понедельник, 16 ноября 2009 г.


By Lyubov Tsarevskaya

The outstanding 19th century Russian poet, Vasily Zhukovsky was born out of wedlock on January 19, 1783. The son of a landlord and a captive Turkish woman, he was, however, officially recognized by his father and afforded every opportunity to get an education fitting for the gentry. The beautiful landscapes of Central Russia where Zhukovsky grew must have stirred his poetic and artistic imagination at an early age.

At the age of four he first tried his hand at drawing. Once his drawings created a real commotion among the household. He drew the picture of Christ with chalk on the floor, copying it from an icon. A maid saw the drawing and fell on her knees incessantly bowing in prayer. She insisted that the room had suddenly lit with divine light, and there were the sounds of music. The doors opened and she saw the drawing appear by itself. The young author, however, spoiled the impression saying it was he who had drawn Christ on the floor.

Zhukovsky went down in the history of Russian art as a master of landscape painting and traveler’s graphic sketches.

After graduating from a boarding school in Moscow, Zhukovsky refused to pursue a career of a public servant. Believing that his vocation was poetry, he retired to his country estate. Every morning he could be seen coming to a small summer house on the bank of the river. Tall and lean, dark-eyed and sun-burnt in a white shirt with a large collar, his black hair reaching nearly to the shoulders, he always carried several books and notebooks under his arm.

When after a few years Zhukovsky moved to St.Petersburg, he found himself in the center of the city’s literary circles as a prominent poet. In 1816 he was offered the prestigious position of a Russian teacher to a young princess. With the position went a high salary and a flat on the palace premises. His friends teased him that he would become famous as a court poet, with his talent wasted on madrigals and lyrics in ladies’ albums. But they were mistaken. Open and unable to play the hypocrite, Zhukovsky was not fitted for the requirements of the court etiquette. But his openness played a key role in his relationship with the royal family. In 1826 he became tutor to the future emperor Alexander II and as such did his best, choosing for Alexander books on history, philosophy, literature and law and making up education programs.

A kind and delicate person, Zhukovsky used his favour at court to help his friends and other people in trouble. During his lifetime he lent his hand to many such people, including the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.

The two poets met when Zhukovsky was at the peak of his fame while Pushkin still studied at the Lyceum. Despite the age difference of seventeen years, they took to each other at once and Zhukovsky could immediately see the makings of a great poet in the young man. During the many years of their friendship that followed, Zhukovsky always helped Pushkin and protected him. He was the person who saw the great poet to his grave. When Zhukovsky learned that Pushkin had been mortally wounded in a duel, he rushed to see the dying poet. Later he would recollect: “I came up to him, took his outstretched cold hand and kissed it. There was nothing I could say. He waved his hand and I stepped aside…”

Zhukovsky was the person who saved Pushkin’s paper and archives. By doing so he, perhaps, decided the fate of Pushkin’s heritage. And it was Zhukovsky who secured the permission to publish Pushkin’s complete works, which began appearing a year after the poet’s death.

The volume of Zhukovsky’s original work is small. His reputation as a poet rests largely on his translations from English and German poetry, much of which he introduced to the Russian reader. Fated to outlive nearly all of his contemporaries, Zhukovsky became a central figure in many people’s lives, always driven by an impulse to take care of other people. Quiet and uneventful, with nothing heroic or adventurist to it, his life seems to be coloured with sadness and loneliness.

The Bard

My friends, can you descry that mound of earth
Above clear waters in the shade of trees?
You can just hear the babbling spring against the bank;
You can just feel a breeze that's wafting in the leaves;
A wreath
and lyre hang upon the boughs...
Alas, my friends! This mound's a grave;
Here earth conceals the ashes of a bard;
Poor bard!

A gentle soul, a simple heart
He was a sojourner in the world;
He'd barely bloomed, yet lost his taste for life
He craved his end with yearning and excitement;
And early on he met his end,
He found the grave's desired sleep.
Your time was but a moment - a moment sad
Poor bard!

He sang with tenderness of friendship to his friend, -
His loyal friend cut down in his life's bloom;
He sang of love - but in a doleful voice;
Alas! Of love he knew naught but its woe;
Now all has met with its demise,
Your soul partakes of peace eternal;
You slumber in your silent grave,
Poor bard!

Here, by this stream one eventide
He sang his doleful farewell song:
"O lovely world, where blossomed I in vain;
Farewell forever; with a soul deceived
For happiness I waited - but my dreams have died;
All's perished; lyre, be still;
To your serene abode, o haste,
Poor bard!

What's life, when charm is lacking?
To know of bliss, with all the spirit's striving,
Only to see oneself cut off by an abyss;
Each moment to desire and yet fear desiring...
O refuge of vexatious hearts,
O grave, sure path to peace,
When will you call to your embrace
The poor bard?"

The bard's no more ... his lyre's silent...
All trace of him has disappeared from here;
The hills and valleys mourn;
And all is still ... save zephyrs soft,
That stir the faded wreath,
And waft betimes above the grave,
A woeful lyre responds:
Poor bard!

Source:The Voice of Russia;www.poemhunter.com

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