August 3, 2017 by AK
Tyutchev (1803-1873) wrote this poem in July 1850, at 46, possibly still in the grip of depression but already on the brink of a new life (which would end in a series of disasters in 1864-5). I thought of it while translating Potugin’s monologue yesterday:
Don’t reason, don’t bother:
Madness teaches, stupidity judges.
Treat the day’s wounds with sleep,
And whatever is due tomorrow, will be.
As you live, know how to survive all things:
Sorrow, and joy, and worry.
What’s there to wish for? to regret?
The day is over – give thanks to God.
Or, if you wish, “You have survived the day – praise be to God.” Tyutchev and Turgenev belonged to different generations (born in 1803 and 1818) but were on friendly terms and appreciated each other’s work. In 1862, Turgenev conceived a new novella, which would later become Smoke. He only started working on the novel in earnest late in 1865, just before turning 47, about the same age when Tyutchev had written the poem above.
It’s probably worth adding that Tyutchev was a grown-up thinker at 25, but here he moves on, so to say, from generalized pessimism to practical advice.