A. Lavretsky (Iosif Moiseevich Frenkel) 1918
Author: A. Lavretsky (Iosif Moiseevich Frenkel);
First published: 1918 in Slovo o Kulture, pp. 61-79;
Translated by: Anton P.
With the exception of the inspired article by Vladimir Solovyov, in which Tyutchev’s worldview was brilliantly constructed, and Fet’s unusually subtle, but little-known aesthetic assessment, we have no positive data about the poet and his poetry. Our critics – Gornfeld, Merezhkovsky, however, touched on the problem of Tyutchev’s personality – the psychology of his work, but as the first question was incompletely developed, so was it incorrectly raised by the other, for which Tyutchev was not a goal, but only a pretext for preaching the synthesis of individualism and the public. D. S. Merezhkovsky tried to squeeze into pre-prepared formulas the living, quivering content of wayward poetry, least of all amenable to the oppression of formulas, diverse and intricately confusing. And the poet’s muse slipped away from the Procrustean bed prepared for her by Merezhkovsky. All that was left of her was an unfaithful ghost...
You can’t help but regret it. True paths to revealing the “psychology” of this poetry would lead us to a deeper comprehension of its “philosophy”. Much in the worldview of a brilliant poet would become clear to us. Psychology would give the key to its cipher. The absence of a psychological basis is an extremely large gap, and in Solovyov’s excellent study, a gap that has not yet been filled.
We do not claim to solve this riddle. Anyone who has even penetrated a little into this, as yet virgin, forest of Tyutchev’s creativity, knows how intricately the most heterogeneous elements of his poetry are intertwined. It is a knot. And it is not necessary to cut it, but to confuse: the whole point, after all, is precisely this, the matter is painstaking and difficult. We will try only partly to restore the truth.
Merezhkovsky cuts this knot. The entire formulation of the question given by him testifies to such a fruitless way of solving the problem. According to the scheme of oppositions inevitable for this writer, Tyutchev is compared with Nekrasov as an individualistic, even egoistic poet. His poetry is the poetry of individualism. Above all, the critic believes, Tyutchev puts his “I”, and he sacrifices everything.
We think that the question of Tyutchev’s individualism is much more complicated. Of course, the “I” occupied one of the most important places in Tyutchev’s poetry. But it does not follow from this that he was an individualist. The “I” can be treated as a sinful principle, as a disease. And this is how Tyutchev treated human individuality.
The poet is undoubtedly religious, in his poetry he expressed the same worldview, the same view of the individual, which he pursued in his philosophical and journalistic articles. Tyutchev was not a rational thinker coldly developing well-known ideas. His mind, deep and strong in logical constructions, expressed his inner experience in them. “Artist” and “thinker” converged in him. The works of the latter represent a prosaic addition and, although somewhat one-sided, but in many respects a correct commentary on the works of the former. The parallel between them is very instructive.
One cannot get rid of Tyutchev’s political ideology with words: it is something external, having nothing to do with the depths of his personality. Only prejudice, the striving to carry out a preconceived thought at all costs can speak thus. Tyutchev’s Slavophilism was his deep and permanent conviction. And one should not disdainfully turn away from this, but think about it. Once such beliefs were, it is necessary to explain them.
The result of studying the latter is the following conclusion: Tyutchev’s political and historical views are the same of his philosophical and metaphysical views, translated, and often not translated, into the language of political terms. Here is the same basic point of view, which is so artistically expressed by him in verse. This is the application in the field of politics and history of the metaphysical ideas of Tyutchev’s poetry.
Tyutchev, the publicist, sees in Russia a guarantee of the realization of what he aspires to as a poet-philosopher: the elimination of chaos from human relations; denial of the personal principle, against which he so rebels in his lyrics. The antithesis of Russia and Europe is the antithesis of the personal, the chaotic and the cosmic, the good-looking, the divine and the diabolical.
The roots of Tyutchev’s Slavophilism are in his poetry. Just such a poet could be a Slavophil in the sense in which Tyutchev was.
Russia, according to Tyutchev, is the bearer of the beginning of “reunification”, as opposed to Western division. When it appears on the arena of Western European history, it restores the unity broken there.
Why does the West suffer from “division”? Tyutchev will answer this question for us: yes, because the personal principle prevails there. The apogee of European history is a revolution, i.e. separation, the triumph of the “I”, separated from the “life-giving” human and divine ocean. Tyutchev was such an opponent of the revolution because it elevated the autocracy of the human “I” into political and social law (Russia and Revolution, p. 457).
