The Musorgsky Reader: A Life of Modeste Petrovich Musorgsky in Letters and Documents

By Jay Leyda; Sergei Bertensson et al. | Go to book overview

uses. I guess he had learned them at the fairs. We laughed a great deal. He sang all this himself . . . --ILYA REPIN


93. To VLADIMIR STASOV

To Volodimir Vasilyevich Stasov the Wise,
an epistle from Musoryanin:

Verbal discourse with wise men cultivates the brain and trains the tongue, and the reading of wise men saves the soul. All this I have uttered with respect--with respect to the 1st and with respect to the 2nd. In respect to the 1st: it's clear to me that if I didn't push without permission into all sorts of arguments of any interest or sensible discussions I would not be myself; in respect to the 2nd: it's even clearer to me that if something or someone had not incited me to read between the lines of wise men, then--I should long ago have been confused in spirit and should resemble a holy pilgrim, viz.: one step forward and two steps backward.

Well, my dear soothsayer, I enjoy bliss in spite of the blue-gray gendarmes' trousers that block out Heaven; the source of this bliss is to be found in the books lent me by my Opochinin: such a worthy man--before he himself finished Darwin "On Man,"21 he has already lent me the first volume--he couldn't help it, and thanks to him. I am reading Darwin and I am in bliss; it is neither the power of Darwin's brain nor its clarity that enthralls me--I am already familiar with these attributes of the Darwin colossus through his earlier works; it is this that enthralls me: while instructing Man as to his origin Darwin knows exactly the kind of animal he has to deal with (how could he help but know!). Accordingly, without Man being aware of it, he is gripped in a vise, and such is the mighty genius of this colossus that not only is Man's pride not torn from him by this violence, but sitting within Darwin's vise is even pleasant, to the point of bliss. When a strong, burning and loving woman clasps her beloved to her, he is conscious of violence, yet he has no wish to free himself from her embrace, because this violence sends him "beyond the borders of bliss," because from this violence, "youthful blood roars with flames." I am not ashamed of this comparison: however we may twist and

____________________
21
Darwin Descent of Man had appeared in England a year before--in 1871. In Musorgsky's several comments on it in this and subsequent letters, he appears to have been more stirred by its implications than by its ideas.

-198-

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