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[Up] [Contents] [Preface] [Bibliographical Note] [A Note on the Text] [WHAT IS ART?] I  II  III  IV  V  VI  VII  VIII  IX  X  XI  XII  XIII  XIV  XV  XVI  XVII  XVIII  XIX  XX [CONCLUSION] [Appendix I] [Appendix II] [Notes]


WHAT IS ART?

예술은 무엇인가?


by Leo Tolstoy

TRANSLATED BY RICHARD PEVEAR
AND LARISSA VOLOKHONSKY

 

Notes /미주


 

Tolstoy gave no documentation for his references apart from what he included in the body of the text itself. We give references for all but the most well-known or readily identifiable persons mentioned.


[1] Tolstoy lists a number of movements, mainly French or of French origin, that were influential towards the end of the nine­teenth century. The Parnassians were named after their journal, Le Parnasse contemporain, the three issues of which appeared between 1866 and 1876. The symbolists emerged around 1885, taking their inspiration from Verlaine and Rimbaud, and rallying around the poet Stephane Mallarme. Both movements stood for ‘art for art’s sake’ and ‘pure form’, though they differed in other ways. Les mages (‘the Magi’) included the writers Paul Adam (1862-1920) and the curious figure of Joseph Peladan (1859-1918), who called himself Josephin and Sar Peladan (‘sar’ meaning ‘magus’); they united on the basis of anarchism and mysticism, with occult and erotic over­tones. The term ‘decadent’ is more capacious, including Verlaine and others who preceded and accompanied the symbolists.

[2] Ernest Renan (1823-92), French writer, a lapsed Catholic and rationalist religious historian, defended the theory of the rule of the elect in his book Marcus Aurelius and the End of Antiquity.

[3] Richard Kralik (1852-1934), German aesthetician; his book is entitled World Beauty, a Study in Universal Aesthetics. Marie-Jean Guyau (1854-88), French philosopher, wrote Problems in Aesthetics. These two works, together with the books by Knight and Schassler cited later, form the basis for most of Tolstoy’s discussion in this and the following three chapters.

[4] ‘They are the aesthetic treatment of the five senses.’

[5] ‘It is usually thought that artistic material can be treated by only two or at the most three of the senses, but I think this is hardly right. I cannot avoid considering the fact that, in the general sense, for example, cooking is regarded as an art ... It is, of course, an aesthetic success when the art of cooking manages to make from the corpse of an animal something agreeable to the sense of taste. Thus the basic principle of the art of the sense of taste (hereafter referred to as the art of cooking) is this: all that is edible must be treated as the sense-image of a certain idea, and must, in any given case, correspond to the idea that is to be expressed.’

예술적 재료는 흔히 오직 두 가지나 기껏해야 세가지 감각들로서 취급될 수 있다고 여겨진다, 하지만 나는 이것이 거의 옳지 않다고 생각한다. 나는 일반적인 의미에서, 예를 들면, 요리가 예술로 간주된다는 사실을 고려하지 않을 수 없다…… 그것은 물론 요리 예술이 미각에 어울리는 어떤 것을 동물의 시체로부터 만들어 갈 때 미학적인 성공이다. 그러므로 미각 예술의 근본 원리는 이것이다: 식용 가능한 모든 것은 어떤 개념에 대한 감각 이미지로 취급되어야만 한다, 그리고, 어떤 주어진 경우에도, 표현되고자 하는 개념과 일치하여야 한다.

[6] ‘If the sense of touch lacks colour, it furnishes us instead with a notion that the eye alone cannot give us and that is of considerable aesthetic value: that of the soft, the silky, the smooth. What character­izes the beauty of velvet is its softness to the touch no less than its sheen. In the idea we fashion for ourselves of the beauty of a woman, the velvetiness other skin enters as an essential element.

‘Each of us, with a little attention, can probably recall pleasures of taste which were true aesthetic pleasures.’

[7] Alexander Gottheb Baumgarten (1714-62), in his Philosophical Meditations from Nowhere (1735), first applied the word ‘aesthetic’ to a specific science, thus becoming the founder of aesthetics.

[8] Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), English philosopher and sociologist, was a founder of evolutionist philosophy. Charles Grant Alien (1848-99), scholar and novelist, was a professor of natural history and logic and a propagator of Darwinism.

[9] Hippolyte Taine (1828-93), French philosopher, historian and literary critic, published his Philosophic de l’art in 1882.

[10] To this list of the most famous names in German philosophy, Tolstoy adds that of Max Alexander Friedrich Schassler (1819-1903), a German art historian, whose Kritische Geschichte der Ästhetik (‘Criti­cal History of Aesthetics’) was published in 1872. Victor Cousin (1792—1867), French philosopher, head of the eclectic spiritualist school, published his dm vrai, du bien et du beau (‘Of the True, the Good and the Beautiful’) in 1858. Charles Lévêque (1818-1900) was professor of Greek and Latin philosophy at the Collège de France; his major work. La science du beau étudiée dans ces principes, dans ses applications et dans son histoire (‘The Science of the Beautiful Studied in Its Principles, Its Applications and Its History’) was published in 1861.

