for sharing with me his great expertise and for his encouragement, to my wife, Viv, and stepsons, Richard and Matthew, for being so patient, to a warm and good person, Julian Marko, who died on February 28th. 1994, for his genuine friendship, and to my father, Hugh, for many reasons.
Imperturbable form is the outward sign
Whence this disharmony? How did it arise?
(The sea is harmony. F. Tyutchev)
... the great figures in imaginative literature are perpetually
contemporary... they never become History. Ancient or modern, they live in
the perpetual present of mankind, crowding it with an accumulation of life
and a living variety of human experience.
A freelance teacher in the north east of England, having taught myself Russian I graduated from the University of Durham in 1972 with first class honours, following this with doctoral research in the work of Tyutchev, supervised by R. Lane. The research was never completed and I returned to it some four years ago, one result being this book.
Early editions of selections of the poems appeared under the surname "Murtagh", the name I was born with and which I have discarded for personal reasons.
Shaheen Razvi is a freelance artist living in Scotland. She has done portraits, illustrated an Urdu text book and a multi-cultural collection of nursery rhymes. She has also contributed a series of oil paintings on an anti-racist theme to a major exhibition.
Foreword By R. Lane To The 1983 Edition
The poet Fyodor Tyutchev is known and appreciated by too few people outside of Russia, and yet his position as second to Pushkin (arguably only with the exception of Lermontov) has been acknowledged by generations of Russian/Soviet writers and critics. The reading public had always cherished his lyrics, although they did not always have sufficient access to them. Tyutchev can teach much of value about both how to savour the beauty of fleeting moments and how to face life's adversities with spirit.
It is precisely these qualities which have, I believe, been caught admirably in Frank Murtagh's translations. They transmit faithfully the feelings and the tone of the originals, sometimes with remarkable success. I believe that he has tackled sensibly the dilemma of the equation facing all translators of poetry - to what extent to reproduce the originals. It seems inevitable that some of the rhymes and the other formal features must be sacrificed to the need to reproduce the "feel" of Tyutchev's often amazing lyrics. Frank Murtagh has trod this tightrope with great sureness and Tyutchev's distinctive style remains largely unsacrificed. Because he has known and loved the Master for so long, his translations have become consonant with the original poems. In this way they fill a real lacuna. For this collection is the first accurate translation in bulk by a British author. Its only forerunner was Charles Tomlinson's slim volume of 1960. This contained poems of great distinction by an eminent poet, but there was more of Tomlinson in them than Tyutchev. What is more, Frank Murtagh has translated more poems than any other author, several for the first time into English, including some of the much neglected political pieces.
This book has been interestingly illustrated by Shaheen Razvi. Certain of the illustrations do not present the poems in the way in which some people might have visualised them, but they are nevertheless a bold break with the pretty-pretty presentation of anthological pieces hitherto dominant.
All in all, I believe that Frank Murtagh's book is essential reading for students and other readers of Russian poetry and is to be warmly recommended.
Foreword To This Edition
Since R. Lane wrote his Foreword in 1983, only one edition of "quality" translations of Tyutchev has appeared till now, Anatoly Liberman's versions of 181 of the poems published in 1991. In calling them "quality" translations, I make a deliberate value judgement, for his is not the only edition of selected poems to have appeared.
There are too many gaps in published Tyutchev scholarship for any one researcher to deal with. The present book is intended to be the first of several of various lengths and formats which I wish to produce as time allows and whose overall aim is to fill some of these gaps. I shall also continue to work at the translations of the poems. I am all too aware of the defects of several of my versions, although I hope they are at least accurately rendered, even if they do little justice to Tyutchev. Very little has been published in English about his personal letters. There has been no serious attempt to translate them in bulk, possibly because the task would be monumental. A satisfactory Russian version of all the poems has yet to appear. Russian editors still tend to favour splitting up the poems according to relative quality, a very subjective business, to say the least. A study of Tyutchev in the letters and memoirs of others would prove illuminating. His family, in particular two of his daughters, Anna and Ekaterina, deserve attention in their own right.
Studies carried out by Russian scholars during the late nineteenth century and the Soviet period, culminating in Pigaryov's Lirika edition and his book on the poet's life and work, Gregg's study of the life and poetry, and Lane's extensive research, represented by numerous articles, some of his contributions published in Literaturnoe nasledstvo (1988-89), now, it seems to me, need drawing together with the many other smaller contributions of the past twenty or thirty years into a single, new book in English on the writer, a thorough, critical re-appraisal of his work. Such a task will be for a new Tyutchev scholar of energy.
Cronological List Of Tyutchev’s Poems
The title/first line of a known translation and the author's name are given after the English title/first line. Some titles are in French or Latin. Where the first line is given in French, the poem was written in French. Italics are used for the first line of each untitled poem. Where the title is a proper name identical in the languages in question, it is given once only (e.g. Sakontala).
This book has two principal objectives: (a) to provide, for the first time in English, an annotated version of all of Tyutchev's surviving poems, including his translations of other writers, which will be of use to the student of Russian, the Tyutchev researcher and anyone involved in the field of literary translation; (b) to serve as the first ever attempt to introduce Tyutchev the poet in full to the reader of literature who knows no Russian.
Most of the annotations deal with history, literary and political. I have incorporated almost all the notes from Pigaryov's edition, (A:33ii) (1) which are a summary of many people's findings, references to Aksakov's biography and extracts from Tyutchev's letters, as well as including comments by many researchers and myself.
The full version and my translation of every identifiable surviving foreign work Tyutchev translated permits readers to consider why he may have chosen particular material for translation in the first place and why he retained its sense or altered it as he did. My versions and, indeed, any translations necessarily afford only an approximate idea of this. The way he dealt with the work of others is in itself a fascinating feature of any research into the poet, for Tyutchev was not always a faithful translator. While certain of these works are very good renditions indeed, others do not pretend to adhere to the sense of the source poem. It is difficult to regard Pesn' skandinavskikh voinov/The Song of the Norse Warriors as a translation of Herder's Morgengesang im Kriege/Morning Song in War Time, written in a folk or pseudo-folk vein, for it doubles the German piece in length and introduces material utterly foreign to the spirit and movement of Herder's work, though the new material does owe a little to Russian folklore. On the other hand, parts of Tyutchev's work are a direct translation or close copy of the German. Tyutchev sticks closely to the original when he chooses to, as in his translation of two short pieces from Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night's Dream, which he probably translated from a good German version, and Hippolytus's death scene from Racine's Phedre. These are skilful renditions, as are a number of shorter works from Heine and Goethe and sections of the latter's Faust (Part 1). But where do we stand with the extract from Hugo's Hernani? It is significantly and deliberately altered in some ways yet retains very large sections of the original. Do we consider the lyric entitled Sakontala to be a translation? It resembles only superficially the originating scene from Kalidasa'splay and is not much like the Goethe version often said to be its inspiration. Classical Sanskrit literature being so popular in the nineteenth century through the work of such as A. Schlegel (1767-1845), Tyutchev's Sakontala should probably be seen as one more of many poems written on one of its themes. The question of what motivated him to alter other works in the subtle ways he did remains, and is beyond the scope of this book.
Because it can be so difficult to know exactly where to draw the line between Tyutchev's original lyrics and his translations/adaptations/paraphrases, I have considered each of his works as part of the one evolving body of poetry without attempting to classify into "lyric", "political" and "occasional", fully aware that I go against standard practice in adopting this approach, although Liberman has recently adopted the chronological manner of grouping the lyrics. (A:19) It has been too common in the past to present the reader with the bulk of what all would agree is his best lyric poetry, leaving other types of verse, for example the political pieces, in what has sometimes amounted to an appendix.
A number of Tyutchev's "lyric" poems, if we follow Pigaryov's categories, are mediocre and some of his political and, indeed, a handful of the so-called "occasional" verses, including a few written in French, are far from inferior. Five of his French poems are good and two are among this reader's personal favourites. To present an undiluted diet of lyric poetry written over roughly fifty years is to give an erroneous impression of Tyutchev. It would be equally misleading to produce a book of solely political verse. It is likely that Tyutchev wrote in these categories more or less simultaneously and we are probably on safe ground in asserting that there is no period of his creative life when he was not producing nature lyrics, political verse, love poetry, superficial occasional lines, philosophical statements and taking limerick-like swipes at people he did not like. Whatever spurred him to write a remarkable description of sunset (Letnii vecher/A Summer Evening ), occurred at the same time as the Russo-Turkish war (see Olegov shchit/Oleg's Shield ) and coincided with an alluring young female turning his head to anything but poetry, as in the erotic, possibly adulterous K N.N./To N. N. . Since poems of all categories were certainly fermenting at any one time, it seems logical to deduce that they all represent in some way the poet as he was at that time. The chronological approach does need to be reinforced. To this end I present Tyutchev's work as I do.
