Translating Tiutchev's Autumn Evening: Classical Restraint

mikhail clodt evening in village

Evening View in a Village (Orol Gubierna)  by Mikhail Clodt. 1874 {1}

Mikhail Clodt (1832-1902) was born into the artistic family of barons, and initially did well. Following the award of a gold medal by the Imperial Academy of Arts, Clodt studied painting in France, Switzerland and Italy but spent the following two years of his scholarship travelling around Russia. A string of successes followed: Autumn (1863), The Field (1872) and the Forest view in Midday (1878). Critics were divided in their views, however: some praised the attention to detail, and others noted the petty naturalism and 'slavish following of reality'. The paintings are accomplished, detailed but somber, closer to the old masters of the Dutch school than anything of contemporary France or Italy. The larger element of poetry common to Russian painters is missing, and there is certainly no love of colour or vivid brushwork. {2-3}

Clodt was a founding member of the Peredvizhniki movement, but his sharp tongue and Acadamy professorship made him an uneasy member. His criticism of Arhip Kuindzhi obliged him to leave the movement, and in 1886 he retired from the Acadamy as well. He painted little of value in his later years, and half-blind and financially broken, died in 1902. {2-3}

Tiutchev: Autumn Evening 

Tiutchev's poetry seems insubstantial, hardly worth the writing down: {1}

Федор Тютчев «Осенний вечер»

Есть в светлости осенних вечеров
 Умильная, таинственная прелесть!..
Зловещий блеск и пестрота дерев,
Багряных листьев томный, легкий шелест,

Туманная и тихая лазурь
 Над грустно-сиротеющей землею
 И, как предчувствие сходящих бурь,
Порывистый, холодный ветр порою,

Ущерб, изнеможенье — и на всем
 Та кроткая улыбка увяданья,
Что в существе разумном мы зовем
 Божественной стыдливостью страданья!..

The machine code translation is:

Fedor Tyutchev: "Autumn Evening"

Is in the lordship of the autumn evenings
 A charming, mysterious charm! ..
 The ominous brilliance and variegation of trees,
 Scarlet leaves languid, light rustling,

 Foggy and quiet azure
 Above the sad-orphaned earth
 And, like a premonition of coming storms,
 A gusty, cold wind sometimes,

 Damage, exhaustion - and everything
 That gentle smile of wilting,
 That in the rational being we call
 Divine bashfulness of suffering! ..

Analysis

The piece is written in regular iambic pentameters, rhymed aBaB:

Есть в свет лос ти осен них ве че ров 5a
У миль на я, та инст вен на я пре лесть!..5B
Зло ве щий блеск и пест ро та де рев, 5a
Баг ря ных листь ев том ный, лег кий ше лест, 5B

Ту ман на я и ти ха я ла зурь 5c
 Над груст но-си ро те ю щей зем ле ю 5D
 И, как пред чувст ви е схо дя щих бурь, 5c
По ры вис тый, хо лод ный ветр по ро ю, 5D

У щерб, из не мо жень е — и на всем 5e
 Та крот ка я у лыб ка у вя да нья, 5F
Что в су щест ве ра зум ном мы зо вем 5e
 Бо жест вен ной стыд ли вость ю стра дань я!.. 5F

 Fëdor Ivánovich Tyútchev (1803-73)

Outwardly, Tyútchev's was one of the most unpoetic of lives. He was born into the ancient nobility, educated at the University of Moscow, and entered the diplomatic service, remaining abroad in Europe for the following 22 years. He married a Bavarian member of the aristocracy and regarded Munich as his true home. He corresponded with Heine and Schilling, sent some verse to Pushkin's Sovreménnik over the 1836-38 period, where they were published over the signature of 'F.T.' but attracted no attention. Tyútchev lost his first wife but married a second time, again to a Bavarian, and was posted to Turin, which he detested. Without permission he left his post of chargé d'affaires, and was expelled from the diplomatic service, settling as a private citizen in Munich. In 1844 he returned to Russia and there obtained a post in the Censorship. In 1854 his poetry first appeared in book form, but Tyútchev was now a pugnacious and hardened reactionary: the poems were strongly nationalistic and Slavophile, making 'painful reading' for liberal opinion. In 1873 he died, after a stroke that left only his brain operational. {2-3}