The foundations of Tyutchev’s political conservatism must be sought in his metaphysical and psychological anti-individualism. He struggled with the personal principle all his life in himself, he saw in him the cause of the evil of life, and therefore he could not but speak out against its triumph in the historical life of mankind. What this story, determined by a personal beginning, led to, the poet-thinker shows us in the following vivid lines. “The West is disappearing, everything is collapsing, everything is perishing in this general inflammation. The Europe of Charlemagne and the Europe of the treatises of 1815, the Roman papacy and the pan-western kingdoms, Catholicism and Protestantism, faith long lost and reason reduced to meaninglessness, order now unthinkable, freedom now impossible, and above all these ruins, created by it, a civilization that kills itself with its own hands.” (p. 474)
This philosophy of history complements Tyutchev’s poetry in the field of social relations, confirms the anti-individualist idea of Tyutchev’s lyrics with historical examples. In his journalism, the poet remained true to its spirit. This was reflected in his attitude towards Christianity. In his understanding, it gave arguments against the arrogant “I”, it embodied the ideal to which Tyutchev, exhausted by his “I”, could not but strive. For him, Christianity is the most powerful denial of the personal principle in human history. The revolution is “personal”, therefore, contrary to Christianity. Both in his journalism and in his poetry, he denies “the first revolutionary feeling: arrogance of the mind” (p. 461). “The feeling of humility and self-denial, which is the basis of Christianity (i.e., a transpersonal worldview. - A.L.), it (the revolution) intends to replace with the spirit of pride and self-affirmation (i.e., the beginning of an individualistic outlook. - A.L.)”.
A revolution is a manifestation of the satanic beginning – the beginning of a rebellion in human affairs. And “Satan” – isn’t it the embodiment of that chaos to which Tyutchev the lyric poet paid such attention? Both in lyrics and journalism, the arrogance of the “I”, self-deception, chaos, falling away from the whole are exposed and condemned, and the unifying, cosmic principle embodied in Russia, the ideal that this brilliant critic of personality aspired to in world poetry, is affirmed.
The Slavophile convictions of Tyutchev reflected the depths of his personality, the world tragedy was for the poet only a generalization of his personal tragedy – the tragedy of the struggle with his “I”. Russia is the way out on a grand scale that they are looking forward to. For Tyutchev, this is the nirvana of “egotism” embodied.
And, of course, if Tyutchev’s political ideas cannot be separated from the original whole, which is Tyutchev’s work, then all the more one should not single out Tyutchev’s political poems for some alien, not real bracket. It’s time to put aside this prejudice. In poems by Tyutchev on political topics, we find extremely characteristic motifs of his personal spiritual drama.
Let’s move on to it now. Tyutchev’s political philosophy, thanks to its sharp formulations, has already given us the distinct contours of his mentality, which is quite suitable for the content of the latter. Let’s try to fill them in.
The first question that arises when trying to look into the creative soul is how does the poet feel the world? Such a question applies to every true poet; in relation to the poet of space and chaos, it arises by itself.
We know that Tyutchev is a pantheist. Individualism and pantheism are two poles of the worldview. Whoever becomes a pantheist is no longer an individualist. This has not been sufficiently taken into account by our criticism. Having correctly noted Tyutchev’s pantheism, both Merezhkovsky and other researchers, however, did not fill in this contour.
To what type of pantheists can our poet be attributed? We shall indicate here two forms of this world-relationship. There is organic and innate pantheism – from health: a person recognizes himself as only a “link in the chain of continuous creation” and thinks of himself as inseparably merged with nature; such is the pantheism of Pushkin, of Fet in a number of his works. But there is another – from the disease: it is the refuge of a person exhausted by the burden of his own “I”. Only those who have experienced how unbearably hard to be themselves write: “An hour of longing inexpressible! / Everything is in me, and I am in everything!”
So why is it sad? Yes, because, despite all this closeness to the world, something else stands between them: they are still separated, albeit a transparent, but still impenetrable film of the body. In addition to this closeness to nature of a man tired of life, which he felt only when Life, movement were allowed In the unsteady dusk, in the distant rumble, – in him is still the languor of his hard day’s work of individuality, doomed to an isolated life and isolated struggle, acutely feeling its needs and, tirelessly, striving to satisfy them. He was so tired of this: and let the twilight that has made his being transparent, let it complete its influence so that it becomes permeable, so that it merges with nature. And so he prays: “Quiet dusk, sleepy dusk, Flow into the depths of my soul, Quiet, languid, fragrant, Fill everything and calm down. Feelings of darkness of self-forgetfulness Overflow over the edge! Give me a taste of destruction, Mix with the dormant world!”
