Do not believe, my dearest, when I say
That I no longer love you.
When the tide ebbs do not believe the sea -
It will return anew.
on Alpujara's golden land.
My guitar invites you,
come out my dear!
If only I had known, had realised,
I would not have looked out of the window
as the dashing young man
rode along our street,
Believe me not, dear, when in hours of anguish
I say my love for thee exists no more.
At ebb of tide, think not the sea is faithless;
In hours of ebbing tide, oh trust not to the Sea!
It will come back to shore with redness of the morrow;
Autumn 'tis! Our garden stands
Flowerless and bare,
Dizzy whirling yellow leaves
I bless you, forests, valleys, fields, mountains, waters,
I bless freedom and blue skies.
Burnt out is now my misery--
No more unspeakably torments my heart,
Russia, O my Russia, hail!
Steeds as tempests flying,
Howling of the distant wolves,
Eagles high, shrill crying!
My little almond tree
Is gay with gleaming bloom,
My heart unwillingly
Puts forth its buds of gloom.
Count Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy, often referred to as A. K. Tolstoy, was a Russian poet, novelist and playwright, considered to be the most important nineteenth-century Russian historical dramatist. He also gained fame for his satirical works, published under his own name (History of the Russian State from Gostomysl to Timashev, The Dream of Councillor Popov) and under the collaborational pen name of Kozma Prutkov.
A. K. Tolstoy was born in Saint Petersburg to the famed family of Tolstoy. His father, Count Konstantin Petrovich Tolstoy (1780–1870), a son of the army general, was a Russian state assignation bank councilor. His mother, Anna Alekseyevna Perovskaya (1796–1857), was an illegitimate daughter of Count Aleksey Kirillovich Razumovsky (1784–1822), an heir of the legendary Ukrainian hetman Aleksey Razumovsky. A. K. Tolstoy's uncle (on his father's side) was Fyodor Tolstoy (1783–1873). His uncle on his mother's side was Aleksey Perovsky (1787–1836), an author known under the pen name of Antony Pogorelsky. Aleksey Konstantinovich was a second cousin of Leo Tolstoy; Count Pyotr Andreyevich Tolstoy was their common great-grandfather.
Konstantin Tolstoy and Anna Perovskaya's marriage was short-lived; they divorced in October 1817. With her six weeks old son Anna moved first to her own Blistava estate in Chernigov Governorate, then to Krasny Rog, belonging to her brother Aleksey Perovsky, who became Aleksey Konstantinovich's tutor and a long-time companion. Common knowledge has it that Pogorelsky's famous fantasy fairytale The Black Chicken or The People of the Underground was premiered at home, his young nephew being the only member of Pogorelsky's audience. It was under the latter's influence that Aleksey started to write poetry, as early as 1823, inspired by some old books he found at home. Aleksey had good teachers and at the age of six he fluently spoke French, German and English. Later he learned Italian as well.
As for the Tolstoys, Anna Perovskaya stopped seeing them altogether, only sending them postcards on major dates and holidays.Remembering those happy years, Aleksey later wrote:
I was brought up by Aleksey Perovsky… I spent the first years of my life at his estate and that is why I regard Malorossia as my true homeland. My childhood, which was very happy, left me the most cloudless memories. My mother's only child, without any friends to play with but endowed with a lively imagination, from an early age I was a dreamer, a quality which soon transformed into distinct poetic inclinations. In many ways the local surroundings were conducive to that: the air itself, the huge forests I fell passionately in love with, all this impressed me so much as to completely form my present character.
In early 1826 Anna Perovskaya returned to Saint Petersburg with her brother and son. Here, due to his mother's closeness with the court of the Tsar, Aleksey was admitted to the future Tsar Alexander II's childhood entourage and in August became what was officially termed "a comrade in games" for the young Crown Prince. Aleksey's duties were not many: he had to visit the Crown Prince in Saint Petersburgh and Tsarskoye Selo, take walks with him on Yelagin Island and participate in games, many of which were, in effect, small scale military exercises. They became friends and this friendship lasted for several decades, ending in the mid-1860s. In autumn of 1826 Aleksey met Alexander Pushkin for the first time.