While the exact chronology of the poems before 1847 will probably never be established, I have adhered to the best chronological sequence I can come up with at present. Works clearly showing someone else's influence appear beside those considered truly original. Of course, while a large number of his early nature poems could be said to trace their genesis to German romanticism, a point made early this century by Tynyanov, and Tyutchev being very much a poet who saw the world through literary eyes, the best of them, while sharing imagery and themes with German lyrics, are uniquely characteristic of Tyutchev and often considerably more innovative than many of the works which may have inspired them.
It has often been said that there are cycles in Tyutchev. Poems written to his mistress, Elena Deniseva, are said to make up the so-called Deniseva Cycle. These were produced over several years and in no way constitute a cycle, let alone a "novel in verse". (See A:20, vol.1/58) His relationship with Elena did not cramp his style when it came to writing to and about other women, including his first and second wives and Amalia Krudner, whose name and presence crop up at various stages of his life in letters and poems. Whether poems to women are in question, nature descriptions or lyrics with all the imagery of chaos so beloved of Tyutchev, he simply was not the poet to produce a cycle on any theme, being so unforgivably careless when it came to looking after his work once the interest of immediate inspiration had evaporated. Nodal themes and commonly recurring groups of images, such as the so-called "Holy Night", do not suggest cycles any more than the lyrics addressed to his mistress. Heine's Nordsee/North Sea, parts of which Tyutchev translated, is a cycle. The lyrics take a theme and present it from different angles and with different nuances, but however much each poem might differ from another, they are deliberately, artistically linked by the sea/abandonment theme, or whatever one might wish to call it.
It is not even useful to consider that he wrote lyrics loosely connected, as did Lamartine in his group of Meditations Poetiques/Poetic Meditations, number 1 of which Tyutchev translated, for all too often in Tyutchev spontaneity is of the first importance in the writing of his best works and spontaneity and cycles tend not to go hand in hand. The same applies, from a literary-historical point of view, to periods. Continuity is, as Liberman notes, a most important feature of Tyutchev's style, so much so that "it is hardly possible to detect 'periods' in his creative life", differences, when they do emerge, being "unrelated to the juxtaposition of romanticism and realism". (A:19) Ultimately Tyutchev is unique in being a brilliant and great poet who, it could be argued, had absolutely no desire to be any kind of poet at all.
"It is possible that nothing leads us closer to contemplation of the essence of literature than working at the translation of poetry, or at least thoughtfully appraising such work." (D:11/147) Translation can enjoy certain advantages over exegesis. Translators become acquainted with "their" authors in a way not always permitted by the kind of interpretation which requires neutral objectivity, ever respectfully acknowledging the work of others, be that good, bad or indifferent. There are countless trenchant statements by countless clever translators concerning the problems inherent in the process of literary translation. Does the translator bring the author to the reader, the "domesticating method", as one writer puts it, "an ethnocentric reduction of the foreign text to target-language cultural values, bringing the author back home, or does he adopt the "foreignizing method .... an ethnodeviant pressure on those values to register the linguistic and cultural differences of the foreign text, sending the reader abroad". (D:25/20) Perhaps neither of these methods is applicable to Tyutchev, who, it could be said, was Russian by nationality only and possessed to no significant degree Russian cultural values. To translate one so cosmopolitan, even rootless, perhaps the domesticating and foreignizing methods are irrelevant.
Imitation, for all the following caveat, may be the best means of dealing with the source languages, the imitator having "not the slightest intention of bringing the two together - the writer of the original and the reader of the imitation - because he does not believe that an immediate relationship between them is possible; he only wants to give the latter an impression similar to that which the contemporaries of the original received from it". (D:19/41) In my own translations I often strive to give such an impression, so perhaps I join Schleiermacher's ranks of imitators, though while I accept that it is "foolish to argue for the exact reconstruction of a poem in another language when the building blocks at one's disposal bear no resemblance to those of the original", (D:27/107) I do feel that a more than adequate reconstruction is not beyond the grasp of the capable translator.
Concerning the reproduction of those formal aspects of a poem which set it apart from any other piece of writing, Jacquin allows the translator pretty well free play: "If rhymed verse becomes blank or free verse in translation (something which is sometimes prose in disguise ...) the poet is betrayed and the reader led astray; for the translation deflects from their functions forms inscribed in tradition. But to preserve rhymes is to restrict one's choice of terms, hindered moreover by lexical and grammatical restraints, to risk sacrificing the other values of the piece to the ornament of sound and thus to destroy its cohesive power". (D:6/52-53)
I do not attempt to produce a lyric which reminds an English reader of what he likes in English poetry. Nor is my aim to achieve a general romantic or nineteenth-century "feel", whatever that may be. I do not consider an adherence to formal characteristics to be of the first importance any more than I ignore them, for if they are present in a poem they are important, and if the translator chooses to sacrifice them, something else must take their place in order that the result be poetry and not prose. What is necessary, and it is the only thing that will work, is a juggling act, an ability to read between the lines, keeping one eye on the foreignness of the source and another on what is probably a desire on the reader's part to be presented with something with which he feels comfortable. This idea of "comfortableness" might be considered subjective, even vague, but it is important and can generally be achieved provided the translator can say, with a degree of confidence, "I am acquainted with the person who is that writer".
It is certainly likely that in translating lyric poetry, "the translator will have chosen the poem himself, and even more likely that the task will be undertaken with empathy and a degree of personal commitment". (D:20/631) This personal choice, this commitment on the translator's part is of the first importance. The task might be likened to explaining to an outsider what a close relative or friend who has lost his voice is trying to say. Most emphatically, I am not a poet of any description. My target is simply to introduce the reader directly to Tyutchev.
Aware of the many well-researched conclusions reached by theorists in the field of translation studies, I believe three things are essential in the attainment of this target. The first and most obvious is a good knowledge of the target and source languages; the second, occasionally more controversial, is a degree of expertise in the manipulation of language, a most important willingness and ability to take risks at the expense of structural fidelity, even at the apparent expense of faithfulness to major images and poetic formulae; the third, not readily appreciated by all translators, is an acceptance of the importance of the writer's life, not only his creative life, for on its own this is a thing in a vacuum, but his personal motivations, his social milieux and his political/historical environment. A close acquaintance with the writer can allow us to clear, at least in part, the hurdles posed by the untranslated words. While words cannot always be translated perfectly (2), once the various possible meanings and their nuances, taking into account the age in which they were written, have been listed, the emotions and thoughts which produced them can be coped with to some extent for, whether we be English or Russian, what makes us feel, think, believe the way we do is universal and, therefore, capable of being translated. The reproduction of the word is not, it follows, my ultimate aim, for the words lead us into the thing the writer is expressing. From the melting pot of my priorities emerges, it is hoped, a new creation which is an accurate statement about Tyutchev in a given lyric at a given time.
My translation methods correspond broadly with two of Nabokov's three modes of translation, the "paraphrastic" and the "literal" (D:2, vol. 1/viii). From his early, relatively free translations, Nabokov became more and more dogmatic, even obsessive, scathingly attacking anything other than the purely literal (and by implication his own early, excellent renditions of Tyutchev), once claiming that his ideal translation would be a book of annotations with the corresponding line of verse every few pages: "I want translations in copious footnotes, footnotes reaching up like skyscrapers to the top of this or that page, so as to leave only the gleam of one textual line between commentary and eternity." (D:12/512) However tongue-in-cheek this comment may be, Nabokov began to work according to it, but such a method of translation is (surely) an extreme business unless translation is to be a purely scholarly exercise enjoyed by the few. Such is not the role of art. Concerning the art of translation, Nabokov wrote, "the person who desires to turn a literary masterpiece into another language, has only one duty to perform, and this is to produce with absolute exactitude the whole text, and nothing but the text. The term "literal" translation is tautological since anything but that is not truly translation but an imitation, an adaptation or a parody" (D:13/496-512) (3). Such an approach automatically distances the vast majority of readers from precisely what makes great literature enjoyable. Literalists all too often miss the point. I join those translators who are ready, where appropriate to sacrifice rhyme and assonance "to the silent counterpoint of poetic meaning". (D:22/v)
While annotated literalness creates a gap between reader and writer, its structural cousin, the search for a different kind of literalness through the minefield of any attempt to adhere to formal characteristics such as rhyme, is an equally dangerous business and retention of a poem's formal aspects should be considered only provided the sense and "feel" of the poem remain intact. In producing a work accurate from the point of view of rhyme and metre, the translator will inevitably be stretching the target language, all too often in a contrived fashion, producing an unnatural effect not present in the source work. While the result might be clever, often very good, it cannot be denied that frequently too much will have been lost. Aiming at contextual literalness produces a "story line" bereft of the music. By making formal fidelity one's aim, one can easily lose sight of meaning in the search for shape. Sensitive, informed paraphrastic translation, it seems to me, is the only way forward.