Blessed is the annihilation that you desire to taste! For it is, in fact, the destruction of the burden of a separate “I”, but not death. This “mixing” with the world, full of eternal life – and therefore life in the world. Life without burdens, life that is easy. The “I” remains, but only as a feeling of lightness, not connected with anything separately, because with everything there is a mixed existence. Nothing – and everything! This is the “destruction” of Tyutchev. It is the paradise of all those who are bent under their weight. This is understandable: the idea of heaven is created by our hell, our suffering.
Pantheism of this type often becomes angry, protesting against the person as the cause of his suffering, against this “ghost of the disturbingly empty”. And in contrast to healthy pantheism, which affirms the reality and immortality of every element in nature, sick pantheism especially emphasizes the illusory nature of individuality, trying at least in this way to free itself from it. But even this does not save: “the thinking reed murmurs”.
Especially strong is the “murmur” during the day, when a person has to act, assert and defend his individuality, seek to satisfy its painful demands. And that is why Tyutchev so hates “the noise, movement, conversation, cliques of a young, fiery day.” His “crimson rays” burn his eyes. And that is why he loves twilight so much, “quiet twilight,” the silence of the night, “when the living chariot of the universe is openly rolling into the sanctuary of heaven-demons.” Then the burden of personal existence is not felt so sharply, self-awareness is also softened, and merging with the world is more possible.
Tyutchev’s poetry is drawn from the same spiritual depths. Chaos, according to Tyutchev, is formless and impersonal, dark, blind, unorganized and unsteady, like biblical waters, the boiling, stormy foundation of the world. From this coarse fabric, the “robe of the gods” is created, a colorful, diverse world of forms. They are formed precisely by this, essentially formless matter, frozen in a certain form only for a while and capable of destroying the form and returning to the former ugly state. The personal as fragile, as completely unreal, in comparison with eternal matter – something opposite to it, imperishable and omnipotent. Personality, like everything else in the “mirage of the day”, is only a form of chaos, given to him for a while. Just his game. Personality itself has no content, no substance. It is a temporary form of something eternal and powerful. It takes a different position, and now the personality is no longer there – there is another, until the next change in position. Independent existence is excluded: the form given to water by the vessel does not have it.
Personality and chaos are zero and infinity. There is no personality without chaos, but nothing is more opposite than them. Chaos is blind and formless, personality is an image and is conscious.
But what is its life, its “evil life” expressed in? In desires, in aspirations, but illuminated by reason, in contradictions, but conscious and therefore oppressive. What is personal life? Eternal discontent, eternal rebellion, languor. It is entangled in the “evil charms” of passions. It is in a restless movement, in a struggle with others and with itself. And what is this discord – the main sign of personal existence – if not the main attribute of chaos? And this rebellion, this discontent? They are only conscious and felt manifestations of this stormy and dark beginning, insatiable in its desire. Chaos is in eternal, stormy-flame boiling, it uncontrollably and rudely violates all legal barriers, denies all norms that limit its spontaneous movement.
Personality is like this chaos. That is why one feels such a kinship with the other, because he is “beloved”, chaos is for personality its “ancestral heritage”, that with which it wants to merge.
So chaos is impersonal. And chaos is personality itself. But it is gone, is it a ghost? Isn’t all this chaos, covered with a deceptive veil? Such a question arises. But here is the answer: yes, it does not exist from the point of view of epistemology. But there is a personality from the point of view of the psychology of living life, felt by all of us. Personality exists insofar as chaos has become suffering; without it there would not be this undoubted reality for Tyutchev. And whether there would be this discord that we feel, this chaos without the “I” – Tyutchev also raises a similar question. And he solves it in his own way.
All these questions and all these decisions depended on one very important circumstance: the personal beginning was so strong in Tyutchev, it was so hard for him to bear his burden that he tried in every possible way to belittle it philosophically, proclaiming it to be illusory. When this “epistemology” did not help and the psychological reality of the suffering person made itself felt as the whole reality of suffering, the person became in the poet’s indignant imagination the cause of all world discord – not a ghost, not a changeable form of chaos, but the chaos itself in the world that darkened his grace.
Where, how did the discord arise? And why is it that in the common choir the Soul sings not like the sea, and the thinking reed murmurs?