Tyútchev was rediscovered by Nekrásov, and remains celebrated for the intense love poetry that has a passion and poignancy like nothing else in Russian.  They were written for Mlle Denísieva, his daughter's governess, with whom he had an affair that tainted his reputation and ruined hers. When, in 1864, Mlle Denísieva died, Tyútchev was plunged into grief and despair, his guilt only sharpened by the forebearance shown by his wife and the brilliant figure he still cut in society as Russia's greatest wit and conversationalist . The poems are the more remarkable in that he used Russian infrequently: his wives did not speak Russian, and Tyútchev's everyday speech and correspondence was in French. {2-3}

Tyútchev is now regarded as the true descendent of Pushkin: the little poems sent to Sovreménnik are known by heart across Russia and the love poems speak with an anguished directness that no one will envy. All the poetry, except some the savage invective of the political pieces, which sometimes rise into true eloquence, is pantheistic, profoundly pessimistic and dualistic, indeed Manichaen. The Cosmos around us is always at the mercy of Chaos. Our existence here is fleeting and precarious. Tyútchev's Russian is a little more archaic than Pushkin's, and he has none of the great poet's range, but the romantic style marries vivid imagery with classical order. {2-6}

In the light of John Dewey's excellent Mirror of the Soul: A Life of the Poet Fyodor Tyutchev (2010, Brimstone Press, but kindly made available as a free Pdf ebook at http://www.tyutchev.org.uk/ MOTS.html) {7} the biographical notes here and on the second Tyutchev webpage are very incomplete and somewhat misleading. Tyuchev is not the dry civil servant who unaccountably managed to write some of the greatest lyrical poetry in Russian, but a much more complex individual: the polished diplomat but also sensitive student of poetry from his earliest days, a serious-minded and gifted man, but also impractical, somewhat lazy and with a genius for romantic attachments that caused no end of grief. I will try to update this note in due course.

Final Translation

We have to convey Tiutchev's restraint and musicality, perhaps as something like this:

Autumn Evening

What lordly airs the autumn evening has;
what charms are here, mysterious and sweet.
The trees in brilliant reds are various
as leaves fall soft, unthreatening at our feet.

A blue that’s lightly touched with fog now forms
above this sadly-orphaned forest spot:
a premonition too of coming storms,
of cold and gusty winds, as like as not.

Exhaustion, injury, a going hence,
from everything a smile that’s fading out:
and some intelligence around we sense
as modesty in suffering, and devout.

References and Resources

1. Feodor Tiutchev. Autumn Evening. http://www.stihi-xix-xx-vekov.ru/tutchev235.html
2.
Bristol, E. (1991) A History of Russian Poetry. O.U.P. 126-9
3. Mirsky, D.S. (1958) A History of Russian Literature. Vintage Books.132-6
4. Russian Historical Library writers (2019) Tyutchev's Poetry - Analysis (in Russian) http://rushist.com/index.php/literary-articles/4260-poeziya-tyutcheva-analiz
5. Comparative analysis of poems by F. Tyutchev and A. A. Fet.  The poetry of 'pure art'. (in Russian) https://pedtehno.ru/content/sopostavitelnyy-analiz-stihotvoreniy-f-tyutcheva-i-afeta-poeziya-
chistogo-iskusstva

6. Litra.ru writers (2019) To analyze and compare the poems of F.I.  Tyutchev 'Predestination' and N.Nekrasov 'I do not like your irony ...(in Russian) http://www.litra.ru/composition/download/coid/00695811283685030150/
7. Dewey, J.
(2010) Mirror of the Soul: A Life of the Poet Fyodor Tyutchev. Brimstone Press, but also as a free Pdf ebook at http://www.tyutchev.org.uk/MOTS.html.

Audio

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hxk294Bgbvk

Illustration

1. Clodt, M. (1874) Evening view in village. http://lj.rossia.org/users/john_petrov/179587.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2141104
2. Wikipedia writers .Mikhail Clodt von Jürgensburg https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Clodt_von_J%C3%BCrgensburg
3. Mikhail Clodt. https://www.pictorem.com/profile/Mikhail.Clodt