My renderings are literally faithful where appropriate. This is the case with Tyutchev's versions of other poets and with many of the political pieces. There is no point in treating 11-oe maya 1869/May 11th. 1869  in any other than a rigidly literal manner. They are sometimes loosely "poetic", as in Sovremennoe/Today's Event , a political item ending in a more "poetic" structure which Tyutchev uses more than once in his best work. I favour a form of rhythmic prose in poems such as , where there is a certain narrative feel. A number of poems are as they are because I am happy with them, others, I have to admit, leave me far from satisfied. In the translation of poetry, there is never a final word. There remain those versions which, were Nabokov still with us, would be savaged ruthlessly, works which, from the standpoint of imagery and/or structure I have offered in a deliberate, considered mistranslation, though if there results "a slightly wrong meaning", there remains hopefully "a completely right feeling". (D:24/12) Such a work is , my original imagery giving the best effect of which I was capable at the time, the priority being to reproduce the sense of seething, impotent anger and genuine sadness which motivated the poet to write it.
The celebrated Formalist, V. Shklovsky, rightly rejects "authomatisation", for it "eats things, clothing, furniture, your wife and fear of war". (D:12/11-12) Shklovsky believed that the artist is called upon to counteract routine by dealing with objects out of their habitual context, by getting rid of verbal cliches and their stock responses. I am in full agreement with Shklovsky on this matter. I would not at this stage undertake a serious translation of poems by Blok, Baudelaire or Holderlin, even enjoying these writers in their own languages, and certainly being able to translate the words and sentences which make up the elements of their works, for I could not approach them with the confidence with which I know a Tyutchev lyric. Given the often scanty information at hand and the abyss of time between us, I feel I have come to know him to some extent, his milieux, his family, the way he felt and thought and passed the time, whether observing his dog chasing ducks or wishing, on a boat trip, his friend was there with a gun for the shooting of fowl, moaning to all and sundry about his gout and rheumatism, complaining to the heavens that he is bored and lonely, irrespective of the heartache to which he subjects those close to him, pulling Schelling to pieces, cursing the British, the French, the Turks and the Vatican, irritating Pogodin with his intellectual arrogance, vilifying the tsar and his ministers for their crass ineptitude, or angry at his daughter for marrying a sailor who - sin of sins - spoke Russian in preference to French. Such proximity is essential in the production of a good translation, for it allows the translator to pull apart convention and rewrite the poet with confidence.
Shklovsky's "making strange", making form difficult, "seeing" (videnie) as opposed to "recognising" (uznavanie) (ibid.) should be born in mind as the reader approaches many of my translations. The much-anthologised good poem can lose one of its greatest qualities, that of newness, by being anthologised, whether in a book or in a particular, accepted format in the hands of translators, by being there, by looking more or less the same all the time. I believe that the translator must make the reader sit up and pay attention. He must not be the critic who, in Steiner's words, "when he looks back ... sees a eunuch's shadow" (D:7/21). The translator of any literature worth translating must attempt to be, in subtly different yet similar ways, as creative as the writer he is grappling with. From what I have said above, perhaps it follows that great literature needs retranslating every so often in order to make sense to different generations.
While the possessiveness of the committed translator who has "chosen" his poet can allow an illuminating insight into the workings of the writer's mind, it can, of course, work the other way and the good translator needs to ensure that he is producing the writer and not himself playing at being a poet. It is also very easy to become blase about one's knowledge of a foreign language, for unless one is genuinely bilingual, as, indeed, Nabokov was, the brain, albeit translating quickly, nonetheless pauses to translate, and this pause indicates an inability, at times not very significant, to translate instinctively. This pause can also be a useful thing. I have often found, on rendering a poem into English, that an image in the Russian has struck forcefully home for the first time, despite having read the work in question many times. Students of foreign literature could do worse than attempt occasional translation if for no other reason than to satisfy themselves that they have indeed understood what the poet's words actually mean, let alone what might be implied. They should certainly never be put off. If a translator can be so bold as to render Khlebnikov's entertaining Zaklyatie smekhom/Incantation by Laughter into Scots, there is most assuredly hope for the youngest novice (D:4/89).
Where I have taken considerable liberties, there will, it goes without saying, be those who point out that I have altered the structure of the poem and, therefore, its meaning. Whatever the case may be, my target has remained throughout the accurate communication of what I believe Tyutchev was feeling, thinking then saying. I hope that more than a handful of educated Russian speakers now feel that they can enjoy the complete poems of this major writer as a result of my approach, despite it being "as wise to cast a violet into a crucible that you might discover the formal principle of its colour and odour, as seek to transfuse from one language into another the creations of a poet". (D:1/).
The reader unfamiliar with this author will find a story and a life unfolding from the earliest extant poem written on his father's birthday, through truly wondrous nature lyrics, sharp, often hurtful love poems, occasional verse, chauvinistic political pronouncements on Pan-Slavism, philosophical and religious lines, to tormented protests in which an embittered, frightened poet of alienation faces inner turmoil, illness and encroaching death. In the Romantic age of Pushkin and Lermontov we find a seriously "modern" poet; in the realistic age of Dostoevskian and Tolstoyan prose, a poet who would not be disowned by later existentialist writers will be discovered at a time when the reading public is less enthralled by poetry than by Anna Karenina and The Brothers Karamazov.
My former supervisor, Dr. R.C. Lane, is a leading authority in the field of Tyutchev studies. Discussions with him have always proved invaluable. He has read the first section of my manuscript and the endnotes and I am grateful to him for his suggestions, encouragement and general assistance, as well as for kindly writing a foreword to the 1983 edition. I have chosen to retain this, for it says what I wish to have said about my approach and, I feel, could not be improved. His doctoral thesis and many subsequent publications represent, in my view, the fullest, most comprehensive study of the poet in English. He has produced articles and reports on various aspects of Tyutchev's life, poetry and diplomatic work and on some of the philosophical influences in the lyrics in addition to a complete catalogue of works by and about the poet up to 1985. Since he first looked at the manuscript, I have amended certain sections. Any defects in the later or, indeed, earlier material are my responsibility alone.
R. Gregg's book is a solid introduction offering interesting studies of the poems if often somewhat biased towards psychoanalysis. K. Pigaryov's study and I. Aksakov's biography are essential preliminary reading for the specialist, as are many Soviet contributions. The latter contain essential background information. Some deal intuitively with the inspiration behind the greatest poems and cleverly with their structure, notably Tynyanov's famous article on the short lyric as a "fragment" of the neo-classical ode. The point Tynyanov makes is that Tyutchev, wanting to retain the "monumental forms" of the "dogmatic poem" and of the "philosophical epistle", realising that these had more or less disappeared since Derzhavin's time, found his outlet in the artistic form of the "fragment", the latter, he goes on to claim, realised in the west by the Romantics and canonised by Heine. Inevitably Soviet scholarship has suffered from a requirement to give prominence to approved themes. The so-called Tyutchev-Pushkin question is a case in point. On various somewhat spurious bases (e.g. Pushkin once ridiculed Raich, Tyutchev's friend and tutor), an enmity between the two poets was created. Apart from the fact that such a matter is remarkably irrelevant, it is highly unlikely that there is a great deal of truth in it, if any. More important is the fact that since Tyutchev was never part of the mainstream literary scene in his country and famously made no effort to have his best work read by the public before 1836 (he may have deliberately destroyed some of it), such "professional" hostility would probably never have existed. I have avoided any further reference to this matter or to any concerning a comparison of his talents with those of other writers.
Tyutchev has had several translators. Each one worthy of mention has tackled only a very small number of the better known lyrics, with the notable exception of Anatoly Liberman who has taken on the bulk of Tyutchev's best work, sticking rigorously to the formal features, including rhymes. He is the first to have published such a large number of worthy translations of Tyutchev's lyrics, preceded by an excellent introduction. He and I have different attitudes towards poetic translation. He informed me in one of many communications that when I decide not to reproduce Tyutchev's rhyme schemes, the "general aura that okutyvaet" ("enwraps") my renderings tends to make up for this. I am more than happy with this judgement.
Work in Europe and the USA, a relatively slow trickle of research, has laid the as yet extremely narrow foundations of the West's understanding of Tyutchev. Considering the importance of his position in Russian literature, it is astonishing just how many students of western European literature have never even heard of this amazing writer. A lot of building remains. I hope this book will fill one of the gaps in the edifice.
1. References to the Bibliography go as follows:
2. Certain commonly occurring words in Tyutchev make this point:
3. It is worth quoting in full the relevant section of Nabokov's famous
(and infamous) translator's preface to his version of Pushkin's Evgenii
Onegin. Nabokov writes, "Attempts to render a poem in another language fall
into three categories:
A Note On Transliteration
In Russian the commonest «e» sound is more or less the «ye» of «yet». However, due to the role played by stressed and unstressed syllables, the full «ye» is not always heard. I transliterate both this and the second Russian «e» simply as «e». Foreign names beginning with «H» tend to start with «G» in Russian. I retain the «H». I stick to general convention in the cases of certain names (e.g. Tolstoy, Alexander, Ernestine). I reproduce the soft and hard signs by ' and '' respectively and represent the letter i kratkoe by «i». I also tend to omit patronymic names. Where appropriate, the acute accent indicates the stressed syllable. This produces the occasional unfamiliar sound, such as «Sevastopol», and not the «Sevastopol» English speakers are used to.