[11] The Philosophy of the Beautiful, by WilliamAngus Knight (1836-1916).

[12] ‘No science has been more given to the reveries of metaphysi­cians than aesthetics. From Plato to the official doctrines of our day, art has been made into I don’t know what sort of an amalgam of quintessential fantasies and transcendental mysteries, which find their supreme expression in the absolute conception of ideal beauty as the immutable and divine prototype of real things.’ From L’esthétique (1878) by Eugène Véron (1825-89), French journalist and critic.

[13] The Aesthetics of Aristotle and His Successors by Charles Benard (1807-98), was published in 1889. The author of Geschichte der Ästhetik im Altertum (‘A History of Ancient Aesthetics’) was Julius Walter (1841-1922).

[14] Johann Joachim Eschenburg (1743-1820), German erudite, histor­ian of literature and aesthetician, was a friend of Lessing and the first German translator of Shakespeare. Johann August Eberhardt (1739-1809) published his Theorie der Schönen Künste und Wissen-schaft (‘Theory of the Fine Arts and Science’) between 1783 and 1790.

[15] Ludwig Schütz (1838-1901) was a German philosopher and aesthetician. Johann Georg Sulzer (1720-79), Swiss philosopher and physicist, left many writings, some of them on aesthetics. Moses Mendelssohn (1729-93), religious writer and philosopher, an associ­ate of Lessing, translated the Bible into German. Karl Philipp Moritz (1756-93), German writer and professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin, influenced the Sturm und Drang movement.

[16] Geschichte der Kunst des Altertums’ (‘A History of Ancient Art’), by Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-68), influential historian, archaeologist, and theorist of art.

[17]Anthony Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713), pub­lished his Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions and Times in 1711. Francis Hutcheson (1694-1746), Irish philosopher, moralist and writer on aesthetics, was a theorist of disinterested pleasure in art. Henry Kames, Lord Home (1696-1782) was an English jurist and moralist; his Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion appeared in 1761. The Anglo-Irish statesman and philoso­pher Edmund Burke (1729-97) published his book on the sublime and the beautiful in 1757. Finally, William Hogarth (1697-1764), the great English painter and engraver, also wrote a book on art, The Analysis of Beauty, published in 1753.

[18] Yves-Marie André, known as le Père André (1675-1764), professor of mathematics and partisan of Cartesian idealism, published his Essai sur Ie Beau (‘Essay on Beauty’) in 1741. Charles Batteux (1713-80), French man of letters and philosopher, is best known for his Les Beaux-Arts réduits à un meme principe (‘The Fine Arts Reduced to a Single Principle’), published in 1746.

[19] Francisco Mario Pagano (1748-99), Italian politician, jurist and writer, was professor of law at the University of Naples.

[20] Ludovico Antonio Muratori (1672-1750) was a priest and doctor of theology, who left a number of works in historical criticism, biographies of poets, studies of inscriptions; his work on aesthetics is Reflections on Good Taste in the Sciences and the Arts. A. Spaletti’s book, An Essay on Beauty, was published in 1765.

[21] Franciscus Hemsterhuis (1721-90), Dutch philosopher and writer, influenced the German romantics with his philosophy of sentiments as well as with his aesthetic ideas.

[22] Adam Müller (1779-1829) was a conservative German publicist and aesthetician.

[23] Readings in Aesthetics, by Karl Wilhelm Solger (1780-1819), a German philosopher and theorist of romanticism.

[24] Karl Christian Friedrich Krause (1781-1832), German philosopher, authored a doctrine of pantheism inspired by the thought of Schelling. His Essay on the Scientific Basis of Morality was published in 1810.

[25] Christian Hermann Weisse (1801-66), German philosopher and theist, published his System of Aesthetics Considered as the Science of the Idea of the Beautiful in 1830. Arnold Ruge (1802-80) was a German politician, philosopher and publicist. Karl Rosenkrantz (1805-79), a disciple of Hegel, published My Reform of the Hegelian Philosophy in 1852. Friedrich Theodor Vischer (1807-87) published his Aesthetics or the Composition of the Beautiful in 1846-57.

[26] Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776-1841) was a German philosopher, psychologist and pedagogue.

[27] Karl Edward von Hartmann (1842-1906) is best known for his Philosophy of the Unconscious. Julius Kirchmann (1802-84) was a philosopher and jurist. Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-94), physicist and physiologist, discovered the role of harmonics in the timbre of musical notes, and also studied optics and electricity. Julius Bergmann (1840-1904) was a philosopher. Joseph Jungmann published Über das Schöne (‘On the Beautiful’) in 1887.

[28] Theodore Jouffroy (1796-1842) taught in the Ecole Normale, the College de France, and the Sorbonne; his du beau et du sublime (‘Of the Beautiful and the Sublime’) was published in 1816, and his Cours d’esthétique (‘Course in Aesthetics’) in 1843. Adolphe Pictet (1799—1875) was a Swiss writer, a specialist in linguistic palaeontology. Felix Lacher Ravaisson-Mollien (1813-1900) was a philosopher and archaeologist; his Morale et metaphysique (‘Morals and Metaphysics’) appeared in 1893.

