Nikolayev, 26 July '74
. . . I am thoroughly happy for Modeste, that he has worked such a lot; the place from the "Catacombs" which you describe is beautiful, but it is taken out of the middle and thus is not very clear to me; how this appeal happens to be made by Hartmann to Musorgsky--I don't understand this at all. I absolutely do not agree with his intention to write Hill of Nettles. I have come to the conclusion that things like Penny Paradise are essentially things for a single day and for a very limited circle, they require explanations, commentaries, etc., and, chiefly, an acquaintance with the depicted personalities. How could an audience, unprepared in this way, seriously like, for example, "O, Patti, Pattil!" Besides, if these things were to be composed quickly, easily, in some unpretentious form, with some cursory and perfunctory, but telling strokes, as caricatures are drawn or epigrams are written, then, maybe, I dare say . . . but I don't know of such a thing. The ponderous and massively constructed Penny Paradise, in my opinion, is far from satisfactory in this respect. I am afraid that The Hill of Nettles will turn out the same way . . . 35
An epitaph-letter [in song] dedicated to N. P. O . . chi . . . a
Cruel death, like a ravenous vulture, thrust her talons into your heart and killed you; this executioner, cursed throughout the ages, has carried you, too, away.
O, if only all those for whom I know my maddened cry sounds wild, could comprehend the power of grief!
O, if only it could give me tears, bitter and comforting tears--then, perhaps, in a luminous thought, I could portray for people____________________