I am indebted to the following for their assistance:
My book is very much a product of happy years as a student at St. Cuthbert's Society in the University of Durham, a centre of learning with which I have never cut the ties and, hopefully, never shall.
The Tyutchev family tradition, in line with general practice among Russian noble families which liked to link their genealogy with foreign immigrants, had it that a Venetian trader called Dudgi accompanied Marco Polo on his travels to China and, on the way home, settled in Russia. It would be surprising if Tyutchev had not at some time made a flippant quip at the Italian's expense. When d'Anthes was exiled from Russia in perpetuity for slaying Pushkin in a duel, Tyutchev, who never liked living in Russia, remarked, "Well, I'm off to kill Zhukovsky", the latter being the veteran poet and highly esteemed translator (1783-1852) (A:5). From the Niconian chronicle comes the equally attractive tale, impossible to link directly with Tyutchev's family, of the shrewd Zakhary Tyutchev sent by Dmitrii Donskoi as ambassador to the Golden Horde on the eve of the crucial fourteenth-century Battle of Kulikovo. It is said that on receiving a demand for increased tribute to the Horde, the diplomat, on the way home, tore up the Mongol missive and sent the pieces back to the khan. After a great Russian victory, news reached the right quarters and Zakhary became the hero of the tale, Pro Mamaya bezbozhnogo/Concerning Mamai the Godless.
The second son of land-owning parents, (1) Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev was born on November 23rd. 1803 (2) in the village of Ovstug, about thirty kilometres north of Bryansk in what was then the Orlov province (C:15). The village of Ovstug was partly in the possession of the Tyutchevs and lies on the river Desna in a densely wooded part of south west Russia. The family would spend winters in Moscow. In August 1812 they moved temporarily to Yaroslavl on the eve of Napoleon's taking of the capital. The boy was raised in a household where French was spoken almost exclusively, although serfs, servants, nannies and the local clergy used Russian. This made him effectively bilingual. Throughout his life he spoke French. His letters are overwhelmingly in French, as are his articles and a handful of verses.
In 1812 his education was entrusted to Semyon Raich, a conscientious and gifted student of Classical and Italian literature, enthusiastic poet and translator. Tyutchev went up to Moscow University in 1819, graduated and in 1822 entered government service in the Office of Foreign Affairs in St. Petersburg. In the stimulating atmosphere of the capital many would-be-poets made small contributions to Russian letters and played their part in the rapidly developing cultural life of the city. German writers and philosophers were being popularised, particularly Schelling, who referred to Tyutchev as "an excellent and most cultivated man with whom it is always a pleasure to converse" (A:5, vol. 3/492). Tyutchev had a less flattering opinion of the German, as a famous conversation between the two men indicates A:1/319).
In attempting to reconcile Christian mystery with empirical investigation, Schelling fell foul of Tyutchev's sharp mind, probably more than once. Karl Pfeffel (the brother of Tyutchev's second wife) reports the two having several conversations "in the field of metaphysical speculation" (ibid.). Tyutchev felt an instinctive impatience for any scientific system (a distrust which never altered throughout his life) and for anyone who attempted to explain man's presence in the universe as no more than a gradual process of self-cognition. In Tyutchev's view, what Nature allowed to happen simply happened, in her extreme indifference to man. The argument highlights Tyutchev's insistence on blind faith in the scheme of things, despite being a less than devout person himself, but, of course, intellectual conviction can go hand in hand with daily practice which appears to contradict it. After all, Kant the philosopher was the sharpest critic of the Protestantism to which, in practice, he adhered passionately.
Tyutchev's celebrated objection went along the following lines: "You're attempting an impossible task ... A philosophy which rejects the supernatural and wants to prove everything by reason must inevitably be diverted towards materialism in order to drown in atheism. The only philosophy compatible with Christianity is contained in its entirety in the catechism. You must believe what St. Paul believed, kneel before the Madness of the Cross or deny everything. The supernatural is fundamental to that which is most natural to man. It has roots in human consciousness which are far superior to what we call reason, this poor reason which allows only what it understands, in other words nothing". (ibid.)
The section ending at "the Madness of the Cross" (La Folie de la Croix) is as much as most commentators choose to quote. The lines following it, however, might be seen to indicate a nod in the direction of a more general sense of man being but a mote in God's eye. The word "nothing" returns us, perhaps, to the formlessness Schelling was striving from but which Christianity as well needed to escape by producing its own system. That Tyutchev actually adhered to his belief, at least publicly, is born out throughout his life in poetry, conversation and letters. Some of what he thought appears to have been passed on to his clever, influential daughter Ekaterina ("Kitty"). Writing to the great statesman and proponent of conservative nationalism, K. Pobedonostsev (1827-1907), who considered Tyutchev's daughter to be his closest friend, Ekaterina, around whom a significant literary circle often met in her aunt Darya's house, complained of The Brothers Karamazov that Dostoevsky had ignored the fact that "there are deep streams which cannot, should not be touched by the word of man" (B:11iii, vol. 15/495). This comment concerned worries expressed in her circle that Ivan Karamazov's rebellion would be taken more seriously by more people than Zosima's teaching. The comment certainly smacks of the public Tyutchev.
While Tyutchev studied at Moscow, a number of his friends enthusiastically experimented with the relatively untried medium of literary Russian, some as members of Merzlyakov's "little academy". During much of the eighteenth century Russian had tended to be an unwieldy tool for a generally tedious and imitative literature. At the turn of the century such writers as Derzhavin (1743-1816), Karamzin (1766-1826) and Lermontov (1814-41) and Batyushkov (1787-1855) were laying the groundwork of the new literature. Their efforts were crowned by the prolific genius of Pushkin (1799-1826), whose compositions secured Russian literature its rightful place in Europe.
In the year he obtained his first appointment, Tyutchev was offered a post in the Russian legation in Munich, thanks to the efforts of an uncle. Shortly after his return on leave to Russia in 1825, the Decembrists staged their revolt. After it the police arrested scores of young revolutionaries and idealists who had been no more than spiritual sympathisers with the instigators of the uprising. The ringleaders' original sentence, quartering, was commuted to hanging (Russia had not seen the death penalty used for fifty years) and many others wasted their lives in the army in skirmishes with southern tribes or in exile in Siberia. The generally unrebellious Tyutchev produced an interesting work entitled 14-oe dekabrya 1825/December 14th. 1825 , in which the comparison between autocracy and a glacier is tempting for those seeking a revolutionary beneath a conservative veneer. He refers to the insurgents as misguided people. His sadness at their fate is real. The most accurate gauge of Tyutchev's feelings about the Decembrists, if not of his intellectual conclusions, is the poem itself. As a polemical piece directed against would-be revolutionaries it is weak. As an early example of his better poetic imagery it is fairly effective; the glacier image hardly flatters the regime of Nicholas I. The poem is an indication of a growing, very public conservatism and nationalism which lasted all his life, as well as of his day-to-day view of Russia as a cold, undesirable place, both literally and figuratively. Tyutchev's concern about the dangers of revolution, especially close to Russia's borders, became a passion lasting until his death. He would interpret various western European policies as a series of efforts to deny Russia her geographical heritage to the advantage of the Turks. Tyutchev was obsessed by the Eastern Question.
Returning to Munich in 1826, he married Eleonore Peterson (nee von Bothmer), a twenty-six year old widow with three children. She had three more by him (3). Both were impractical people and experienced financial hardship. Little is documented about Darya, but Anna and Ekaterina are revealed in the memories of various people as intelligent, energetic and creative women in different ways. Indeed, Tolstoy himself showed more than a passing affection for Ekaterina. A selection of his comments from 1857 to 1858 gives some idea of the degree of interest he had in her:
"Tyutcheva is nice".
"I'm beginning to like Tyutcheva in a quiet way".
"Tyutcheva. She occupies me persistently. It's even a nuisance, especially since it's not love; it doesn't have love's charm".
"Went to Tyutchev's prepared to love her. She's cold, petty, aristocratic".
"Alas, I was cold towards Tyutcheva".
"I'd almost be prepared to marry her impassively, without love, but she received me with studied coldness". (B:39)
There are girlish hints in the sisters' letters to each other about the possibility of marriage between the daughter of a celebrated poet and one of Russia's greatest novelists, but Kitty once said she was so discriminating that the opposite sex would just have to put up with her never marrying. She never did. She did buy the Varvarino estate in 1873 and began the building of a clinic and a school, also writing children's books and doing a children's version of the Bible. Anna was Tyutchev's favourite and wrote a fascinating diary of her life as lady-in-waiting to the empress (C:19). She married Ivan Aksakov, a major publicist, public figure in the field of Slavophilism, and the poet's first biographer.