[29] ‘The most divine and principally the most perfect beauty contains the secret.’ ‘The entire world is the work of one absolute beauty, which is the cause of things only through the love it puts in them.’

[30] ‘Let us not be afraid to say that a truth which is not beautiful is only a logical game of the mind, and that the only truth which is solid and worthy of the name is beauty.’ From Du fondement de l‘induction (The Foundation of Induction’) by Charles Renouvier (1815-1903), a philosopher of Kantian tendency, one of the founders of French ‘neo-criticism’.

[31] Victor Cherbuliez (1829-99), novelist and literary critic, published Études de littérature et d’art in 1873 and L’art et la nature in 1892. Charles de Coster (1827-79), Belgian writer, philosopher and collector of folk tales, is the author of The Legend of Thyl Eulenspiegel.

[32] Mario Pilo (1859-1920) was an Italian writer on art; his book is The Psychology of the Beautiful and of Art, the title of which Tolstoy, drawing on Guyau, gives in French.

[33] Hippolyte Fierens-Gevaert (1870—1926) was a Belgian writer on art; his book, Essays on Contemporary Art, appeared in 1890.

[34] ‘There is no other Reality than God, there is no other Truth than God, there is no other Beauty than God.’ From Idealist and Mystical Art, by Sar Peladan (see note i).

[35] Thomas Reid (1704-96), Scottish philosopher, opposed the sceptical paradoxes of Hume with the primary convictions of ‘common sense’. Archibald Alisson (1757-1839) was an English writer. Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802), doctor, naturalist and poet, is the author of the poem The Botanical Garden.

[36] John Todhunter (1839-1916) was a writer, historian of literature, and professor. John Morley of Blackburn (1838—1923) was a writer and politician and author of a study of Burke published in 1879. Edward Ker (1835-1908) was a philosopher.

[37] James Sully (1842-1923), English writer, psychologist and professor, studied psychology in the light of physiology, with special attention to art, education and social order.

[38] Johannes Immanuel Volkelt (1848—1930), German philosopher and art historian, published his Questions of Contemporary Aesthetics in 1895.

[39] Richard Muther (1860—1909) was a German art historian.

[40] In English in the original; earlier Tolstoy summarized the same passage in Russian (see note 37).

[41] Kaspar Hauser (1812—33) was a mysterious figure who appeared in Nuremberg one day in 1828, dressed as a peasant and carrying a letter saying that he had been entrusted to peasants at birth. Arrested as a vagabond, he attracted attention by his total lack of education. Much literature has been devoted to him.

[42] Prince Vladimir I of Novgorod (c. 956-1015), grand prince of Kievan Rus (980-1015), adopted Christianity as the religion of all his people in 988, as the emperors Constantine and Charlemagne had done earlier for their peoples.

[43] Flavius Claudius Julianus, known as Julian the Apostate (331-63), Roman emperor 361-63, attempted to restore paganism in the Roman empire after Constantine’s adoption of Christianity as the official religion.

[44] The Paulicians were a heretical Manichaean sect founded in Armenia in the seventh century, most probably named after Paul of Samosata, third-century bishop of Antioch who defied the authority of the synod that removed him from office. Defeated by the Greeks in 872, the Paulicians were exiled to the Balkan peninsula. There, in the tenth century, arose the sect of Bogomils, who held much the same ideas as the Paulicians. A similar heretical sect appeared in the south of France around 1160, in the preaching of Petrus Waldo (Latin name of Pierre de Vaux), after whom the Waldensians, or Vaudois, were named. All were non-Church or anti-Church movements.

[45] Tolstoy’s chronology is mistaken; papal infallibility was declared dogma only in 1870, by Pius IX.

[46] Peter Kelchitsky (1390-1460), Czech religious reformer, known as ‘the continuer of Jan Hus’, attacked the Church and taught a return to evangelical purity.

[47] Catharsis, i.e. purification. The sense in which Aristotle uses this word in his Poetics is much debated; it is generally thought to mean a moral purification through vicarious experience (e.g. the experience of art).

[48] ‘For one who wants to look closely at it, the theory of beauty and the theory of art are completely separated in Aristotle, as they are in Plato and in their successors.’ For Benard, see note 13.

[49] ‘The gap of five hundred years that separates the aesthetic views of Plato and Aristotle from those of Plotinus seems astonishing. However, one cannot in fact maintain that during this period of time there had been absolutely no discussion of aesthetic questions or that there exists a total absence of connection between the latter philosopher’s views of art and those of the philosophers I have mentioned first. Though the science founded by Aristotle ceased entirely to develop further, there still occurred some interest in aesthetic questions. However, after Plotinus (the few philosophers who follow him in time - Longinus, Augustine et al. - are hardly worth mentioning, being, apart from everything else, quite close to him in their views), not five but fifteen centuries went by during which one can find no trace of scientific interest in the world of the beautiful or in art.