In summer 1827 the family visited Germany where in Weimar young Aleksey met Goethe. The great man greeted the boy very warmly and left him a fragment of a mammoth tusk with his own drawing (depicting a frigate) on it, for a present. Aleksey, having been awe-stricken, remembered little: "Only his magnificent features and the way he took me upon his lap," according to his autobiography. The family spent the next ten years in continuous travel, both in Russia and abroad. An 1831 trip to Italy especially impressed the 13-year old. "Back in Russia I fell into a deep nostalgic depression, longing for Italy which felt like a real motherland; desperately mourning the loss, I cried at night when my dreams carried me off to this Paradise lost," he wrote in his autobiography decades later. In Italy the family met Karl Bryullov. On May 10, 1831, Aleksey wrote in his diary: "Bryullov dined with us and left a sketch in my album". The painter promised Perovsky to make portraits of all three of them once he was back in Russia, but five years later he had finished only one- that of his nephew.
In 1834 Tolstoy enrolled in the Moscow Foreign Ministry State Archive as a "student", where he got his first taste of working with real historical documents. In December 1835 he took exams (in English, French and German languages and literature, Latin, World and Russian history, and Russian statistics) at the University of Moscow for the formal 1st Grade State Bureaucrat certificate. He soon embarked on a career in the Economic Affairs and Statistics Department in Saint Petersburg. Before that, in July 1835, he had buried his uncle Aleksey Perovsky (who died in Warsaw of tuberculosis) and had become heir to his Krasny Rog estate. Also in 1835 Aleksey showed some of his new poems to Vasily Zhukovsky, who praised them. There's evidence that Pushkin also approved of the young poet's early works, giving him full moral support. The Young poet wrote a lot, refining his technique, but wasn't eager to get published. "My first experiments were, no doubt, absurd, but at least metrically they were flawless. I went on training thus for many years, before I debuted... as a prose writer, not a poet," Tolstoy remembered later.
"While serving at the Court of Tsar Nikolay I... and leading a most fashionable life which in a way appealed to me, I still used to run away (from the Palace) and spend weeks in the forests, occasionally with friends, but more often than not, alone. Submerging myself headlong into such a life, which corresponded as little with my artistic inclinations as it did with my official position in Court, I got quite a reputation among our best shooters as a bear-hunter!... This hobby, I think, somehow affected my poetry which has always had a rather upbeat quality."
From his 1874 autobiography.
In January 1837 Tolstoy became attached to the Russian Embassy in Frankfurt where he spent the next two years. The assignment was rather formal, it did not demand Tolstoy's presence in Germany and he spent most of his time in Saint Petersburg, leading a merry life, spending up to three thousand rubles per month, often going to Italy and France. It was during one of these visits that he wrote his first two "gothic" novellas - Vurdalak's Family and Three Hundred Years On (originally in German, later translated into Russian by Boleslav Markevich).Tolstoy showed great interest in all things macabre, influenced, again, by his late uncle who "was obsessed with mysticism in every possible form" and who, in turn, was influenced by E. T. A. Hoffmann whom he was personally acquainted with.
In late 1840 Tolstoy was transferred back to Russia to a position in the Tsar's Imperial State Chancellery 2nd Department where he continued to work for many years, slowly rising in the hierarchy. As time went by, though, he showed less and less enthusiasm for what felt more and more like a major hindrance to his literary aspirations. In May 1841 Tolstoy debuted with The Vampire (a novella published under the pen name of "Krasnorogsky", a reference to Krasny Rog, his residence). Complicated in structure, multi-layered and rich in counterpoints, featuring both the element of "horror" and political satire, it instantly caught the attention of Vissarion Belinsky who praised its "obviously still very young, but undoubtedly gifted author," totally ignorant of the latter's real identity. Tolstoy himself saw the story as insignificant and made no attempt to include it in any of the subsequent compilations; it was only in 1900 that The Vampire was re-issued. In the autumn of 1843 Tolstoy debuted as a poet: his poem "Serebryanka" was published in the #40 edition of Listok dlya svetskikh lyudey (The Fashionable Paper). It took another two years for him to see his second short story, Artyomy Semyonovich Bervenkovsky published in the 1st volume of Count Vladimir Sollogub's Yesterday and Today almanac. The 2nd volume featured Amena, a novella, described as an extract from a novel called Stebelovsky which remained unfinished.