Tyutchev travelled through Germany, Austria, Switzerland, visited Paris and, his duties being far from onerous, enjoyed a full social life, returning for a short while to Russia in 1830. A number of poems written during these early years in Europe show the increasing importance of the beauties of west European nature in his life, while there is a tendency to employ images of bleakness when depicting the east European countryside. Coming back from a diplomatic mission to Greece in 1833, he decided to tidy up his desk. In 1836 he wrote to his friend, Gagarin: "What I have sent you is but the tiniest handful of the pile that time has amassed but which fate or some act of incomprehensible providence has dealt with. Having set about sorting my papers in the twilight, I consigned to the abyss the major part of my nocturnal, poetic imaginings, and did not notice this till much later. At first I was somewhat vexed, but soon consoled myself with the thought that the library at Alexandria had also burned. Incidentally, the translation of the entire first act of Part 2 of Faust was there. It's possible that was better than all the rest".
Only one hundred and fifty two lines of his translations of Goethe remain while one hundred and fifteen from Part 2 were lost. For whatever reason Tyutchev did throw out his work, we are facing a significant literary loss, though it seems to have bothered him little, for there will have been poems of the quality of the best ones still in our possession among the pile of papers he destroyed, and Act 1 of the second part of Faust contains the kind of description Tyutchev would have done superbly. While he was capable of getting rid of his work on purpose, we simply have no proof. What we do know is that his poetic eye was very much fixed on the universe around him and not on the scraps of paper for which he had the scantest respect. It is possible that, as Barabtarlo has pointed out [A:2/425], Tyutchev was in the habit of destroying rough drafts and, since his fair copies tend to look like his rough drafts, a genuine mistake must be considered. The flippant tone of this section of the letter is characteristic of his dismissive attitude towards his best work. He describes the lyrics in question as mere elucubrations poetiques/poetic imaginings (almost "ravings"). Such an attitude resulted in his being known as a poet of worth among only a handful of close friends and partly explains why he played no direct part in the Golden Age of Russian poetry.
The situation changed slightly in 1836 when, after constant cajoling, Gagarin finally persuaded his friend to send him some lyrics. Gagarin showed them to Zhukovsky, then to Pushkin, and in the same year sixteen Poems Sent from Germany appeared in Pushkin's journal Sovremennik/The Contemporary, over the initials "F.T.". More appeared later, but for a variety of reasons sparked off little interest in Russia. Tyutchev was not at this time a conspicuous member of the literary scene in his homeland; he was careless when it came to preserving his own lyrics and indifferent to their publication; and the age of realistic prose was on the way in. Tyutchev was "discovered" in the 1890's by such poets as Bryusov, at a time when the idea of pure art, or Art for Art's Sake, was becoming popular. The late thirties and middle years of the century were the age of Belinsky and Dobrolyubov, for whom art had to be socially relevant. Belinsky was also the leading light in the westernising movement which was fundamentally opposed to Slavophilism, the latter to become of increasing importance to Tyutchev as he grew older and settled in Russia. Considering Belinsky's great influence and the rise of the Russian novel, it is hardly surprising that Tyutchev's poetry initially raised little interest.
In May 1838 fire swept the steamer Nicholas I on which Tyutchev's wife and family were travelling to Germany. On board was the young novelist Ivan Turgenev (1818-83). He has given a frank account of the incident in Un Incendie en Mer/A Fire at Sea, describing the panic which swept the vessel and his own terror (B:40ii, vol. 14/186). It seems that Eleonore ("Nelly") Tyutcheva, encumbered by three small children and a nanny, showed great courage and was one of the last to leave the ship. The highly-strung woman who had attempted suicide (probably more of the call-for-help kind) in 1836, did not survive the ordeal and died in August of that year, household tensions having exacerbated her condition. Extreme grief did not prevent Tyutchev from flinging himself into the fast social whirl of Lake Como, at the time being visited by members of the Russian imperial family, and where he met and became friends with Zhukovsky.
In 1839 he married Ernestine von Dornberg. They had been lovers for six years and she was already having his child. Having been allowed to marry but refused leave of absence, he locked up the legation and left, losing secret documents in the process (A:18v). The couple settled in Munich. Tyutchev's decision to take leave of his post despite his superior's refusal of permission had left him jobless. Ernestine possessed a rather calmer personality, not to mention more personal capital, than Eleonore. In his memoirs, Meshchersky, editor of the Grazhdanin/The Citizen, wrote the following of the couple as he observed them in later years in the family seat of Ovstug: "The soul and heart of this family was Ernestine Fyodorovna ... a poetic and sublime woman in whom the intelligence, the heart and the charm of a woman fused into one harmonious and graceful whole ... Fyodor Ivanovich himself was some kind of visitor in spirit to this household ... Life's prose did not exist for him. He divided his life between poetic and political impressions." (C:15/65)
In the early 1840s the poet wrote a number of nationalistic poems and published his first political letter, the Lettre a M. le Docteur Gustave Kolb/Letter to Doctor Gustav Kolb (A:33i), attacking the German press which saw Russia as a threat to German unification. In it he also attempted to explain Russia's role in relation to what he saw as the revolutionary West. This idea was to evolve into the later theme of the legitimacy of humble, peasant, Orthodox Russia opposed to the fundamentally illegitimate, anti-Christian Europe and recurred in two further articles written during the years 1848-50 (ibid.) and some political poems, the latter produced from 1844 to 1873, nearly half his surviving output in terms of lines written. At their worst they are tendentious, biased and turgid though, despite what some commentators have always thought, rarely anything less than sharply thought out and often cleverly expressed. At their best they possess a highly eloquent quality of indignation and frustration. The political verse was the only part of his poetical output he made any effort to publish. He was known to have taken such work along to an editor personally while he could scribble lyrics of worth on scraps of paper for others to find, dictate them, send them in letters, and generally not appear to care whether they ever saw the light of day. Gagarin's insistence that he be allowed to get his friend's poems published might well have been the kind of trigger annoying Tyutchev enough to make him throw them out in a fit of pique.
As a writer destined for a place in the history books, the odds were stacked against Tyutchev. Obviously when impelled as a poet to write, his interest lasted as long as his inspiration and afterwards he felt no need to take any trouble over the physical manifestations as the emotions in which they took their source had been replaced by others. His political writings answered a different need and were calculatedly produced to make influential people see things from his point of view, not to mention ultimately persuade his former employers to look favourably on him once more and, after his marriage, give him a job. This worked, and after Tyutchev settled in Russia in 1844, it was as an increasingly respected government official.
Although he and his family visited the West several times over the following years, Russia had become his permanent home. Several poems written from this point express longing for the blue skies, warmth and light of Western Europe, and on many occasions he refers to Russia in such unflattering terms it is difficult at first to understand his constantly passionate defence of that country. And, despite adoring nature, he spent most of his time in towns. Indeed, "this champion of Russia and its peculiarly eastern way of life was seldom happier than when he was leaving for the West; while Russia's greatest nature poet was throughout his Russian years at least, a confirmed city-dweller". (A:14/17)
In 1846 he met Elena Deniseva, over twenty years his junior. The ensuing love affair scandalised polite society and caused the partners intense emotional suffering and bitterness. Elena's mother was Principal of the Smolny Institute, a girls' school where Darya and Ekaterina were pupils. Elena more than cared passionately for him. She was neurotically convinced that she and she alone was the real Mrs. Tyutcheva and that only external circumstances prevented their marrying. She was known for irrational behaviour and tantrums, at least once throwing an object at her lover. He could not endure life without her. She bore them three children. Fully aware of all this, Ernestine remained stoically faithful, although once did suggest they separate for a while. As the affair became a major talking point, society shunned Elena, though Tyutchev remained in as much demand as ever in the salons of the capital. It caused displeasure at court level and resulted, peripherally, in old Mrs. Deniseva being forced to leave her post.
The love affair produced a small body of lyrics rightly considered to be among the finest love poems in Russian. Short, sometimes employing a dialogue technique in which the lyric-hero appears to be conversing with his lover, sometimes taking the form of monologues, and frequently characterised by a cogent, highly lyrical and profound sense of his own inadequacy and selfishness, the Deniseva poems bare the love affair like an open wound. In these and other works about love and his relationships with people close to him, there is often a quality of anger and open contempt for the opinions of a narrow-minded public ever ready to cast the first stone. Tyutchev's deserved reputation as a great nature poet should never be allowed to eclipse his standing as portrayer of the love-hate relationship which accompanies an illicit love affair. He is a ruthless analyst of the anguish tormenting an individual in his blackest moments.