‘This millennium and a half in the course of which the world spirit, in various struggles, worked out entirely new forms of life, gave nothing to aesthetics in the sense of its further scientific development.’ From The Critical History of Aesthetics, by Max Schassler (Berlin, 1872), p. 253. (Tolstoy’s note.)

[50] ‘Books have their fate according to the understanding of their readers’ (Latin).

[51] Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834), English economist and Anglican pastor, published the first version of his famous Essay on the Principles of Population anonymously in 1798; concerned with the problem of poverty, he found its principal cause in the fact that population grows more quickly than subsistence.

[52] . ‘. . . it is the weariness with life, the scorn of the present age, the longing for another time perceived through the illusion of art, the taste for paradox, the need to make oneself noticed, the aspiration of the refined towards simplicity, the infantile worship of the marvellous, the morbid seductiveness of reverie, the unsettling of the nerves, and above all the exasperated appeal of sensuality’. From Lesjeunes: etudes et portraits (‘The Young: Studies and Portraits’) by traditiohalist scholar and critic Rene Doumic (1860—1937).

[53] Marcel Prévost (1862-1941) was a novelist and member of the Académic Française, author of Lettres à Françoise (‘Letters to Françoise’), Les Demi-vierges (‘The Half-Virgins’) etc.

[54] Remy de Gourmont (1858-1915), writer and erudite, was the author of many novels and essays in literary and philosophical criticism; considered the most authoritative critic of the symbolist group.

[55] Pierre Louÿs (1870-1925), French poet and novelist, is most famous for his Chansons de Bilitis, of a mystical eroticism. Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848-1907), French novelist and critic, started as a naturalist and ended as a Christian; his book Certains (‘Certain Ones’), published in 1889, contains his judgements on modern art.

[56] Baudelaire dedicated Les Fleurs du Mal to his ‘master and friend’ Théophile Gautier (1811-72), poet and novelist, theorist of ‘art for art’s sake’, who prefaced the posthumous 1868 edition.

[57]

Music first of all,

And for that prefer the Uneven,

More vague and more soluble in air,

With nothing in it that weighs or drags.

 

And you also must not go choosing

Your words without a certain disdain:

Nothing's more precious than a tipsy song

Where Indistinct is joined to Precise.

 

*  *  *

Music again and always!

Let your verse be that winged thing

That one feels fleeing from a parting soul

Towards other loves in other skies.

 

Let your verse be the lucky chance

Scattered on the tense morning wind

That goes sniffing at mint and thyme . . .

And all the rest is literature.

These are the opening and closing stanzas of ‘The Art of Poetry’ from Verlaine’s Jadis et Naguère (‘Long Ago and Recently’), 1884.

[58] ‘I think there should be nothing but allusion. The contemplation of objects, the fleeting image of the reveries they call up, are the song: the Parnassians, for their part, take the thing as a whole and display it; as a result they lack mystery; they deprive our minds of the delicious joy of believing that they are creating. To name an object is to suppress three-quarters of the poet’s enjoyment, which is made from the happiness of divining little by little; suggestion — that is the dream. It is the perfect use of this mystery that constitutes the symbol: to evoke an object little by little and release a state of soul from it by a series of decipherments.

‘. . . If a person of average intelligence and insufficient literary preparation chances to open a book made in this way and tries to enjoy it, there is a misunderstanding, things must be put back in their place. There must always be enigma in poetry, and that is the aim of literature; there is no other — the evocation of objects.’ Tolstoy’s italics.

From Mallarmé’s response to the Enquête sur l’éevolution littéraire (‘Survey on Literary Evolution’) of French journalist and essayist Jules Huret (1864-1915), who also took surveys in North America, Argentina and Germany, finding the form congenial.

[59] It is also time we were done with this famous theory of obscurity that the new school has in fact raised to the level of a dogma.’ From Les Jeunes by René Doumic (see note 52).

[60] The quoted phrase, in English in the original, is a misquotation of a passage Tolstoy earlier quoted correctly from Grant Alien’s Psychological Aesthetics.

