For the 200th anniversary of M. Yu. Lermontov` birth
"Why have I lived? For what purpose was I born?"
"Unknown chosen one" is the name Mikhail Yurievich Lermontov - one of the mysterious poets of the Golden Age of Russian literature, applied to himself in one of his poems. His unparalleled body of work, his mystical fate have been analyzed painstakingly by a multitude of researchers and literary critics, and yet... The "Ocean of Poetry" (a description of the poet coined by V. G. Belinsky) still seems to contain many secrets. - Ocean! To one of those secrets Mikhail Lermontov alluded himself, saying: "I am God or no one at all!"
And here I feel like digressing a little. But still within the general theme. In Vasily Grossman`s novel Life and Fate, there is this episode: a conversation between two defenders of Stalingrad. Here is an excerpt:
"Guriev went on to talk about why newspaper writers wrote so poorly about the war.
- They are hiding, bastards, in the rear; they see nothing themselves, they are on the other side of the Volga, in deep rear, and they write. Whoever treats him better gets the best treatment from him and plenty of space in his writings. Take Leo Tolstoy who wrote War and Peace. A hundred years people have been reading the book and will read for a hundred more. And why? Because he took part in the war himself; he fought himself so he knew who to write about.
- Allow me, Comrade General - said Krymov, - Tolstoy did not take part in the 1812 war.
- What do you mean "did not take part"? - asked the General.
- Just that, - said quickly Krymov. - Tolstoy was not even born when the war with Napoleon happened.
- Was not born? - repeated Guriev. - How do you mean, "was not born"? Who wrote it for him if he was not born yet? Ah?"...
You can smile at naivety and even ignorance displayed by General Guriev but you can also find something in it to wonder and think about.
Mikhail Yurievich Lermontov wrote his Borodino - that hymn to Russia`s warrior heroes, to the sons of the Fatherland - also not as a direct participant of the Borodino battle; he was born two years after the epochal event.
And how he - who wasn`t even there - was able to create a literary work that has entered all school reading books since and which Leo Tolstoy himself called the mustard seed that produced the colossal tree - War and Peace?
A good question? - You bet! You cannot explain the act by the genius of the creator. Genius is God`s spark. A spark. But what we have here is a flame. And what if we leave conjecture and take a fact to consider. And again a poetic work by Mikhail Yurievich Lermontov, his poem Angel, written almost in childhood. This gift is not for everyone; although Holy Scripture says: to little children belongs the Kingdom of Heaven. The angel of death appearing to him before time left the poet with a special superhuman vision. Thus:
The angel was flying through sky at midnight
And softly he sang in his flight.
He sang of the gardens of God`s paradise,
Of innocent ghosts it its shade;
He sang of the God, and his happy praise
Was honest and unfeigned.
The little soul he carried in his arms
For the world of sorrow and tears"
To save the sinful "world of sorrow and tears", the Heavenly Father sent his son Jesus Christ over two thousand years ago. He sent him to preach a new moral law - not the law of revenge but the law of love. So, could Lermontov be a messenger from heaven? Or as they say now, USO - unidentified spiritual object?
If so, it can be easily understood. The Spirit of God soars wherever it wants. It is not too hard for it to look over the horizon, either on this or the other side.
And what is also significant, his contemporary, who personally knew Lermontov, the "intense Vissarion" (Belinsky - A.K.), writing about the poet`s word singeing people`s hearts wrote the word (albeit in private correspondence) with a capital letter . Exactly as it is written in the Gospel according to John: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" .
Another observation. In Holy Scripture you find the figure "four" many times. "On the fourth day the prophet Jonah was released from the belly of the Leviathan... , where it had been placed for resisting God. Lazarus was resurrected by Jesus on the fourth day after death. In a parable Christ says a barren fig tree should be cared for three years but cut only in the fourth year, should it fail to bear fruit.
And generally, it wasn`t me who noticed that all humankind is given a fourfold choice of the spiritual pilgrimage in light of the mystical biblical story. God has warned us several times about it. He placed first people in heaven. They sinned. God sent them to earth to eat their bread by the sweat of their brow. People sinned again - punished by the Deluge. But also Noah`s Ark. Enter Abraham with godly testaments - people still sinned. With the New Testament appeared God`s Son - Jesus Christ. People continue to sin. What next? - the Last Judgment.
"Then thought I: the Milky Way
Was not for man created!...
We shall depart, leave nothing in our wake
Such is the law; such is our fate."
And these are Lermontov`s Words. It is he who would go on to create the great prophetic works, such as: A Hero of Our Time and The Novice (Mtsyri). In "..Hero..", his crowning achievement, Lermontov went through a painful process of transcending the soul of a person suffering from a deadly disease - ultimate disbelief.
"Since time when the eternal judge
Presented me the gift of Prophet`s Seeing,
I start to read in eyes of men around
The pages of their malice and vices.