While he never ceased writing entirely, there is a hiatus from 1838 to 1847. In 1847 he began composing once more in quantity. He was reinstated in government service in 1845 and in 1848 became Senior Censor in the Russian Foreign Office and ultimately a fairly liberal Chairman of the Committee of Foreign Censorship. During 1848 he wrote La Russie et la Revolution/Russia and Revolution (A:33/i), an article dealing with the role of Orthodox Christians as saviours of their brother Slavs in the west. A third article, La Papaute et la Question Romaine/The Papacy and the Roman Question (ibid.), attacked the Catholic Church for the secularism which had, in Tyutchev's mind, inevitably infected it since its break with Orthodoxy. From this point, these themes are frequently reinforced in the poetry.
Tyutchev remained till his death obsessively anxious about Russia's historical destiny, characteristically never pulling his punches, certainly in his letters and often by hint and image in the lyrics, when it came to expressing disapproval of official Russian policy. He experienced genuine anger and grief at the Crimean debacle and never lost his capacity for berating the West, the Vatican and the waning Turkish empire. He maintained a steady, often impassioned interest in foreign affairs generally. His statements about politics, oral or written, are clever, frequently sarcastic, and constantly nationalistic, although, despite not trusting it politically, his love of the west never deserted him. His shock at the Russian defeat in the Crimea was repeated, if not so publicly, at France's rout in the Franco-Prussian War.
His personal happiness was marred by several blows. Elena's death of tuberculosis in 1864 shattered him. Family bereavement followed. Two of Elena's children by him died, as well as his eldest son Dmitrii, his daughter Maria, and his brother. With that dark humour which never left him, Tyutchev compared his existence, rapidly emptying of those close to him, to the game of patience in which one by one cards vanish from the pack. All the same, till the end he was unable to resist the charms of a young, pretty woman, as a jocular album contribution tells us in 1872 . It expresses doubt at what his senses tell him, in other words that a fine day (the woman) has arrived in November (his old age).
Increasing ill health and anguished thoughts of his own death tormented him during the final years, although a certain amount of probably harmless womanising was still possible. The widow Elena Bogdanova was his last fling and, while nothing is thought to have come of it, it showed the aged Tyutchev still capable of that selfishness which could all too easily be interpreted as lack of concern for his own family. Such difficulties and grief accompanied at this late stage a growing reputation as a poet. While the poetic output of the last half dozen years of his life is often considered mediocre, he composed several masterpieces during this period. They cover the common themes of personal suffering and ageing [284, 309], man's relationship as an individual to Nature , nature description, sometimes with a clever political subtext [295, 297, 298], superbly indignant attacks on narrow-minded people  and the Vatican , epigrammatic profundities [311, 347, 385], and an astonishing, elegiac description of the gardens of Tsarskoe Selo . Despite composing lyrics of genius, Tyutchev remained totally uninterested in his work.
In January 1873 the first of several strokes partly paralysed him and on July 15th. he died.
Pantheism is a synthetic view of the universe, an outlook bringing together all facets of creation, making of all things one and not permitting any categorisation of existence into "nature", "man", "God" or "gods". Tyutchev certainly appears to be a pantheist. Whether there is ultimately a consensus of opinion about the question of his poetic attitude to nature, suffice it to say that many of his lyrics are so replete with sensation in the face of its beauties that "pantheistic" is one of several labels which will endure over the years.
In short, often aphoristic lyrics written in simple, lucid Russian - despite a number of archaisms, which remain quite easy to cope with - he depicts nature as an ordered, palpable entity with which man is often at one. Equally there are lyrics expressing his sense of being cut off from nature, in which he is aware of currents of disorder. Tyutchev's poetry - and Tyutchev the man, in many ways - are bipolar. Tyutchev's poetic images for this order and disorder are "cosmos" and "chaos", and he employs a wide range of vocabulary to describe them. Chaos is frequently seen to be a result of man's drawing back from the whole in order to observe existence, split it into separate phenomena and compartmentalise these. When Tyutchev writes of that aspect of existence we commonly refer to as "nature", he indulges in no trite pathetic fallacies; his apostrophes to nature are deeply experienced statements of wonder and empathy. There is no vapid philosophising, drawing of predictable moral conclusions nor attempt to construct scientific or philosophical structures to explain things; his scenes represent his sense of man's physical and mental oneness with the universe, the universe not only of space, but of time. "In Tyutchev's poetry, the temporal epochs of human life, its past and its present fluctuate and vacillate in equal measure. The unstoppable current of time erodes the outline of the present." (A:20/487)
In sensing man's position in the universe, Tyutchev produces in his best lyrics a feeling of genuine awe. The reader feels the movements of the air and the sea, the heat of the sun on peaks, warm rain from a spring sky, and such nature phenomena are there for their own sakes. When he describes mountain summits as bozhestva rodnye/gods who are our cousins , he does more than simply transplant classical deities into a given landscape after the fashion of the eighteenth century mimicking its Roman mentors. He is, indeed, behaving more like many classical authors themselves, for whom nature was literally peopled by gods.
Dealing with a world Tyutchev felt was teeming with its own kind of life leaves the reader with the impression that man, while observing nature, is himself one of its creations. In the best poems, the immediately accessible visual-audial-tactile level, the "feel" of the poem, is more than merely a set of references to Hebe, Zeus, Pan or Atlas, "titanising" nature, as Gregg puts it (A:14/78). In Tyutchev, mythologisation is a powerful poetic technique and involves an ability to animate a scene in such a way as to recall to us a common, ancient sense of belonging and oneness. To claim that simple "titanising" is taking place is to demean this writer, whose poetic statements bear some resemblance to Vico's. The latter's "new science" castigated "our civilised natures" because by them "we ... cannot at all imagine and can understand only by great toil the poetic nature of these first men" (B:43/22). Tyutchev resurrects an ancestry scientific man had apparently forgotten. Natural objects and phenomena in his nature poems are portrayed in a manner strikingly innovative for the age, precisely because of this skilfully manipulated awareness that man is literally part of nature and not apart from it. "Myth" in Tyutchev is neither toy nor pretty poetic game. Myth is a kind of truth every bit as valid as the scientific "truth" he attacked in the early poem addressed to A. Muravyov, A.N.M. . Myth is seen as ancient man's way of explaining the universe and, years after Newton and Descartes, it remained as valid as ever to Tyutchev, despite, or perhaps because of being "unscientific". In this sense Tyutchev fits into the broad Romantic mould of Lamartine and Hugo, who represented a revolt against the rationalism of the pre-Revolutionary years in France.
As for the difference in feel between the earlier "European" nature poetry and the later "Russian" lyrics, while his attitudes and emotions were subject to different ageing and environmental influences, I feel it is glib to consider that "the image of nature, which had been largely mythocentric in the early Munich years and anthropocentric in the following decade, is now very largely its own excuse for being." (A:14/193) Tyutchev's attitude towards nature never changed. He was a floating particle in it, unable to comprehend it, unlike Pascal who believed he could understand it through reason, and whether we have in mind the lush, warm, bustling quality of the Munich years (Kozhinov rightly mentions the mnogolyud'e/populousness of the early years (A:17/352-353)), or the desertedness of the Russian works, the same awareness of being subservient to nature is evident. The changes affecting Tyutchev the man, the poet, the diplomat, the errant husband did not alter the sense of awe with which he dealt with the natural world around him.
Tyutchev produces some amazing results. Sometimes it is as if a mystery is about to unfold over the earth, as when nocturnal lightning-flashes tease the clouds, Kak demony glukhonemye/Vedut besedu mezh soboi/like deaf-mute ghouls/debating heatedly . In Son na more/A Dream at Sea , and Kak okean ob''emlet shar zemnoi/Just as the ocean curls around Earth's shores , the boundary between two kinds of reality, that of dream/hallucination and diurnal, observable existence is hazy. Man is often described as being abandoned and frighteningly alone in an incomprehensible, boundless universe, and when this is not stated it is implied. Behind the cosmos, the chaotic elements of the thing that is Tyutchev-in-nature are ever-present, part of an essential, inescapable reality, a Pascalian duality evident from the earliest poems, in his letters and refusing to leave him in peace even in his final years.
At first glance the western-nature lyrics are his most attractive works. They are certainly the most numerous and, even permanently settled back in Russia, he often wrote poems of reminiscence in which some of the magic of the European days raises its head. They are descriptions of sun-soaked lands, vernal and aestival days, warm nights by the Mediterranean beneath clear, star-filled skies. They are also, as a rule, skilfully anthropomorphic. When it comes to concreteness, incredible accuracy of detail and photographic precision in placing objects in a landscape, those poems describing Russia's countryside are far superior and earn Tyutchev a special place in Russian letters as a poet who, despite his dislike of his native land, has produced among the finest verses possible about the bleaker aspects of that country, so much so that one questions the traditional approach whereby he is seen as a poet of the West who also wrote about Russia. The sharp-limned landscapes of the "Russian" poems are almost entirely lacking in the "European" ones, whose unbelievable landscapes are deceptive, for they are frequently vague. In them the reader feels heat but does not always see a great deal to suggest it to the eye. In the greatest Russian poems, things are generally "seen".