[61] Jean Moréas (1856-1910), French symbolist poet of Greek origin, was the author of the Manifesto of Symbolism; his Le Pèlerin passionné (‘The Passionate Pilgrim’) was published in 1891 and 1893. Charles Morice (1861-1919), a writer of idealist and mystical leanings, belonged to Mallarme’s circle. He translated Dostoevsky, wrote on the theory of symbolism in his Littérature de tout à l’heure (‘Literature Right Now’), published in 1888, was the publisher of Gauguin’s autobiography, and later in his life returned to Roman Catholicism. Henri de Régnier (1864-1936), poet and novelist, was influenced by the symbolists but was a writer of marked originality. René Ghil (1862-1925), a poet of Mallarmé’s circle, produced, among other works, a treatise on the colour and instrumental value of vowels, his Traité du verbe (‘Treatise on the Word’), published in 1886. Albert Aurier’(1865-92), writer and art critic, was one of the founders of the Mercure de France, an influential literary magazine; an early admirer of Gauguin, he also wrote studies of van Gogh, Monet and Pissarro. The poet Saint-Pol-Roux, nicknamed ‘le Magnifique’ (1861—1940), belonged to the symbolists, but retained his own romantic manner and heritage and at the same time pointed towards modernist developments of this century. Georges Rodenbach (1855-98) was a Belgian poet and novelist, best known for his collections, La Jeunesse blanche (‘White Youth’) and Le Règne du silence (‘The Kingdom of Silence’), published in 1886 and 1891 respectively. Robert, Comte de Montesquiou-Fezensac (1855-1921), was a minor symbolist poet; his Les Hortensias bleus (‘Blue Hydrarigeas’) was published in 1896. For the Magi, see note I; Dr Gérard Encausse, known as Papus le mage (1865-1916), was a poet and adept of occultism; Jules Bois (1871-1941) was a poet of the same circle.

[62]

I worship you as I do the nocturnal vault,

O vase of sadness, O tall and silent one,

And I love you the more, my beauty, in that you flee me,

And that you seem to me, ornament of my nights,

More ironically to accumulate the leagues

That separate my arms from blue immensities.

 

I advance to the attack, and I climb to the assaults,

Like a choir of earthworms after a cadaver,

And I cherish, O implacable and cruel beast!

Even that coldness which makes you more beautiful to me.

 

Flowers of Evil XXIV

[63]                      DUELLUM

Two warriors rushed at each other; their weapons

Spattered the air with flashes and with blood.

These games, this clash of iron are the din

Of youth that is a prey to puling love.

 

The blades are broken! like our youth,

My dear! But the teeth, the steely nails,

Soon avenge the sword and treacherous dagger.

— Oh, the fury of mature hearts ulcerated by love!

 

Into the ravine haunted by lynxes and leopards,

Our heroes, coiling wickedly, have rolled,

And their skins will make the arid brambles bloom.

— That pit is hell, peopled by our friends!

Let us roll there without remorse, inhuman amazon»

To eternalize the ardour of our hatred!

Flowers Evil XXXV

[64]          THE STRANGER

‘Whom do you love best, enigmatic man, tell me: your father, your mother, your sister, or your brother?’

‘I have no father, or mother, or sister, or brother.’

‘Your friends?’

‘There you make use of a word the meaning of which has remained unknown to me to this day.’

‘Your country?’

‘I do not know in what latitude it is situated.’

‘Beauty?’

‘I would gladly love her, goddess and immortal.’

‘Gold?’

‘I hate it as you hate God.’

‘Eh! what do you love, then, extraordinary stranger?’

‘I love the clouds . . . the passing clouds . . . there . . . there . . . the wonderful clouds!’

The Spleen of Paris I

[65]          SOUP AND CLOUDS

My foolish little darling was giving me dinner, and through the open window of the dining room I was contemplating the shifting architectures that God makes from the vapours, wonderful constructions of the impalpable. And I was saying to myself as I contemplated: ‘All this phantasmagoria is almost as beautiful as the eyes of my beautiful darling the monstrous little green-eyed fool.’

And all at once I got a violent punch in the back, and I heard a husky and charming voice, a hysterical voice, as if hoarse from brandy, the voice of my dear little darling, saying: ‘Are you going to eat your soup one of these days, you d——— b——— of a cloud merchant?’

 

The Spleen of Paris XLIV

[66]                THE GALLANT MARKSMAN

As the carriage crossed the park, he had it stop in the vicinity of a shooting gallery, saying he would find it pleasant to take a few shots in order to kill Time. Is the killing of that monster not the most ordinary and legitimate occupation of each one of us? — And he gallantly offered his hand to his dear, delicious and execrable wife, to that mysterious wife to whom he owes so many pleasures, so many pains, and perhaps also a large part of his genius.

Several shots hit wide of the mark; one even went into the ceiling; and as the charming creature laughed wildly, making fun of her husband’s inaccuracy, the latter turned abruptly to her and said: ‘Do you see that doll, there, to the right, that holds its nose in the air and has such a haughty look? Well, my dear angel, I am going to pretend that it’s you.’ And he closed his eyes and pulled the trigger. The doll was neatly decapitated.

Then bending towards his dear, his delicious, his execrable wife, his inevitable and pitiless Muse, and respectfully kissing her hand, he added: ‘Ah, my dear angel, how I thank you for my accuracy!’

[67]

The wind in the plain

Suspends its breath.

- Favart

 

It is languorous ecstasy,

It is amorous fatigue,

It is all the shivers of the woods

Amid the embrace of breezes,

It is the choir of small voices

Near the grey branches.

 

Oh, the frail and fresh murmur!

It babbles and lisps,

It resembles the soft cry

Breathed out by stirred grass . . .

You’d say the dull rolling

Of pebbles under turning water.

 

The soul that mourns itself

In this sleeping lament

Is ours, is it not?

Mine, say, and yours,

On this mild night, exhaling

Its soft antiphon.

