sábado, 15 de agosto de 2015

Poems & Political Letters of F. I. Tyutchev - Fyodor Tyutchev


Monotonous dying of the hours:
midnight is telling a tedious tale
in a foreign language we can't fail
to recognize as ours.

— Fyodor Tyutchev, "Insomnia"

The Russian soul is the soul of the world. We all have it. We all have experienced it. There are no geographical boundaries. It is not only Russian. That restless soul belongs to all human beings. I've been treating my own quite badly because the poor thing has been through a lot. It has been torn asunder by many books and then returned to its original form by virtue of admirable writing. The thing is too tiny to deal with such complex situations. Too small, too light: 21 grams. The weight of a hummingbird.

Reading can be a beautiful experience and simultaneously, a charming malady I wouldn't like to abandon. Do you think I enjoy being on the verge of vulnerability because of a bunch of words? Why can't I be content with coloring books even if I'm not a 5-year-old anymore? I don't like difficult, heart-rending books. And then I love them. And need them. These ambivalent feelings are going to be the end of me.

Now that my rant is over, I should clarify that it is all Tyutchev's fault. Sure, he died in 1873 but he should have seen it coming. He is proof of what a human being is able to do with some paper, heart and talent. His poetry was a breath of fresh air during this bleak, rainy day. I was lucky enough to enjoy some beautiful and evocative poems written with the most exquisite language (if the translator, Frank Jude, took too many liberties, it's fine, I still liked it; besides, I wouldn't know since I don't speak in Russian, so... it's fine). There are countless images so vividly portrayed, so many different emotions reveling in honesty, dwelling in those memorable verses—I had to read and reread every line.

Pushkin's spirit is also present in this brilliant poet.
On Pushkin's Ode to Freedom

Alight with the fire of freedom
and drowning out the noise of chains,
the spirit of Alcaeus has awoken in the lyre
and slavery's dust has fled it.
Sparks have scattered from the lyre
and in a stream,
like a divine flame, they have fallen
onto the pale brows of tsars.

Happy is he who with a firm, bold voice,
forgetting their rank, forgetting their thrones,
is born to speak sacred truths
to inveterate tyrants!
And you, fostered by the muses,
have been rewarded by this great lot!

Sing and with the power of euphony
soften, touch, transform
autocracy's sold friends
into friends of goodness and beauty!
Singer, trouble not our civic calm,
darken not the royal glitter!
Beneath the kingly velvet,
let your magic strumming
soften hearts, without alarming!

Tyutchev excelled at describing the beauty that nature has to offer. He wrote about the simplest natural scenes with remarkable vividness. The sound of a peaceful river, the darkness of a valley, a sunset that announces the day is concluding, like a man's quiet existence after wandering aimlessly through the world. Every image blends in perfectly with each side of human nature. And with wine. Yes, Tyutchev wrote the poem "To Wine's Detractors".
We're far too quick to criticise.
What's wrong with liking drink?
Drinking wine's a healthy joy
no man of sense denies...

Great poem. Even though I'm not criticizing that healthy joy, I'm still not going to drink that. I'll stick to grapes, thank you very much.

Tyutchev's lyricism seems unquenchable. At one point, I imagined this man saying: "Oh, beautiful Eleonore, I shall drink that black, hot substance with fine aroma that makes the world go round and probably find delight in the sacred savor of some golden circumferences made in a farm due to the existence of those divine creatures with feathers of vibrant tones." Just to convey he wanted coffee and eggs for breakfast (that doesn't sound too Russian, though).

Tyutchev had a poetic soul. One that allowed him to write something like this:
Stay silent!

Stay silent, out of sight and hide
your feelings and your dreams inside.
Within your soul's deep centre let
them silently rise, let them set
like stars in the night. Don't be heard.
Admire them, don't say a word.

How can your heart itself express?
Can others understand or guess
exactly what life means to you?
A thought you've spoken is untrue.
You only cloud the streams you've stirred.
Be fed by them. Don't say a word.

Making living in yourself your goal.
There is a world within your soul
where mystery-magic thoughts abound.
By outer noise they will be drowned.
They'll scatter as day is bestirred.
Just heed their song. Don't say a word!

His poetry brims with symbolism and images we are fairly acquainted with. "Solitude" is a long poem that made me walk through a dimly lit path towards a lonely, fascinating mind able to describe isolation with a gorgeous prose.
Glancing from a craggy height, how often
I sit pensive in the shade of dense thickets,
evening's varied pictures unfolding before me.
Here a river foams, the beauty of the valley,
leaving me, fading in the dark distance;
there the slumbering ripples of an azure pond
are bright in deep silence.
Through the dark foliage of trees
I see dusk's last ray still wandering.
The moon slowly rises from the north
on a chariot of clouds and from a lone belfry
drawn-out, indistinct peals are heard all around.
The passer-by listens, and the distant bell
fuses its voice with the day's final sounds.
The world is beautiful! Yet rapture
has no place in my withered heart! ...

Stay silent! If you can. Don't say a word. Read them all—his, mine. All. And try to keep distance. Try to remain stoic. Detached. Unaffected. I dare you.

* Note: I didn't find the F. Jude translation here so I picked this book because it was the only one with a title I could understand; no political letters, unfortunately.
** Update (which means I revisited the book and changed everything); Jan 09, 17

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