I start proclaiming love and truth
And teaching them:
But neighbors though
Were throwing the stones".
Instilled with bitter conflicting feelings expressed in his own poem The Prophet, quoted above, Lermontov writes the story of Pechorin. Four times, like mankind in the Bible, a person who has lost faith in everything finds himself in a situation where he chooses his life`s path. Many a time he defies God, provokes Him. Four times is his pride forgiven. But, in the end he found what he had been looking for by rejecting a glad Heavenly Design. He ... "died while returning from Persia". He was given his due according to his faith. His negative faith.
Mtsyri (The Novice) was also on the threshold of death four times. Unlike Grigory Pechorin he however refrained from temptation but rather merged in co-purpose with the Almighty. Alive.
And what follows from all of this? Surely that Lermontov`s works of a genius are nothing but an expression of God`s will to remind people through the words of his chosen one once again that people`s pilgrimage is in Christ!
Slandered by Rumor
Mikhail Lermontov is a "poet of super-humanity... truly of cosmic proportions" (to quote an expression by D. Merezhkovsky) who in his earthly life produced storms around himself like a violent vibration. And only of the spiritual variety. He upset sinful society as if a pinch of salt thrown onto exposed flesh. He suffered, curing the soul with an unbearable pain. As a person, as long as not claimed by Apollo as a sacred prey, he drowned in the empty goings of the high society. Which allowed many researchers of a democratic persuasion to proclaim him as the herald of a new revolutionary minded generation whose coming of age, according to A. I. Herzen, "was accompanied by the tolling of the bell announcing to Russia the execution of Pestel and the crowning of Nicholas the First".
It is believed that in 1837 Lermontov`s spiritual change-over took place. Then the world saw and heard his work Death of the Poet (Pushkin - A.K.).
It was a requiem to the poet genius of Russia whom Mikhail Lermontov had never met although popular settlement made the two poets very close; the poem was dubbed a "call for a revolution". So writes, by the way, a well-known Soviet writer, one of the best specialists on Lermontov`s work - Irakly Andronnikov, known for his unique gift of a story-teller. Actually, it turns out he is a relative of Lermontov and is not that far removed.
I am not arguing that the poet experienced a spiritual change-over exactly at that period. The poem Death of the Poet starts with a bitter accusation directed at the world and even at... God. Surely the hallmark of a revolutionary! But... For some reason many refuse to see that Mikhail Lermontov throws his accusations even at Pushkin himself. And, think about it, creationism transforms into humility before Divine Providence. And the image of Pushkin is reworked into that of an ideal Christian who like God the Son is meekly carrying his cross in this world of "sorrow and tears" which became such other than through the fault of the Creator .
"And in place of his old wreath, a wreath of sloe
Woven with bays, they put on Poet`s head".
And what about the line written a little later and added to the main poem:
"But there is the Court of God, ye, evil tribe!"
Here Lermontov is not just a Christian. He is a slave of the Heavenly Father, freed from the worldly burden.
Soon poems appear related directly to the poet`s artistic God worship. They are Branch of Palestine, and Thought, and Poet and the most luminous and lyrical of his creations - Alone Step I Out On the Road. Of course, this is far from a complete list.
Earthly life proved to be pretty devastating to both of Russia`s poetic geniuses, undermined the stone of their Christian faith. Even more so in the case of Pushkin. But the providence was pleased to return them to the heavenly bosom. They say they departed too early. But Christ himself departed his earthly life equally "early". They departed, nay, were taken back by God as soon as they had completed their mission. Lermontov had shooting duels before Martynov. By the way, he dueled at the same Black River place where Alexander Pushkin had a duel. It was God`s will that he survived it then. In the Caucasus he would die instantly, without suffering, having not even discharged his own pistol.
It was different with Pushkin. He wanted to kill Dantes. He shot at him. But the poet was gifted the right for a spiritual reconciliation with the enemy. "I demand", said Alexander Pushkin to P. A. Vyazemsky before dying, "that there be no revenge for my death. I forgive him (Dantes - A.K.) and want to die a Christian" .
Verily: love your personal enemies, stay away from the enemies of your Fatherland, despise God`s enemies. And then, as writes Gennady Piskarev, a well-known publicist, my friend, an Academician of the Academy of Russian Literature :
"Goes dim Hell`s dark intent
And the exultant glance of Satan.
Your dying is not death
- It is Enlightenment
For the people of a wayward nation...
Purified is Russia with pain,
Hearing angel-like voice of its sons
And the Messiah his embrace
Extends over its lands.