 

Forgotten Ariettas I

[68]

In the unending

Boredom of the plain

The uncertain snow

Shines like sand.

 

The sky is brass

Without any glimmer,

You’d think you were watching

The moon live and die.

 

Like cloud swarms greyly

The oak trees drift

In the nearby forests

Among the mists.

 

The sky is brass

Without any glimmer,

You’d think you were watching

The moon live and die.

 

Rasping crow

And you scrawny wolves,

What’s coming to you

On these bitter blasts?

 

In the unending

Boredom of the plain

The uncertain snow

Shines like sand.

 

Forgotten Ariettas VIII

[69]

I only want to think now of my mother Mary,

Seat of wisdom and source of forgiveness,

Mother of France also from whom we await

Unshakeably the honour of our country.

 

The correct title of the volume from which these lines come is Sagesse (‘Wisdom’), without the article. It was published in 1881 and reflects Verlaine’s conversion to Christianity after his imprisonment. The italics are Tolstoy's.

[70]

Hushed to the whelming low

Cloud of basalt and lava

Even to the slavish echoes

By a trumpet without virtue

 

What sepulchral shipwreck (you

know it, foam, but slaver there)

Supreme one among the wrecks

Abolishes the divested mast

 

Or chat which furious for lack

Of some most high perdition

The whole vain abyss deployed

 

In the so white hair that trails

Will greedily have drowned

A siren’s infant flank.

[71]

When he went out

(I heard the door)

When he went out

She gave a smile . . .

 

But when he came back

(I heard the lamp)

But when he came back

Another was there ...

 

And I saw it was death

(I heard his soul)

And I saw it was death

Who waits for him still...

 

They came to say

(My child, I'm afraid)

They came to say

He was going away . . .

 

With lighted lamp

(My child, I'm afraid)

With lighted lamp

I went up closer ...

 

At the first door

(My child, I'm afraid)

At the first door

The flame trembled . . .

 

At the second door

(My child, I'm afraid)

At the second door

The flame spoke . . .

 

At the third door

(My child, I'm afraid)

At the third door

The light died ...

 

And if he comes back one day

What shall I tell him?

Tell him she died

Of waiting for him . . .

 

And if he asks more

Without seeing who I am,

Speak to him like a sister,

It may be he's suffering . . .

 

And if he asks where you are

What shall I tell him?

Give him my gold ring

And say nothing more . . .

 

And if he asks why

The room is deserted?

Show him the lamp dark

And the door open . . .

 

And if he asks me then

About the last hour?

Tell him I smiled

For fear he might weep.

[72] Francis Vielé-Griffin (1864-1937), French symbolist poet born in Norfolk, Virginia, was a practitioner of vers libres (rhymed verse in irregular metres), though the sample Tolstoy gives in Appendix I is metrically regular..

[73] The passage that follows comes from a diary kept by Tolstoy’s daughter Tatiana Sukhotin-Tolstoy, an amateur painter herself, during a trip to Paris in February 1894. Tolstoy recasts the passage into masculine gender in the original.

[74] ‘ . . . effects — fog effect, evening effect, sunset.’

[75] Arnold Bocklin (1827—1901), Swiss painter, was the ‘father’ of German symbolist art, which in the younger generation included such painters and sculptors as Franz Stuck (1863-1928), Max Klinger (1857—1920) and Schneider (1870—1927). Bocklin also had a strong influence on the surrealists of this century, particularly Giorgio de Chirico.

[76] The architect comes from The Master-Builder (1892), the old woman and child from Little Eyolf (1894), both plays by Henrik Ibsen. The blind men are from Maeterlinck’s play The Blind Men (1891) and the bell is from The Drowned Bell (1896) by German playwright, Gerhart Hauptmann (1862-1946).

[77] ‘The quicker it goes, the longer it lasts.’ Alphonse Karr (1808-90) was a witty Parisian pamphleteer.

[78] Auguste, Comte de Villiers de l’Isle Adam (1838-89) was a symbolist prose writer, author of strange and fantastic works; his Contes cruels (‘Cruel Stories’) were published in 1883.

[79] Abscons is a French adjective meaning ‘recondite’ or ‘difficult to understand’.

[80] Eugene Morel (b. 1865) is a now-forgotten French writer; the important literary magazine Revue Blanche (‘White Review’) serial­ized his novel Terre promise (‘Promised Land’).

[81] Tolstoy includes in this rather distinguished list the name of the French painter Hippolyte (known as Paul) Delaroche (1797-1856), whose half-classical, half-romantic historical paintings had great success during the artist’s lifetime.

[82] The story of Joseph is told in Genesis 37-50. Shakyamuni (meaning ‘the solitary shakya’) was one of the names of Siddhartha Gautama (c. 563-483 Be), the Buddha (‘enlightened one’), founder of Buddhism.

[83] Sanskrit hymns collected in four sacred books, considered as revelations from Brahma, which the Aryans brought with them into India, forming the foundation of the religion of the Hindus.