Throughout the 1840s Tolstoy led a busy high society life, full of pleasure trips, salon parties and balls, hunting sprees and fleeting romances. He was described as "a handsome young man with blonde hair and a freshly coloured face" and was renowned for his physical strength, "bending spoons, forks and horse-shoes and driving nails into walls with one finger." One notable business trip to Kaluga in 1850 led to a close friendship with Nikolay Gogol (whom he first met in Frankfurt and then in Rome). Tolstoy recited to Gogol many of his yet unpublished poems and fragments from what later became the novel Prince Serebryanny. Gogol read him the second part of his novel Dead Souls. Among other friendships he struck up in the forties were those with Aksakov, Annenkov, Nekrasov, Panayev and Turgenev.
In the early 1850s, in collaboration with the Zhemchuzhnikov brothers, Tolstoy created the fictional writer Kozma Prutkov, a petty bureaucrat with great self-esteem who parodied the poetry of the day and wrote banal aphorisms. In 1851 Prutkov debuted with The Fantasy a comedy which was signed "Y" and "Z" and written by Tolstoy and Aleksey Zhemchuzhnikov. The play, mocking the then popular "nonsense" vaudeville premiered on January 8 in the Alexandrinsky Theatre. This spectacular farce (featuring at one point a dozen small dogs running about on stage) caused a huge scandal, was promptly banned by Nikolay I (who was among the audience) and remained unpublished until 1884.
It was also in 1851 that Tolstoy first met Sophia Andreyevna Miller (1827?-1892), the wife of a cavalry colonel (whom she later divorced with great difficulty) and an impressively well-educated woman who knew 14 languages, at a Bolshoy Theater masquerade. Tolstoy fell in love with her but had to wait for another twelve years before they were able to marry. Miller had, apparently, a perfect artistic taste and Tolstoy later referred to her as his harshest and most objective critic, as well as the best friend he'd ever had. All of his love lyrics from 1851 onwards were written for and about Sophia. Many of his poems ("My dear bluebells", "Amidst the ball uproar", "Brighter than the skylark's singing", "The wind from high up, it is not...") have been set to music by renowned composers and have become famous Russian romances.
In 1854 Sovremennik magazine published several of Tolstoy's verses ("My bluebells", "Oh you haystacks..." and others), which instantly got critics talking, and also the first of Kozma Prutkov's humorously pompous poetic exercises. The latter was not so much a collective pseudonym, as a character who was making quite a point of coming across as a "real" creature, performing, among other things, obnoxious pranks, one of which involved a messenger visiting all the leading Saint Petersburg architects late at night with the urgent news of the Isaakiyevsky Cathedral having fallen down and urging them to appear early next morning at the court of Tsar Nikolay I, which they hastily did, to the Tsar's utter annoyance.
As the Crimean War broke out, Tolstoy's first intention was to gather a partisan fighting unit and lead it to the Baltic Sea, should the English decide to land there. Along with Count Aleksey Bobrinsky (future Minister of transport) he started to finance and equip two partisan squads, forty fighters each. He bought some ammunition from Tula and traveled all along the Baltic coastline, examining what was supposed to be his future theater of war, the Crown Prince being totally unaware of his plans. On September 2 the allies landed at Yevpatoria and Tolstoy headed South, to join the Imperial infantry regiment (under the command of Lev Perovsky, another of his uncles) as an army major, in March 1855. The regiment went only as far as Odessa where a thousand men were lost from typhoid. In February 1856 Tolstoy became one of the casualties. In Odessa he was nursed back to health by Sophia Miller. Aleksander II was telegraphed daily on the subject of his old friend's condition, at his personal request. In May 1855 Tolstoy was back on his feet, but the war was over for him; he instead embarked upon a Crimean journey with Sophia.