Hence this duality of Tyutchev’s poetry of chaos. The duality that arose from the transfer of one’s spiritual drama outside, already noted by us in the philosophy of history of the poet-thinker. Now it is transferred to the universe. The duality of the concept of chaos is generated by the same reason: a painful sense of a personal beginning, which also caused an unsuccessful attempt to cope with joining him, and blaming the “I” for all evil after this unsuccessful attempt to conquer it with philosophy.
The result was the following: 1) chaos is everything, personality is nothing, only an instantaneous and insignificant form; 2) personality is the focus of chaos, its center, its expression in the universe. Using the Hegelian formula, isn’t this chaos that has come to self-consciousness? Our “I”, the sign of which consciousness is no longer a ghost, but the most real expression of chaos, then doubly real – both objectively and subjectively. The former “ghost” became the cause of the greatest reality – chaos in the world.
Tyutchev’s concept of chaos is so complex and contradictory. This is also the dark force of fate that “overtook the orphaned world”, an unsolved, incomprehensible and omnipotent, formidable objective force, in front of which we are ghosts, the whole unsolved mystery of the world, an unsolved being and its foundation. And before this fate and mystery, before this abyss, we stand, embarrassed by its greatness and our smallness. “And the abyss is naked to us with its fears and darkness, and there are no barriers between it and us”. And the night is terrible for the poet precisely because it destroys all the barriers between us and such an abyss opposite to us – the ghosts of the day. But this fear is, in essence, the fear of that chaotic that lives in our own soul, of which we – the rebellious and passionate rebels of the universe – are the highest expression. Night awakens chaos in us. And our nightly fear is the fear of the collapse of those norms, of the destruction of those boundaries that we cling to so tenaciously and outside of which we do not think ourselves right before God and our conscience, of everything that guarantees peace to us. We are afraid to break it. “And a man, like a homeless orphan, / Stands now, and weak and naked, / Face to face before the dark abyss... / And it seems like a long-gone dream / He now sees everything bright, alive... / And in the alien, unsolved, night / He recognizes the heritage of the family.”
But the terrible so often beckons. There is the ecstasy of flying into the abyss. Fear turns into temptation.
The night wind speaks of this alluring, seductive proximity of chaos to the very depths of personal existence. “How greedily the night world of the soul listens to the story of the beloved! He is torn from the mortal breast and yearns to merge with the infinite...” Fear has become a temptation, but the temptation is terrible for the poet: he is strong. The personal principle, clearly expressed in Tyutchev, gravitates towards chaos precisely as such. After all, “there is a stronger charm ... Through lowered eyelashes, a gloomy, dull fire of desire ... I love this, invisibly spilled in everything, mysterious evil.” Chaos beckoned Tyutchev with its Dionysian beauty. The poet vividly felt the beauty of both Apollo and Dionysus. Dionysus seduced him with the boundless riot of individual forces, the terrible, but captivating any passionate nature, the freedom of their manifestation, the infinity of the “abyss”. Dionysus, not Apollo, is the god of personality, the god of restless subjectivity. Even disunity with the world, fragmentation and inconsistency go to this “suffering” god, reveling in his suffering, seeking healing from it in the scope of his passion and again suffering and disintegrating from this scope. Apollo is objective, impassive, contemplative. It is not the god of the subject. The god of chaos is the god of personality, for personality is, according to Tyutchev, the highest expression of chaos. And often Dionysus seduced the poet. This was the Antichrist who embarrassed him with his demonic beauty and with whom he fought all his life in the name of Christ – in the name of good peace of mind. Tempted, fell and repented. Tyutchev’s repentance is as deeply sincere as his passion. We are approaching the question of Tyutchev’s religiosity, the problem of the attitude of a person sensitive to the “evil charms” of Dionysus, to the conviction of a deeply religious person. But first we will dwell on what determined these beliefs: on Tyutchev’s despair, for Tyutchev’s religion is a religion of despair, as in his despair, a large share of the disharmony of the “evil” individual life with religious covenants.
The motive of Tyutchev’s despair has already become clear, as far as possible in a small study. Personality, according to Tyutchev, is a burden, unbearable for itself. The reasons for this burden are manifold and confusing. Let’s try to point out some.