In Russia it is not often the case that laughing, benign nature distracts him, makes him feel contented. He observes the harsh reality of his surroundings for what it is and depicts it with unerring sureness of touch. His Russian nature poems are not indicators of any sense of well-being. Many of them are "cold" and it is in them that we discover some of the most wondrous visual effects of his entire oeuvre. In Na vozvratnom puti/On the Journey Home , ponderous clouds and stagnant pools make a feeble hearkening back to western blueness (11.14-16, pt.2) mediocre by comparison. The perfectly placed strand of spider-web across a furrow in Est' v oseni pervonachal'noi/There is a fleeting, wondrous moment , is evidence of the poet's huge talent in describing scenes, here implying, as Tolstoy noted, restfulness after hard work by the peasants in the fields by the careful positioning of a single, aptly chosen object. In these and others, heady mythologisations are supplanted by sad, bleak external reality. But the resulting poetry is astonishing.
This is not to say that there are no "warm" poems describing the Russian countryside. The movement of Tikhoi noch'yu, pozdnim letom/Quiet evening late in summer , eight lines produced as if in a single exhalation, not even constituting a sentence, is not exceptional. In Neokhotno i nesmelo/Timidly, unwillingly , simple images culminate in a charming image of the sun shyly peaking down at a land "crumpled" (smyatennaya) by a warm shower. There are others. While as descriptions they are better, there is, nonetheless, something missing, and it is something in the poet himself: quite simply, while geographically at home, in spirit he is not. This ability to create superb poetry about locations he does not enjoy living in is further evidence, if it were needed, of his gift.
When Tyutchev is at his best in those early years (1822-44) when he lived and worked in Western Europe, he is truly great. In one of his masterpieces, Letnii vecher/A Summer Evening , the almost magical sense of peace is achieved by transforming the earth into a giantess from whose head the setting sun rolls heavily, while stars become creatures physically hoisting up the sky and a nature-goddess sensually splashes her feet with cold water after a day of oppressive heat. There is in such works a sense of excitement and sensual delight, occasionally a hint of apprehension, in the presence of natural beauty which cumulatively produces skilful landscapes, remaining at once superb natural descriptions and indicators of the poet's state of mind. The picture is wonderful, unparalleled in that era, and it is doubtful if any purely concrete treatment could improve upon it. In Snezhnye gory/Snowy Mountains , the earth is an enormous female expiring in the sun while youthful mountain peaks play games with the sky. By stark contrast one of the very few early Russian nature poems, Zdes', gde tak vyalo svod nebesnyi/Here the sky stares inert , contains sparsely sprouting bushes and lichens, ugly creatures of nightmare, inmates of some fevered dream even before Tyutchev uses that smile (Kak likhoradochnye gryozy/like fevered dreams).
Tyutchev will always be best known for his nature poetry which has, perhaps, been anthologised at the expense of other kinds. His nature lyrics are extremely simple to read, relying on short, uncomplicated verses and generic language (in Tyutchev there are few birches, oaks or elms; there are many "trees"). As in the lyrics of Pasternak, it is often as if we are surveying a scene for the first time, objects and their surrounding phenomena appearing as they were "on the first day of creation". (See .) Such poems as those described are, in addition, much more than a series of nature descriptions of genius.
His poems contain images so nodal that they become the lynchpins of whole poetic scenarios. Son translates both "sleep" and "dream". Tyutchev is a master at playing with this word. Dreams become part of diurnal life, linking man with his inner life. Nature sleeps and dreams change into young deities playing around woods and mountains. Sleep can be the erotic state of half-slumber or the nightmarish version of hell blazing from the night sky. In the form of half-sleep, or dozing, it forms part of daily life and we all readily daydream (his words for this kind of dreaming being gryozy and mechty). Dream, attained through sleep, may be a harking back to ancient memory, individual or collective. Son zheleznyi/iron sleep represents the atrophied intellects and hearts of the Russia of Nicholas I. Sleep can be the romantic escape route from daily reality into fantasy. From the very beginning, in such an early work as an adaption of Heine's Ein Fichtenbaum steht einsam/A spruce tree stands alone , he is mesmerised by the quality of dream, for "it... (Heine's poem - FJ) is a dream-poem. Its melody soothes asleep the Argus-eye of common sense ... And again, it is a poem about a dream; about the bitter sweetness of all passionate yearning for things so remote that only in dream can they be ours". (C:23) Sleep/dream is tantalisingly multi-purpose. What is more, it does not develop through a series of stages as a poetic image. Rather, as part and parcel of life at any one moment, it is present from the start.
"Night", "Time", "Space" - these and others are concepts of the first importance to Tyutchev. His expression of what lies behind the facade of the universe and those dark elements within man's inner being owes more than a little to Pascal, one of whose Pensees goes, "The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me" (B:31/233). Tyutchev once remarked in a letter to Ernestine (1858), "I don't think anyone can ever have felt themselves as empty as I do faced by these two oppressors and tyrants of humanity: time and space". Night in Tyutchev is the poetic image often covering economically and simply the vast notions of time and space as they affect man in his struggle through life. A given scene in Tyutchev has little to do with any Schellingian idea of some primordial blackness out of which we gradually move. Such an "evolution" does not exist in Tyutchev. He is preoccupied with eternal night forever threatening man while ever aware of fullness, of man being part of a living nature, a result of its creative impulse. However he expresses his feelings about his universe of cosmos and chaos, whether Tyutchev/man is central or peripheral, Nature does not change.
There are too many strands to Tyutchev's talent as a poet of nature to deal with in such a short introduction. There is lyrical position, the up-down movement of so many of his pieces, be it someone looking down at a river along which a steamer chugs , or as if flying and gazing down into a valley , staring up into the sky at star-deities looking down at him [167,176], or experiencing the sickly, hallucinogenic sensation of floating above a nightmare storm . The use of a sudden flash from or into a different time, sometimes almost a different universe, is common, its earliest manifestation being Problesk/The Gleam . Weaving natural phenomena into the very body of a woman, as in the raindrops image of [102,106] and the sky-woman picture of , is one of his most effective techniques, and the sense of some sound being almost out of earshot , are but a few of the different and powerful techniques Tyutchev brought to Russian poetry.
Tyutchev was renowned for the attentions he paid to women; not to an ideal, to some poetic notion of femininity, but to flesh-and-blood women. "Tyutchev knew the woman (zhenshchinu - FJ) (for depth of passion, no-one has yet matched him), but Femininity (Zhenstvennoe - FJ) was the field of Lermontov, Fet, Vladimir Solovyov, Blok" (C:20, vol.1/217). There are many poems to many women and matching up verse and female can be an amusing guessing game. His lines vary from K Nise/To Nisa , apparently written in a fit of pique - he clearly did not always get his own way, sexual or otherwise - to K N. N./To N. N., a poetic masterpiece of lust , through the playfully lightweight Cache-cache/Hide and Seek , the mysterious, languorous Ital'yanskaya villa/An Italian Villa , dealing with his affair with Ernestine, the poems to Elena which show lovers' arguments and recriminations, to his final old man's reminiscences about past glories. Tyutchev the love poet does not allow of anything other than a woman's full commitment to him, shows his irritation at Elena's demands to be the one woman in his life, and treats of his awareness of his lifelong selfishness. There is a dramatic quality to some of these poems, even those with no other protagonist (for Tyutchev's lyrics can be monologues, the audience before him and another character just off stage, listening). Equally, the love poems give space to the genuine and soft aspect of the emotion and to Ernestine's strength.
Love in the lyrics is a mixture of deep, genuine, tender feeling and lust, fired, especially in the Deniseva years, by a sense of conflict. His love affair with Elena produced gems of poetic anger, as in Chemu molilas' ty s lyubov'yu/What you guarded in your heart :
Akh, esli by zhivye kryl'ya
Equally he can address himself with unconcealed cruelty, almost contempt:
I, zhalkii charodei, pered volshebnym mirom,
In Ital'yanskaya villa/An Italian Villa , having taken the reader through a soothing description of the villa, its cypresses and babbling fountain, Tyutchev, there with his mistress, Baroness von Dornberg, while his family was in St. Petersburg, makes those very natural items voice the lustful sensations undoubtedly running through the lovers:
Vdrug vsyo smutilos': sudorozhnyi trepet
Admittedly the poem concludes as the poet openly wonders whether he and his mistress have crossed a "forbidden threshold", suggesting that the life they are living right then is "wicked", that their love is "turbulently hot", but until that final stanza, love is in the hands of the nature surrounding them.