[84] ‘All genres are good, except the boring genre’ (Voltaire). Tol­stoy’s variants: ‘All genres are good, except the one that is not understood’ or ‘that does not make its effect’.

[85] ‘Having much life experience’.

[86] Edmond Rostand (1868-1918), French poet and playwright, is best known for his heroic comedy in verse, Cyrano de Bergerac (1897).

[87] That is, Hanneles Himmelfahrt (‘Hannele Goes to Heaven’) by Gerhart Hauptmann, first produced in 1895.

[88] ‘There exists a special apparatus in which a very sensitive arrow, connected with the tension of the muscle of the arm, shows the physiological effect of music on nerves and muscles.’ (Tolstoy’s note.)

[89] Quoted both times in English in the original (see note 60).

[90] Alexander Ostrovsky (1823-86), the ‘Russian Shakespeare’, wrote over fifty plays — domestic tragedies, satires, poetical fairy tales, historical dramas; of this last sort, Kozma Minin (1862) is an example. Alexei Konstantinovich Tolstoy (1817-75), author of his­torical novels, also wrote a trilogy of historical dramas in verse, of which Tsar Boris (1870) is the third.

[91] Karl Pavlovich Briullov (1799-1852), head of the Russian roman­tic school, painted historical subjects and court portraits.

[92] In 1876 King Ludwig II of Bavaria built a theatre in Bayreuth for the production of Wagner’s operas, which were and are still performed there at an annual festival.

[93] The czardas (pl. czardas) is a Hungarian folk dance that begins slowly and ends in a wild whirl.

[94] Tolstoy means ‘Opus 101’, but the error may be deliberate.

[95] Paul Bourget (1852-1935), French essayist and novelist, was very popular in his day.

[96] The unknown writer was a peasant, F. F. Tishchenko, with whom Tolstoy was in correspondence.

[97] A kulich is a rich and dense yeast bread, cylindrical in form, baked especially for Easter.

[98] Viktor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov (1848-1926), Russian artist, was among those who tried to adapt Church iconography to the tech­niques and tastes of nineteenth-century oil painting, with unfortu­nate results.

[99] According to Aylmer Maude’s 1898 English translation of What Is Art?, Tolstoy is referring here to the catalogue of the English Academy exhibition of 1897. Walter Langley (1852-1922) was an English genre painter. Delmas, whom Maude calls Dolman, we have not been able to identify.

[100] Ernest Rossi (1827-96), Italian tragic actor, toured Russia in 1877 and 1896.

[101] The Voguls are a hunting and gathering people of Ugro-Finnish origin who live in the northern Urals of western Siberia.

[102] Tolstoy misquotes Luke 16:15: ‘that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God’.

[103] The story of the beggar Lazarus is in Luke (16:19—31). St Mary of Egypt, a prostitute of the fifth century who repented and then spent forty years in the desert, is one of the most greatly venerated saints in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

[104] See John 17:21: ‘That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me’ (King James Version).

[105] Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoy (1837-87) was a Russian genre painter. Antoine Morion (1868-1905) was a French painter of marine subjects.

[106] Jean-Francois Millet (1814-75), French painter of the Barbizon school, painted rural scenes and landscapes of a touching pathos and sincerity. Jules Breton (1827-1906) was a French poet, writer and painter who painted village scenes and peasant life. Leon Lhermitte (1844-1925) was also a French painter of rural subjects. Franz von Defregger (1835-1921), an Austrian painter, depicted Tyrolean popu­lar scenes.

[107] Nikolai Nikolaevich Ge (1831—94), Russian genre painter, often applied himself to Gospel subjects, of which his Judgement of the Sanhedrin is an example. The full title of the painting by German artist Alexander Liezen-Mayer (1839—98) is Queen Elizabeth Signing the Death Sentence of Mary Stuart.

[108] French painter Jean-Leon Gerome (1824—1904) depicts the end of a gladiatorial combat in the Roman circus in his painting Pollice verso (‘Thumbs down’ in Latin); his works are generally of a neo-Greek academic style.

[109] ‘In suggesting examples of what I consider the best art, I do not attach much importance to my selection, since, besides being insufficiently informed in all kinds of art, I belong to the rank of people whose taste has been perverted by the wrong upbringing. And therefore I can, by old acquired habit, be mistaken, taking the impression that the thing produced on me when I was young for absolute merit. I cite examples of works of both kinds only in order better to clarify my thought, to show how I, with my present views, understand the merit of art by its content. I must note, besides, that I rank my own artistic works on the side of bad art, except for the story “God Sees the Truth”, which wants to belong to the first kind, and the “Prisoner of the Caucasus”, which belongs to the second.’ (Tolstoy’s note.)

[110] Adelina Patti (1843-1919) was an Italian singer, born in Madrid, of European renown, who triumphed in the operas of Mozart, Rossini and Verdi. Maria Taglioni (1804-84) was a celebrated dancer.