First of all, our great poet is one of those failed dreamers, yearning for a dream all his life. True, he saw and felt in nature both the soul, and love, and freedom, and language, but the “arrogance” of a corrupting, distrustful mind prevented him from forgetting these poetic intuitions. He was too much of a critic not to see nature as a dead clock at times. After all, he once considered it “a sphinx without a riddle”. In the end, he was sure of the incomprehensibility of the dark foundation of the world, he did not stop believing in its reality, but for a dreamer this ugly “dark root” of world existence is not enough. He wants to populate nature with images. It was not for nothing that Tyutchev complained that “there is no faith in miraculous inventions, reason has devastated everything and subjugated the air, the seas, and the land to the tight laws, as it exposed their captives; he dried up that life to the bottom, that he poured a soul into a tree, gave a body to the incorporeal.” And he asked: “...where are you, ancient peoples? Your world was the temple of all gods.”
Everything that seduces the dreamer so much, Tyutchev often treated individual forms as a veil of Maya, even what we consider to be reality, all the colors and forms of the day. And a failed dreamer is one who does not believe well in his dream.
Let’s go up a step. In the field of religion, too, he is the same loser. He is a mystic, a sincere mystic, he is a man of strong religious convictions based on inner experience, but he is also an unbelieving Thomas, who wants to see for himself in a miracle: “to stick fingers into nail wounds”. And he has to pray: “Help my unbelief”. For his mind is proud, and it is difficult for him to humble and curb it. With his “momentary effort” he interrupts the “magic dream” of faith: and with his “burdened head” the poet falls “not to rest, but into weary dreams”. There is no integrity, perfection and coherence. And that’s why it’s so hard to carry yourself. Isn’t it true that the personality is to blame for everything, which Tyutchev so brilliantly refuted, reduced to nothing and which, despite its illusory nature, all the time constituted a psychological reality of the first magnitude. “A game and a sacrifice of private life,” he urged it, “come, reject the deception of feelings, and rush cheerfully, autocratically into this life-giving ocean,” but it still did not renounce itself. And no matter how Tyutchev executes it with all sorts of epistemological executions, he still loved and pitied it. He hated it as an inseparable burden, but he also loved this rebel of the universe, perhaps for this rebellion itself, for the beauty of its chaos, its confusion. And I hear deep grief already at the time of its surrender to denial, grief in this amazing comparison of it with a melting ice floe. How he mourns for its transience, how its “complaints and penalties” for him at times “an unjust reproach is righteous”. There is no longer execution, but crying. Personality, fragile, tender and tormented by life, he would like to keep away from life, destroying and perverting it by the need for adaptation: he wants his soul to be a star “in the day when the stars hidden like a home of scorching sun rays” are inaccessible as deities. And in “Zyepyit’e” he warns against the falsehood of the word that squanders its value. And the poet is especially embarrassed by the transience of personality, the fragility of the values of its intimate life. “The past – was there when? What now – will it always be? ... It will pass – It will pass, as everything has passed. And sink into the dark muzzle / Year after year”.
It was that person who was subjected to such blasphemy by itself mourned about its bitter fate, about the limitedness of its strength, about the fatal impotence of its rebellion. “I am the king of the earth, rooted to the earth!” Personality must, but it cannot recognize itself as “the grass of the earth”. And this is its tragedy. It sees its end, but does not want to recognize this end as worthy of personality itself. Anyone who has read Tyutchev remembers the magnificent poem Insomnia, where this despair in the fate of the individual was expressed so vividly and artistically. He hears with anguish “deaf groans of time, a prophetic farewell voice”: “It seems to us: the orphaned world Irresistible / Doom has overtaken / And we, in the struggle, by the whole nature, / Abandoned on ourselves. / And our life stands before us, / Like a ghost, on the edge of the earth, / And with our century and friends It pales in the gloomy distance ... / And we, friends, and our time / Has long been oblivious!”
Tyutchev deeply felt the inevitability of oblivion and suffered from the consciousness of imminent physical and spiritual death. And when suffering became unbearable, he fell upon its cause – upon his personality, which in “illusory freedom” asserted its discord with nature and did not want to merge with it. But the personality was defended no less strongly than it was accused. It was so rich in intimate values! It was not the one, exhausted by “fatal” and evil passions, who defended itself, but quietly grieving for the “evil” life, for the fragility of its intimate property. It answered: “Yes, discord! .. After all, in this happy obedience to its laws, nature does not have an intimate life that its laws encroach on. And that’s why I’m right with her. You tell me that I am insignificant and unworthy of eternity, but the oblivion that “brings” me, extinguishing the fires of my intimate values, is it not a blind and fatal force of the elements, is it not chaos, merciless and senseless? And before him I am right... For “in the name of what” am I drowning in this oblivion? Your nature, the world is silent about the days of bygone. Nature does not want to know about the past, her life is all in the present, but my life is in the dimension of the past and the future, it has depth and height, and this is the right to my discord with a stronger, but not more just nature. My soul is an Elysium of shadows, What is there in common between life and you!”