Inside the Caucasus
...For a long time one of the biggest mysteries for me personally was a truly boundless love for Lermontov professed by some Caucasus natives, in particular by Chechens. I couldn`t even imagine what I would hear once from Said Lorsanukaev, a Chechen publicist and writer: "My ancestors, simple uneducated shepherds as they were, who lived in the village of Gekhi, on learning of Lermontov`s murder, declared a period of mourning in their village". Actually, Gekhi sits on the river Valerik - the same one where a unique battle between Chechen and Russian units was fought on July 11, 1840, in which Lermontov took an active part as a lieutenant of the Tenginsky Regiment at the time. Naturally, he was not fighting on Shamil`s side. Later Lermontov would describe that battle with the following words: "And for two whole hours, in water flowing, like animals, without sound, chest to chest, they hit against each other falling dully to the ground... I wanted to scoop some water but the murky water was warm, was red in color!"
So why is it then that Chechens, with whom (as Lermontov wrote himself) "hate is boundless like love" and "friendship is always true but vengeance is even truer", esteem and worship someone who was basically a fighter from the "Tsar`s Spetsnaz" as if their own hero. Of course, one can take into account that Lermontov is the author of Chechnya`s other proud and beautiful name "Ichkeria", that he, according to P. Antokolsky, was inside the Caucasus and not just glanced at it from above like Pushkin though also excited by the mountainous land, "the Caucasus is under me...". But it is not enough to worship someone who stepped onto your land with arms.
Oh! "Worship". - Maybe this concept holds the key to the secret? Apparently guided by this very guess Gennady Piskarev, a writer already familiar to us, who wrote "Caucasus Drama" based on Russian classical works, while describing the Valerik battle, its participants, places Lermontov not in the midst of action but in the high sky, from where he watches the massacre of proud and arrogant men like a godly creature. And the following words sound on the background:
"A year will come, the year of Russia, black,
When the Tsars` crown will be cast.
The mob shall forget its former love and faith,
And the food of many will be blood and death".
These are the verses, prophetic verses by Lermontov, a landowner, aristocrat, born in the capital city of Russia - Moscow. A patriot. The Great Patriot who loves his Land but with a strange love:
"I love the smoke of the burnt-out stubbles,
The wagons traveling in the steppe...
...I`m glad to watch until midnight,
The dances, filled with stamps and whistling
To murmur of the peasants, drunk.
You feel the breathing of a people`s soul in all of this. And, you may say, the people`s voice. And the people`s voice is the voice of God as is known. The soul of the people is God`s soul. He breathed it in the ancestors of all humankind - Adam and Eve. Through all life`s troubles, trials, sorrows, it is striving to rise to freedom and light, to God, surprising the humankind entangled in their vanity of vanities by its manifestations via God`s chosen messengers. And here we read Pushkin`s Imitations of the Koran. The Koran which would teach Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin, a roughneck in his life, meekness in the presence of God. And in that same Koran - a catechesis of the Muslims - we find lofty words on the Christian God - Jesus Christ and his earthly mother - Saint Mary. I should note that hers is the only female name esteemed by Muhammad.
And Lermontov? Of course, he fell in love with the Caucasus with all of his soul. And not when he was banished to the Caucasus by the "unwashed" Russian bureaucrats but already in his early childhood. He was taken three times by his grandmother to Goriachevodsk on the Terek, to her sister`s estate. The freedom-loving customs of both the natives and local Russians and Cossacks made a lasting impression upon his soul. And in time his poetic nature developed the image of the majestic Caucasus - the "stern Tsar of the Earth". It is for this that the poet was and is still loved by the people of the Caucasus. When he was still alive, they gave him a Circassian burka (you can see it in Lermontov`s self-portrait - he could draw beautifully as well as dance and play music). And the first portrait of the poet was painted by a Chechen artist who thus painted the portrait of a person close to him spiritually.
Regardless the poet`s native estate of Tarkhany, the Caucasus was in actual fact the cradle of Lermontov`s poetry, according to V. Belinsky , as well as that of many other famous poets. A scenic land, grand mountain peaks, unique traditions of its peoples could not fail to impact the poet`s lyrical soul. It is here that Lermontov created his best masterpieces. The gleaming peaks are reaching for the sky to where our souls also strive. No, not the graveyard of Russian poets, as was claimed by Vladimir Soloviev , an ecumenist philosopher but the high sky caught with the anchors of Orthodox Churches` gleaming crosses and the golden horns of Islamic mosques` crescents. People are brothers. It is not banal. Lermontov confirmed it by probably laying down the fundamentals of friendship between the natives of the Caucasus and the Russians, together with Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, directing a new vector of interaction between the peoples.
Lermontov`s works are classics. And classics are the music of the spheres and not just pop convulsions. Classics are eternal, in demand whatever the circumstances as Anna Akhmatova was so precise in expressing:
"Most strong on earth is sorrow
And most lasting is the heavenly word".
...Ulia Gromova, a Young Guard member, thrown by fascists into the pit of a coal mine, before her very death, was reading from memory Lermontov`s Demon to her comrades dying in excruciating paid from beatings...
Publicist, Doctor of Sociological Sciences, professor