Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Afanasy Afanasyevich Fet

1820 - 1892

Regarded as the greatest lyric poet of Russia, Fet was a pronounced influence on the Russian Symbolists.

Way back when, Yakov Polonsky wrote this about Fet:
What kind of creature you are, I just can't understand. Where do you produce those unctuously clear, idealistically sublime, reverentially youthful verses from? Could Schopenhauer or any other philosopher help you see the origins of this lyrical mood of yours, the psychic process behind it? Explain it to me, or I'll have to suspect there is some other being, unseen to us, mere mortals, lurking down there, amidst glowing light, with eyes azure, and wings behind!

Tolstoy wondered:
What could be the source of this inexplicable poetic daring, the true characteristic of a great poet, coming from this good-natured, plump officer, is beyond me.

Something Fet himself said:
The notion that poetry's social mission, moral value or relevance could be superior to other aspects of it, is nightmarish to me. 
[Right on, right on -- TB]

This poem of his is melancholy, strange, and good:


I wake. Yes, it's a coffin lid.-With effort
I reach my hands out and I call
For help. Yes, I recall the tortures
Of dying.-Yes, this is no dream!-
And without effort, like a spider web
I push aside my casket's rotting wood

And stand. How bright the winter light appears
In the crypt's doorway! Can I doubt it?-
I see the snow. The crypt's without a door.
It's time to head for home. How stunned they'll be!
I know this park, I cannot lose my way.
But oh how different it looks now!

I hurry. Snowdrifts. Frigid boughs
Of dead trees poke deep into the sky,
There are no tracks or sounds. It's still.
The realm of death in an enchanted world.
And here's my home. But what decay!
I'm shocked by this heartbreaking sight.

The village sleeps beneath a snowy blanket,
There is no path in all the boundless steppe.
Yes, there it is: upon a far-off hill
I see the ancient belfry of the church.
A frozen traveler in the whirling snow,
It stands out clear against the cloudless span.

No winter birds or midges dot the snow.
I understand: the earth has long lain chill
And dead. For whom do I conserve
The breath within my chest? To whom did death
Return me? What's my mind
Connected to? And what's its final purpose?

Where shall I go if there is no one to embrace?
And time has lost itself in space?
O, Death, return! And hasten to assume
The fatal burden of this final life.
And you, stiff corpse of earth take flight
And bear my corpse on the eternal path! 

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