Such a rebuff was given to the militant anti-individualism of Tyutchev, who suffered from an excess of his “I”, this suffering “I”. Two “abysses” – the flaming “abyss” of passions and the cold “abyss” of time – terrified Tyutchev, drove him to despair. We are forgotten, but we also forget. Before that time is powerful. But the individual has a right to his memories. This is the flame, from which the faded life comes to life, like a withered flower, and in the dark autumn the soul “blows as if in spring.” But the evil life overtakes our “I” with its intimate values, in this last refuge. Tyutchev has a wonderful play on this subject: “Suddenly everything freezes. / Tears and tenderness / No access, everything is empty and dark, / The past does not blow a light shadow, / And under the ground, like a corpse, it lies. / Oh, and above him in reality is clear, / But without love, without sunlight, / The same world, soulless and impassive, / Not knowing, not remembering about it. / And I’m alone, with my dull anguish, I want to recognize myself and I can’t – / A broken boat, abandoned by a wave, / On a nameless wild shore. / Oh, Lord, give burning suffering / And dispel the deadness of my soul – / You took it, but the torment of remembrance, / Leave the living torment to me for it ... ” And one more thing: “no matter how hard the last hour, that languor of mortal suffering, incomprehensible to us, is even more terrible for the soul to watch how all the best memories die out in it”. This is understandable: the gift of memories is the key to our reality, the reality of the individual. He disappeared – and there is no this reality, the soul is devastated.
Our intimate life is like a rainbow – “rainbow vision”. “Look –it has already turned pale, / Another minute, two – and what then? / Gone, somehow it will go away completely, / What do you breathe and live.”
Tyutchev was worried about this continuous change, which determines the illusory nature of our spiritual life. And in vain did he give the word “not to change to the end.”
We do not touch here on the circumstances of the poet’s personal life. We are now interested in that constant that would be with any change of circumstances. And in the erotic sphere, regardless of them, the poet was doomed to despair. He, gentle, sensitive, conscientious, painfully felt the cruel nature of love, its unrighteous dialectic. His despair fed this feeling of the fatal and cruel death of everything dear to his heart. It’s doomed. Tyutchev will write about separation – this small death, that “there is a high meaning” in it.
No matter how you love, at least one day, at least a century, Love is a dream, and a dream is one moment, And sooner or later is the awakening, But a person must finally wake up.
He anticipates death. On a hot summer day, he will probably notice and mark the first “yellow leaf”.
Tyutchev will say: “How sweet it is withering, what a charm it is for us,” is it not because he sees everything sweet withering, and the sweeter, the sharper this feeling of fading.
His strongest love is the last; its brightest light is the “farewell light”, its brightest dawn is the “evening dawn”. Her sun is the “setting sun”. And she is “bliss and hopelessness.”
This sick person treated life with the deep distrust of a born pessimist. As in old age “the young smile of women’s lips and women’s eyes, not delighting, not seducing, only disturbs us”, so he looked “at this brilliance, at this light with an “alarming eye”. Are they mocking us? How do we get such a hello?”
After all, we are so helpless before life, so limited in knowledge: “Alas, what is more helpless and sadder than our ignorance?”
One of the torments of the desperate Tyutchev personality was a feeling of deep resentment for his position in space. “Everything is without a trace, and it’s so easy not to be! With me or without me – what is the need for that? Everything will be the same – and the blizzard will howl just the same, and the same darkness, and the same steppe all around”. Of course, this feeling of cosmic resentment did not in the least interfere with the negation of the “I”, which was determined by its own causes.
Tyutchev’s personality was chaos, felt like suffering. It tried its best to overcome it. Surrendering to the temptations that tormented it so much, it did not get rid of this suffering, but only aggravated it. And in moments of complete despair, looking for a way out, it rushed to religion. Tyutchev’s religion is a religion of despair. But from that it does not lose its sincerity.
Undoubted religiosity was reflected in one early, but very characteristic poem by Tyutchev, “Glimpse”: “We fly with our soul to the immortal! / The past, like the ghost of a friend, / We want to press to our chest. / How we believe with living faith, / How joyful and light our hearts are! / Like an ethereal stream, the sky flowed through the veins!”
Here, Tyutchev’s characteristic desire for immortality, for overcoming time, transience, is already outlined, and is vaguely associated with faith in God, who grants this victory over the transience and frailty of existence.
