Friday, 3 August 2012

Marya Zaturensky's Russian Peasants

Lowry quotes from Marya Zaturensky's poem 'Russian Peasants' in Chapter 3 of Ultramarine; "They are dancing wildly tonight, wildly in the village of Czernoff." (Pg. 118).

Lowry probably read the poem in Harriet Monroe's Poetry: A Magazine of Verse XVI 1920.  This poem is possible example of Conrad Aiken's influence on Lowry's reading, after visiting Aiken in America in 1928, as Aiken contributed to Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. 

THEY dance wildly today at the village of Czernoff—
The men and women and little children.
They dance wildly before the great lord’s castle,
Snapping their heels, cracking their fingers and sobbing
In hilarious passionate abandon.    

Wilder and wilder shriek the cymbals and violins,
Wilder and wilder arise the cries of the dancers,
And wilder the songs and the mad laughter.

Their faces are aglow, their eyes are shining
Radiant with vision and joy and splendor.      
Lithe are the bodies of the young women,
Marvelous the grace of the young men,
And strangely beautiful the wild chant of the old men and women.

They pass in a scarlet maze, singing, laughing, weeping:
Scarlet the embroidered bodices and petticoats,      
Scarlet the blouses of the men,
And scarlet and riotous the exhilarating air.

Tomorrow we shall see them reaping,
Backs bowed, and eyes apathetic with labor.
They will speak to you sorrowfully, hopelessly:      
“There is no joy in life,” they will say;
“Only with God is our great gladness—
His peace and his light be with you, brother"

Lowry's use of the poem is linked to the Russian roots of the prostitute Olga Sologub, who Dana meets in the red light district of Dairen, in a similar to use of scenes from the film Love's Crucifixion starring Olga Tschechowa - Lowry's spelling - as well as Chekhova's Russian roots. Lowry's is part of his creation of an innocent peasant past for Olga which fits into his fantasy of rescuing her from the brothel. The dancing of the village contrast with the dancing in the brothel; "a Negro fireman had taken his shoes off and did a crazy dance upon his enormous bare feet, a coconut in each hand and a cigar behind each ear. The music rose to a scream of dreadful pain. Another Negro joined the first in his dance. Modo and Maha." (Pg. 118). Lowry's reference to Modo and Maha are 2 of the 5 fiends in Poor Tom named by Edgar's in Shakespeare's King Lear. This is a clear contrast by Lowry between the "light" of the Russain village and the "darkness" of the 2 black sailors.

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