After the War, in 1856, on the day of his Coronation, Aleksander II appointed Tolstoy as one of his personal aide-de-adjutants. It was only three years later that Tolstoy managed to get rid of this tiresome privilege which implied regular duties in the Palace, interfering with his now burgeoning literary career. "You cannot imagine what a storm of rhymes rages in me, what waves of poetry are sweeping through me, longing to break free," he wrote in a letter to Sophia Miller. Two thirds of Tolstoy's poetic legacy was created in the late 1850s. 1857 saw the publication of a large poem called The Sinner. It was followed by the more significant Ioann Damaskin, first published in Russkaya Beseda January 1859 issue. The poem, dealing with the nature of poetry and the poet's position in society (and being in some ways autobiographical) caused scandal in higher places. The head of the 3rd Department Prince Vasily Dolgorukov ordered the printing of the magazine to be stopped and for the poem to be removed. Evgraf Kovalevsky, the Minister of Education, personally permitted the publication, his rather daring decision marking a serious rift between the two departments.
Tolstoy's poems were appearing in virtually all the major Russian magazines of the time, regardless of their ideological inclinations. Yet, in 1857 his relationship with the leftist Sovremennik group became strained. Tolstoy drifted towards the Slavophiles and their Russkaya beseda magazine, becoming a close friend of Ivan Aksakov and Aleksey Khomyakov, but this liaison was short-lived too.
Tolstoy's politics and philosophy
In the 1860s he found himself in the very strange position of being a highly popular author, criticised fiercely both from the left and from the right. As to the reasons for this, A.K. Tolstoy was never in doubt. In an autobiographical letter to A. Gubernatis he wrote:
…On the one hand I loathe the repressive hand of power, on the other– pseudo-liberalism having for its aim not the rising of the low, but the tearing down of high things. These two aversions easily fall into one general hatred of despotism, whatever form it takes. And there is another thing I am averse to: the didactic platitudes of our so-called progressives who preach utilitarianism in poetry. I am one of only two or three authors here who carry the banner of the principle of Art for art's sake. For I am completely convinced that a poet's mission is not presenting the common people with some kind of illusory favours or profits, but trying to raise their morality level; to imbue into them the love for beauty; the love that is the means in itself which will always find its end without any propaganda being involved. This point of view directly clashes with the one that is dominant in our journals. So, giving me great honour by regarding me as the major representative of the ideas they oppose, these people keep scolding me with a fervor worthy of a better cause. Our press is mostly in the hands of socialist theoreticians. Of this vast clique which is busy serving its own slogans and keeping its own proscription lists, I am the target. And all the while the reading public gives me nothing but their approval. And one more curious detail: while the journals label me "retrograde", the authorities consider me "a revolutionary".
He caused much controversy with his scathing remarks aimed at contemporary government officials (Timashev, Butkov, Panin, Velio) whom he– a supporter of the monarch– considered real enemies of the State. Tolstoy criticized the activities of the 3rd Department, and in the wake of the Polish uprising was one of the very few people in the Court to openly denounce Muravyov the Hangman's draconian methods of political repression.
A fierce opponent of xenophobia, he saw Russia as a European country, and Russians as Europeans. This clashed with the slavophile doctrine of maintaining Russia's "special place" in the world. "
Do Not Believe
Do not believe, my dearest, when I say
That I no longer love you.
When the tide ebbs do not believe the sea -
It will return anew.
Already I long for you, and passion fills me,
I yield my freedom thus to you once more.
Already the waves return with shouts and glee
To fill again that same belovèd shore.
I was trying to establish relation between this Tolstoy and my favourite Leo Tolstoy but they are separate.