But here, too, lamentations have already been expressed about human weakness, about the inability of a person to a long-term ecstasy of faith, to a long flight “from the circle of the earth” to heaven. But this deplorable weakness does not exclude religiosity: this weakness is felt so sadly precisely because man has also experienced the bliss of a religious upsurge.
Tyutchev continues: “But, ah! it was not for us that he was judged; / We will soon get tired in the sky, – / And it is not given to insignificant dust / To breathe divine fire.”
Tyutchev’s religiosity may be a “dream”, but it is no less real than the tiresome dreams of his “heavenless” existence. And Tyutchev calls love “a dream” (“there is a high meaning in separation”), but who doubts its reality? But for some reason an exception is made for Tyutchev’s religiosity. It was undoubtedly in this longing for the lost paradise of faith and in many other things. He accepted religion “as the only thing required.” Let them not open its heavenly gates to him, but he is knocking at them. Since there is a religious need and a certain assessment of religion as an element of worldview, they must be fully taken into account in characterizing the poet’s spiritual drama. Otherwise, the results will be incorrect, and his poetry – the correlation of its elements – will not be satisfactorily elucidated.
In our critical literature about Tyutchev (albeit a small one), a tendency has taken root to completely ignore his religious aspirations. Using such expressions as “I believe, God, help my unbelief”, or “he longs for faith (the poet speaks of his century), but does not ask for it” they speak of Tyutchev’s non-religiousness. Even if he was to such an extent an unbeliever, as criticism claims, then even then it should not have bypassed his desire for faith and anger at unbelief. These are psychological moments of paramount importance, and all critical construction suffers from ignoring them. The fatal one-sidedness of Russian criticism in this regard is especially noticeable in Merezhkovsky and was fatally reflected in his whole concept.
Tyutchev is the unbelieving Thomas of Russian poetry. The unbelief of the Apostle Thomas did not rule out his religiosity; it did not exclude the religiosity of Tyutchev.
He, brought up in religious traditions, was always attracted by religion by the comfort of a peaceful existence, which gives her humility. It freed from the burden of selfishness and melted the insatiable, demanding the “I” in renunciation, in submission to a higher will. And he gravitated towards religion, especially since he was a mystical nature. He deeply studied the language understandable to the heart, repeating about incomprehensible torment, so he felt the mystical essence of chaos. And just as deeply he could partake of the mystery of religion. True, these are rare moments of Tyutchev’s work, but characteristic. For religious enlightenment appeared after the highest moments of despair of the suffering “I”, of course, rare ones.
Broken by fatigue from “evil spells”, “evil life”, Tyutchev prays: “Send, Lord, your consolation to Him who, in the summer heat, / Like a poor beggar, past the garden, / Wanders along the hot pavement...”
But if those hours of prayer of the tormented and impoverished traveler were rare, if there were rare moments of tearful softening of the kneeling sufferer from himself, then his conviction in the eternal value of the religious – Christian worldview – never left him. Both his suffering and his despair increased from the fact that he could not live according to this conviction, that he acted contrary to it, embarrassed by the charm of chaos that dominated his artistic soul. The artist-Tyutchev sometimes disagreed with the convinced thinker-Tyutchev, carried away by the beauty and temptations of Dionysus, but the convinced thinker prevailed in this struggle between the poetry of chaos and religious conviction. He called his age to humility, to the renunciation of the cause of all evil – a proud, rebellious personality. Here is a vivid expression of this religious understanding of the tragedy of the individual, the tragedy of its pride: “Not the flesh, but the spirit has become corrupted in our days, / And a man is desperately yearning... / He rushes to the light from the shadow of the night / And, having found the light, grumbles and rebels. / Burning with unbelief and withered, / He endures the unbearable today... And he recognizes his death, / And he longs for faith – but he does not ask for it.”
And in vain did our subtle critic Gornfeld ascribe to the last words the meaning of formulating Tyutchev’s own attitude to religion. He knew how to humble himself and ask. Truly, Foma is an unbeliever of our poetry, he “with prayer and tears, mourning before the closed door”, uttered the gospel words: “Let me in! – I believe, my God! Come to the aid of my unbelief!” And the door opened.