Spurred on by the possible marriage of Gorchakov to his niece and by the attendant gossip, Tyutchev attacked the scandal-mongers in an indignant work in which Nadezhda Akinfeva's soul is "cloudless", its "azure" untroubled by wagging tongues. He concludes with a typical piece of cleverness:
K nei i pylinka ne pristala
The physical attributes of the woman, dealt with in terms of the sky and the air around her (the speck of dust floating in it), become as important in this poem as the direct effect exerted on her by what society had to say about the affair. The superb music of Vostok belel. Lad'ya katilas'/The east whitened , with its liquid repetitions running through each stanza, bears a long with it a concrete, possibly sexual situation which is inseparable from the verbal expression of the coming of dawn.
There is a great deal of self-centredness in Tyutchev's depiction of love. In a remarkable work on Elena's final days , he produces one of his most characteristic types of poem, one in which nature and woman are somehow interlinked, nature remaining, as always, indifferent to human suffering:
Ves' den' ona lezhala v zabyt'i,
As warm, summer rain falls through branches, gaily and loudly splashing, the dying woman comes to and mutters how much she had loved it all. Shadows, literally and figuratively, gather over her, yet Tyutchev saves his burst of anguish for the realisation that he will have to "survive" her death. This is not the only example of a lyric in which he complains that he must survive someone else's agony.
The image of love as the one thing Tyutchev could forever hold on to, despite the vicissitudes of a fate he so often reviled, stayed with him till his death. The very last word he wrote was "love":
Voskresnet zhizn', krov' zastruitsya vnov,
It remains to look at the political poems. They have never been seriously studied as poetry. Not all are tasteless. Some are even good. A few, perhaps, may be better than a small number of his non-political lyrics. In the quality of their indignation and the unswervingly accurate, clever sniping backed up by witty rhymes and memorable metres, they will have caused more than one pompous figure to wriggle uncomfortably. Some, of course, are dreadful, but Tyutchev was fully aware of this. Conscious all the time of his every line being the subject of scrutiny of the censors of whom he was, in later life, an influential member, he knew precisely what to say, to whom, when and how, although he did occasionally get it wrong and found his own works the target of the editing pencil. (See [39, 132, 370].)
Gregg (A:14/146) appears to see a flaw in Tyutchev's personality which produces such apparent ravings as those lines from Russkaya Geografiya/A Russian Geography , in which the poet describes the Nile and the Ganges as elements of the Russian empire. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Tyutchev was an exceptionally intelligent and cunning writer and chose his themes and times carefully. It should not be forgotten that from the time he began writing till the year he died, Russia was embroiled in one ajor foreign-policy adventure or war after another, among them the Napoleonic invasion of 1812, the Russo-Turkish war (1828-9), three Polish uprisings (1830, 1846, 1863), the Crimean catastrophe (1853-6) and the Khivan campaign of 1873. Nationalism is a heady force, especially at times of war and depression, and, bearing in mind Russia's eternal paranoia about invasion, borders and ice-free ports, Tyutchev's nationalistic outpourings can easily be understood. It is inaccurate and misleading in the extreme to attribute these political works to some psychological aberration. To claim that the ideology of the political verse is "expounded with the repetitive rigidity of a child's catechism, their realia .. the kings, swords, flags and altars of a boy's adventure book ... enunciating with obsessive regularity the themes of betrayal of Russia, punishment and the necessary submission to authority" (A:14/146) is to misunderstand verse which, while taking the message seriously, in his heart of hearts Tyutchev must have cringed at. To continue by saying that if "ultra-nationalism is taken to represent an adult's refusal to accept maturity, then it becomes (as in Tiutchev's case) an infantile disorder" (ibid.) is to make of relatively straightforward matters something complex and employ a totally inappropriate vocabulary to make the point. When it came to politics, Tyutchev always knew precisely what he was saying.
Frequently a mediocre political pronouncement starts or finishes powerfully, the poetic mediocrities reserved for the central "message" part of the work. In  he begins thus:
Uzhasnyi son otyagotel nad nami,
The poem then develops quickly along overtly nationalistic, largely non-lyrical lines, culminating in a call to Russia to stand firm when faced with foreign hostility. There is a warm start and a gently eerie finish to :
Nad russkoi Vil'noi starodavnoi
V tot chas, kak s neba mesyats skhodit,
Over ancient, Russian Vilnius
and as the moon's about to leave the sky,
The opening of Gus na kostre/Hus at the Stake  parallels the lyric poem Pozhary/Fires . The political piece begins:
Kostyor sooruzhyon, i rokovoe
The more lyrical of the two works is a treatment of the cunning, treacherous beast which is the fire:
Na pozharishche pechal'nom
The three thematic groups, nature, love and politics, all too briefly dealt with above, sum up Tyutchev's poetic preoccupations. This is not to say that he did not have other themes. There are justly famous religious and philosophical poems, but a number of the religious works are inextricably linked with politics and many of his philosophical lines are scattered through works which more properly belong in one of the other categories. One reaches a point in Tyutchev where it becomes impossible to classify accurately, for themes and imagery spill across borders. And just as his political works are not all bad, so many of his religious lyrics, far from being "flaccid little exercises in other people's piety" (A:14/137-9), are "inspired and noble", possessing a "depth and sincerity" which "cannot be doubted" (A:18vii/328). His philosophical works are equally genuine. Tyutchev did not present a system of ideas in his lyrics, rather expressing "moods and problems which the leading thinkers were only beginning to tackle and of which others were not yet even aware". (ibid./330-1) These moods and problems of which Lane speaks are dealt with, often subtly, certainly not always overtly, in poems of many kinds.
No matter how a reader reacts to Tyutchev's oeuvre as a whole or to one or the other of his broad categories, the poet must ultimately be judged on his greatest lyrics. In the thirties, no Russian poet produced such a work as Letnii vecher/A Summer Evening . Lines containing the echoing depression of Bessonnitsa/Insomnia  flowed from the pen of neither Pushkin nor Lermontov. There are many other examples of the uniqueness of this poet: the egocentric, strange detachment of a mind floating above a world which might be real or unreal, as in Eshchyo shumel vesyolyi den'/The happy day was loud , the almost sexually explicit final stanza of K N. N./ To N. N. , the slow, languorous movement and ominous imagery of fading and death of Osennii vecher/ An Autumn Evening , the Pascalian picture of man hanging lost in an abyss of Kak okean ob''emlet shar zemnoi/Just as the ocean curls around earth's shore , and the pithy, philosophical comment made with impressive economy, as in Silentium!/Stay Silent! , containing his most famous line, Mysl' izrechennaya est' lozh'/A thought you've spoken is untrue.
Tyutchev's existing poetic works consist of just under four hundred pieces. Approximately half of these are translations, occasional poems and the political verse. Of the remaining fifty per cent not all poems are of equal merit and his best works are very short. It is remarkable that on the basis of such an insignificant output in terms of lines written, over such a long period, Tyutchev should be considered at least the equal of Lermontov and by no means far behind Pushkin in the pantheon of Russian poets, although such a situation is not unique. After all, Kafka wrote little fiction. Tyutchev's importance is attributable not only to the very high quality of poems written in a relatively new literary age, that which began in Russia at the end of the eighteenth century and developed apace throughout the "golden" nineteenth, when Russia boasted scores of clever, talented poets whose work was by no means inferior to that of their Western counterparts. Ultimately, perhaps, we judge him on that originality, that sense of being different which is a characteristic of the voice out of place in its time, for Tyutchev's most celebrated lyrics are brilliant, often troubling works which do not properly represent the first third of the nineteenth century. So many observations inspiring his lyrics triggered conflict in his mind. His scenes, even at their most idyllic, are parts of a larger picture of anxiety. Turmoil and brooding questioning are central to Tyutchev's view of the universe and he expresses them with a very modern, uncompromising sharpness which appeals to our own age rather more, perhaps, than the florid, immense variety of Pushkin and Lermontov.
1. Tyutchev's parents were Ivan (1776-1846) and Ekaterina (nee Tolstaya, 1776-1866). He had a brother, Nikolay (1801-70) and a sister, Darya, (1806-79), married name Sushkova). Apart from these, Sergei, Dmitrii and Vasilii died in childbirth.
2. Prior to the decree of February 14th. 1918, Russia used the Julian calendar which was twelve days behind the Gregorian in use in the West. The two dating systems are referred to as Old and New Style and all dates in this book are Old Style.
3. His first wife was the widowed Eleonore Peterson (nee Countess von Bothmer, 1799-1838), four years older than he and with three children of her own. She had three daughters by Tyutchev, Anna (1829-89), Darya (1834-1903) and Ekaterina (1835-82). His children by his second wife, Baroness Ernestine von Dornberg (nee Pfeffel, 1810-94), also a widow, were Maria (1840-72), Dmitrii (1841-70) and Ivan (1846-1909). His mistress, Elena Deniseva (1826-64) bore him Elena (1851-65), Fyodor (1860-1916) and Nikolai (1851-65).
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© Разработчики: Андрей Белов, Борис Орехов, 2006.|
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