[111] Eugène-Melchior, Vicomte de Vogüé (1848-1910), a member of the Académie Française, wrote a study of the Russian novel which introduced the French to nineteenth-century Russian writers; he belonged to the neo-Christian movement inspired by Tolstoy and Dostoevsky in reaction to naturalism in literature and scientism in philosophy.

[112] To this list of notorious ‘supermen’ Tolstoy adds the names of Stenka Razin (c. 1630-71), a Don Cossack who became a popular hero by leading a peasant uprising in 1667—70, and of the fictional charac­ter Robert Macaire, from the melodrama L’Auberge des Adrets (1823), played by the famous actor Frédérick Lemaître and made into a caricature of the swindler in the lithographs of Honoré Daumier.

[113] Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848-84) was a painter of popular and sentimental subjects, later attracted to impressionism.

[114] Tolstoy is referring to Christ’s casting out of ‘all them that sold and bought in the temple’ (see Matthew 21: 12-13, Mark n: 15-17, Luke 19: 45-6).

[115] Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky (1793-1856), Russian mathemat­ician, was one of the creators of non-Euclidean geometry; the title of his book on the subject is Imaginary Geometry.

[116] The following are translations of the poems in Appendix I.

The Welcome

If you wish me to welcome you tonight at the fireside,

First throw away that flower which sheds its petals from your hand,

Its dear fragrance would make my sadness too gloomy;

And do not look behind you towards the darkness,

For I want you, having forgotten the forest

And the wind, and the echo, and what would speak

Voices to your solitude or tears to your silence!

And standing, with your shadow that precedes you,

Haughty on my threshold, and pale, having come

As if I were dead or as if you were naked!

 

Henri de Regnier

Games Rustic and Divine

Blue bird the colour of time

Do you know the oblivion

Of a vain sweet dream,

Scoffing bird

Of the forest?

Day pales,

Night falls,

And in my heart

The shade has wept;

 

Oh, sing me

Your wild scale,

For I have slept

The day around.

The cowardly alarm

Where my soul was

Sobs boredom

In the dying day . . .

 

Do you know the song

Other speech

And of her voice,

You who repeat

In the sunset

Your frivolous tune

As you did before

In the noontimes?

 

Oh, then sing

The melody

Other love,

My mad hope,

Among the golds

And conflagration

Of the vain soft day

That dies tonight.

 

Francis Vielé-Griffin

Poems and Verses

 

Enone of the Bright Face

 

Enone, I had thought that in loving your beauty

Where soul with body find their unity,

To go on mounting, ever firmer in heart and mind,

As far as that which never perishes,

Never having been created, which is not chill or fire,

Which is not beautiful somewhere and ugly somewhere else;

And I still flattered myself with a beautiful harmony

That I would have composed of best and worst,

As the singer who cherishes Polyhymnia,

By according low pitch and high, draws

So lofty a sound from the nerves of his lyre.

But, alas! my courage, fainting as in death,

Taught me that the dart which had made me a lover

Did not come from that bow effortlessly bent

By the Venus who is born solely of the male,

But that I had suffered from that latter Venus,

Cowardly of heart, born of a feeble mother,

And yet that wicked boy, a skilful hunter,

Who loads his quiver with subtle feathered shafts,

Who, laughing, shakes his torch, for a day,

Who only alights upon the tender flowers,

Dries the tears on a charming complexion,

And still he is a god, Enone, this Amor.

But let it be, the birds of spring have flown,

And the sun’s rays I see are grown subdued.

Enone, my sorrow, harmonious face,

Superb humility, gentle honest speech,

Yesterday looking at myself in that frozen lake

Covered under foliage at the garden’s end,

Upon my face I saw that the days have gone.

 

Jean Moréas

The Passionate Pilgrim

Shady Lullaby

 

Forms, forms, forms

White, blue, pink and gold

Will come down from the tops of the elms

On the child lulled back to sleep.

Forms!

Plumes, plumes, plumes

To make up a soft nest.

Noon strikes: the anvils

Stop; the noise is stilled . . .

Plumes!

Roses, roses, roses

To perfume her sleep,

Your petals are sullen

Next to her ruby smile.

Oh roses!

Wings, wings, wings

To murmur at her brow,

Bees and dragonflies,

Rhythms to rock her by.

Wings!

Branches, branches, branches

To plait into a bower,

Through which less candid lights

Will fall on the little chick.

Branches!

Dreams, dreams, dreams

In her half-opened thoughts

Slip a little falsehood

Through which life can be seen.

Dreams!

Fairies, fairies, fairies

To spin out their skeins

Of mirages, of cloud puffs,

In all their little heads.

Fairies!

Angels, angels, angels

To carry off in the ether

These strange little children

Who don’t want to remain . . .

Our angels!

Comte Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac

Blue Hydrangeas

 


[Up] [Contents] [Preface] [Bibliographical Note] [A Note on the Text] [WHAT IS ART?] I  II  III  IV  V  VI  VII  VIII  IX  X  XI  XII  XIII  XIV  XV  XVI  XVII  XVIII  XIX  XX [CONCLUSION] [Appendix I] [Appendix II] [Notes]


   
 

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