Since Tyutchev expressed the content of his religion, he pointed out to us humility as its highest maxim. His God is, of course, a purely Russian God of self-denial. As in Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, the people in Tyutchev are opposed to the relegated personality. In a country where individuality is an unbearable burden, where individualism quickly comes to self-negation, such a concept of the collective or homeland could have arisen as the embodied denial of the personal principle that has become hated. The populism of such people is explained by the same tendency to overcome the burden of their large and painfully complex personality, eternally dissatisfied, eternally demanding and restless. This is a kind of egomorphism, only inside out. The people are the living element of self-denial, and by joining it, Tyutchev thinks to draw strength for self-denial. He tenderly looks at the “poor villages”, “meager nature”, at his native “land of long-suffering”, “land of the Russian people” and creates a classic image of the Russian God, the God of this long-suffering people: “Dejected by the burden of the cross, / All of you, dear land, / In a slavish form, the King of heaven / Came, blessing”.
The “sign of a slave” is the ideal of the restless “I”, who has known all the illusory nature of self-satisfaction and domination, all the futility of unsatisfied desires. Slavery – is not it a complete liberation from the unbearable burden that has become? And Tyutchev wants to touch the healing “clean robe” of this God. Only the “pure robe of Christ” will cover and heal all the ulcers of the personality, everything. “... Old, rotten wounds, / Scars of violence and insults, / Corruption of souls and emptiness, / What gnaws at the mind and aches in the heart... ”
Not on the “threshold of a double being” was this bright “egoist” in life and a kneeling sinner. He experienced the dual existence of acute demands of imperious passions and religious consciousness, either alternately or simultaneously. In this soul, “the waves did not merge, thundering and sparkling,” and quiet, sensitive stars looked from above. Entangled in fatal passions, he fell at the feet of Christ. He was again carried away from him by the stormy and sparkling waves, but as a supreme joy he dreamed of overcoming them and “like Mary” he was ready “to cling to the feet of Christ forever”.
For Tyutchev always felt “the scarcity of all earthly forces, the ferocity of the life of evil.” In the hours when, “as if on the edge of the grave, it suddenly becomes terribly hard,” he turned to the holy book for him – the Gospel. “With all your heart,” he wrote to a friend, “as if to a headboard, lie down and rest on it.”
Humble life, according to this book, is the key to a humble and therefore happy death. Death! It is most difficult for a bright individual nature to cope with it. And Tyutchev is delighted when “humbly and obediently, having conquered all the fears of death,” they go to it “compassionately, as if to a paternal call.” This is delight from the fullness of desperate doubts, from the terrible split to which our great lyricist was doomed.
Fatal passions, chaos in him, violating his religious traditions and beliefs; incompleteness of faith: corrupting skepticism; helplessness and limitation of the “I”; the merciless power of time and, as a result, this “I” itself as the cause of all languor and “sad decay” – these are the motives for Tyutchev’s despair. He clung convulsively to religion – to something he doubted. And a straw often saved. Nothing so dissolved this eternally sick “I” in blissful peace as religion. Better than any poetic “epistemology” it healed a tormented soul.
It lifted the burden of the hated “I”. But it also promised the release of the “I” to its beloved. It promised him the much-desired immortality, the immortality of everything dear and intimate. In a religious impulse, he wrote: “Whatever life teaches us, / But the heart believes in miracles: There is an unfailing strength, / There is an imperishable beauty. / And the withering of the earth will not touch the unearthly Flowers, / And from the midday heat the dew will not dry on them. / And this faith will not deceive the One who only lives by it, / Not everything that bloomed here will fade, / Not everything that was here will pass away!”
And like a “rainbow dream”, religion descended into this languishing soul. There was another motive in Tyutchev’s poetry, a motive that did not develop due to the specific conditions of the life of the Russian soul. After all, the way out of despair could be not only humility and separation, but also tragedy, but also struggle. As an artist, he could not fail to see the beauty of a hopeless struggle in which despair disappears into heroic tension. In a poem dedicated to his beloved woman, he speaks of her as “who loved life and fate in defiance”. Realizing the charm of this struggle with chaotic fate, he wrote:
“Take heart, O friends, fight diligently, / Though the battle is unequal, the struggle is hopeless! Above you, the luminaries are silent in the heights, / Below you, the graves are silent too. May the gods bliss in the mountainous Olympus: Their immortality is alien to labor and anxiety; Anxiety and work are only for mortal hearts... For them there is no victory, for them there is an end. Take courage, fight, O brave friends, / No matter how hard the battle is, how stubborn the struggle! Above us are silent circles of stars, / Under you are mute, deaf coffins. Let the Olympians with an envious eye / Look at the struggle of adamant hearts. Who, fighting, fell, defeated only by Doom, / He snatched the victorious crown from their hands.”
But Tyutchev was not a fighter. He was only a repentant sinner seeking grace.