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

By Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky; Jay Leyda et al. | Go to book overview

the people, "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," then I agree with you, because his is the fundamental law for the spirit and the policy of the people. It seems to me that this rule occurred to the people themselves independently of Moses, a consequence of harsh customs. --Your arguments--damnation and circumcision--are not enough: Christ replaced circumcision with baptism, which is somewhat gentler, but in essence is just as strange a rite. Damnation was decided upon for a crime, that is, for not carrying out one or another law; in place of damnation Christ introduced the idea of eternal torment--it's actually the same thing, except that He softened it a little through penitence. There is my explanation; give me your written answer, in case you know for certain that it ("an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth") was laid down by Moses himself.

Your
MODESTE


15. To MILI BALAKIREV

19 October [1859] [ St. Petersburg]

DEAR MILI,

You present me with two things, which you suspect in me. I will begin with the first--mysticism--or as you well expressed it--a mystic trait. As you know, two years ago or less I was in the grip of a terrible illness, which came on violently while I was in the country. This was mysticism--mixed with cynical thoughts about the Deity. This illness developed terribly after I returned to St. Petersburg; I succeeded in concealing it from you, but you must have noticed traces of it in my music. I suffered greatly, and became fearfully sensitive (even morbidly so).--Then, either as a result of distraction, or because I indulged in fantastic dreams which I fed upon for a long while, my mysticism little by little began to fade away; and when the development of my reason had taken a certain form, I began to take measures to destroy this mysticism altogether. Lately I have made efforts to conquer this idea, and fortunately I have succeeded. At present I am very far from mysticism, and I hope forever, since moral and mental development are not compatible with it.--As for my attitude toward you, I must clarify how I behaved toward you from the very beginning of our acquaintance.--In the first place I recognized your superiority; in arguments with you I saw the greater clarity of view

-21-

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