Letter 2477

Date 27 April/9 May 1884
Addressed to Anna Merkling
Where written Kamenka
Language Russian
Autograph Location unknown
Publication Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 2 (1901), p. 640–641 (abridged)
П. И. Чайковский. С. И. Танеев. Письма (1951), p. 219–220
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том XII (1970), p. 362–363
Notes Manuscript copy in Klin (Russia): Tchaikovsky State Memorial Musical Museum-Reserve (signature omitted)

Text and Translation

Russian text
(original)
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
Каменка. 27-го апреля 1884

Спасибо, голубушка Аня, что вспомнила меня 25-го апреля. Сегодня я получил твоё письмо, а в день рождения была поздравительная телеграмма из Петербурга, подписанная Антон. Я не знаю никакого Антона, который был бы ко мне настолько близок, чтобы телеграммы посылать, и думаю, что это ошибка. Не ты ли это? Я без всякой горечи принимаю поздравительные приветствия по поводу того, что год прибавился. Умирать я нисколько не желаю и даже хочу достигнуть глубокой старости, но не согласился бы, если бы моё согласие и спрашивали, сделаться молодым и снова целую жизнь переживать. Довольно и одной

Прошедшего, о котором ты говоришь с грустным сожалением по поводу Тамберлика, конечно, жаль, и [никто] более меня не любит погружаться в воспоминания; никто живее меня не чувствует тщету и мимолетность жизни, — и тем не менее всё-таки не хочу молодости. Всякий возраст имел свою прелесть и свои хорошие стороны, и дело не в том, чтобы вечно быть молодым, — а чтобы как можно меньше страдать физически и нравственно.

Не знаю, каков я буду стариком, а покамест не могу не сознавать, что сумма благ, которыми пользуюсь теперь, гораздо больше той, коею я был наделён в молодости, и потому нисколько не сокрушаюсь о том, что мне 44 года; да хоть бы 70 или 80, — лишь бы здоровым быть телом и умом. А ещё что нужно, — это чтобы не было страха смерти. Вот в этом отношении не могу похвастать. Я не настолько проникнут религией, чтобы в смерти видеть с уверенностью начало новой жизни, и не философ, чтобы примириться с той пучиной небытия, в которую придётся погрузиться. Никому так не завидую, как людям вполне религиозным. Однако я зафилософствовался. Про себя, голубушка, скажу, что поживаю недурно, — но особенных прелестей в каменской жизни и быть не может: пакостнее этой местности я ничего не знаю. Наши петербургские приехали, и все здоровы. Начинаю пописывать кое-что в симфоническом роде. Думаю пробыть здесь до июня, потом навещу Модю и поживу у него, а потом к Толе поеду, но, во всяком случае, тебя увижу. А покамест целую пауков и есмь твой.

Kamenka. 27th April 1884

Thank you, darling Anya, for remembering me on 25 April. Today I received your letter, and on my birthday there came a congratulatory telegram from Petersburg which was signed Anton. I don't know of any Anton sufficiently close to me as to be sending me telegrams, and I think it must be a mistake. Or was it you perhaps? It is without any bitterness that I accept these messages of congratulation on the occasion of my having another year under my belt. I do not in the least wish to die, and I even want to attain a ripe old age, but, assuming I were asked, I would not consent to become young again and live through a whole life afresh. Once is enough

Of course, it is a shame about the past, which you referred to with wistful regret in connection with Tamberlik [1], and no one likes to immerse himself into recollections more than I do; no one feels more keenly than me the vanity and transience of life, and yet, all the same, I do not want youth. Every age has its charms and good sides, and it is not a question of being eternally young, but of suffering as little as possible, both physically and morally.

I don't know what I will be like as an old man, but for now I cannot help recognizing that the sum total of the blessings which I am enjoying now is far greater than what I was endowed with in my youth, and that is why I am not in the least aggrieved that I am now 44. I would gladly be 70 or 80, as long as I was healthy in body and mind. What I would also need, though, is not to have any fear of death. For I cannot boast in that respect. I am not sufficiently steeped in religion as to be able confidently to see in death the beginning of a new life, nor am I a philosopher capable of reconciling himself to the abyss of non-existence into which he will have to plunge. No one do I envy so much as people who are fully religious. Anyway, that's enough philosophizing. As for myself, darling, I can tell you that I am doing quite well, though there cannot be any particular charm in living in Kamenka: I do not know a nastier place than this [2]. Our Petersburgers have arrived—they are all in good health [3]. I am starting to write something in the symphonic genre [4]. I intend to stay here until June, then I shall visit Modya and stay with him [5], and after that I shall go and visit Tolya—in any case, though, I shall see you. For the time being I kiss your spiders [6] and remain yours.

Notes and References

  1. Anna Merkling had written to the composer on 22 April/4 May 1884: "I heard Tamberlik, and, my God, how vividly I recalled my whole distant youth, with its unfulfilled dreams, with its fantasies. All through the concert I was thinking about you; my own memories somehow became interspersed with recollections about you and your then ascending star, and how he [Tamberlik] was then in the prime of his talent. You used to hum and strum on the piano all the operas in which he took part, while forcing us to sing the choruses with stereotypical gestures. We were dressed in blankets, and there were you, sitting at the piano, your legs bent and tucked under the chair, picking out passages, listening, and correcting us with your voice whenever we sang out of tune" — note by Vladimir Zhdanov in П. И. Чайковский. С. И. Танеев. Письма (1951), p. 220  [back]
  2. Tchaikovsky was becoming increasingly disenchanted with life in Kamenka in these years, and was irritated by the behaviour of some members of Lev Davydov's family. See Alexander Poznansky,Tchaikovsky. The quest for the inner man (1993), chapter 22  [back]
  3. On 22 April/4 May 1884, Tchaikovsky's sister Aleksandra had arrived back from Saint Petersburg, where she had gone to fetch her sons Vladimir ("Bob") and Dmitry home from the School of Jurisprudence, where they were studying. See Alexander Poznansky,Пётр Чайковский. Биография, том II (2009), p. 220  [back]
  4. Tchaikovsky conceived the idea for a new symphonic composition in mid/late April 1884. At first he was unsure as to what form it would take, but he soon decided on a suite, and by 23 May/4 June he had completed his Suite No. 3 in sketch form  [back]
  5. Modest Tchaikovsky was spending the summer at Grankino, the family estate of his pupil Nikolay Konradi ("Kolya")  [back]
  6. "Spiders" here are "hands". This association evidently goes back to some childhood memory of the composer's. Anna Merkling had very beautiful hands, and this was something that Tchaikovsky always paid particular attention to — note by Vladimir Zhdanov in П. И. Чайковский. С. И. Танеев. Письма (1951), p. 207. See also Alexander Poznansky,Tchaikovsky. The quest for the inner man (1993), p. 310, for the composer's obsession with hands  [back]