Life Is Wonderful for the Resurrected
Leonid Andreyev (1900), Translated by Dmitry Fadeyev (2017)
Have you ever happened to take a walk in a graveyard?
These enclosed, quiet corners, overgrown with succulent greenery, so small and so greedy, have a peculiar and eerie poetry of their own.
Day after day the newly dead are brought into them, and already the whole of the living, huge, noisy city is carried there, and already a new city is born and is awaiting its turn—and they stand, just as small, quiet and greedy. They have a peculiar air in them, a peculiar silence, and the murmur of trees is different there—elegiac, thoughtful, soft. It’s as if these white birches cannot forget all those teary eyes that sought the sky between their greening branches, and it’s as if it is not the wind but deep sighs that continue to sway the air and the fresh foliage.
Quietly, thoughtfully, you too wander across the graveyard. Your ear perceives soft echoes of deep moans and tears, and your eyes come to rest on rich gravestones, on humble wooden crosses, and on mute, nameless graves that cover those who were mute all their lives, invisible and unknown. And you read the inscriptions on the gravestones, and all these people that disappeared from the world arise in your imagination. You see them young, laughing, loving; you see them vigorous, talkative, believing boldly in the immortality of life.
But, these people, they have died.
But, do you really need to leave the house in order to visit a graveyard? Is it not enough for the night’s gloom to envelop you and extinguish the sounds of the day?
How many gravestones, rich and lavish! How many mute, nameless graves!
But, do you really need the night to visit a graveyard? Is the day not enough—that restless, noisy day, with enough evils of its own?
Take a look into your own soul, and, whether it be day or night, there you will find a graveyard. Small, greedy, it has consumed so much. And you will hear a soft, sad whisper—the reflection of those old heavy wails, when the dead one who was lowered into a grave was very dear to you, whom you had no time to fall out of love with, nor forget; and you will see gravestones, and inscriptions, half washed away by tears, and quiet, mute little graves—small, sinister little bumps under which that which once lived lies hidden, even though you did not know its life nor notice its death. But, maybe, it was the very best thing in your soul…
But why am I talking: take a look. Do you not already look into your graveyard every day, however many days there are in the long, arduous year? Maybe it was only yesterday that you have recalled the departed dear to you and have wept over them; maybe it was only yesterday that you have laid someone to rest, someone who had experienced a long and arduous illness and who was forgotten even in life.
Here, under the heavy marble, encircled by dense iron rails, rests the love of mankind, and her sister, the faith in them. How beautiful and marvelously good they were, these sisters! With what bright flame burned their eyes, what wonderful power did their white hands possess!
With what tenderness did these white hands bring cold drinks to lips inflamed of thirst and nourished the hungry; with what loving care did they touch the ulcers of the sick and healed them.
And they died, these sisters, they died from the cold, so the gravestone says. They could not stand the freezing wind that enveloped their life.
And here, further on, we have a rickety cross marking the place where a talent has been buried in the earth. Oh how vigorous, loud and cheerful he was; he took on everything, he wanted to do everything, and he was certain that he would conquer the world.
And he died—in some imperceptible and quiet way. He went out into people one day, disappearing there for a long time, and returned broken and sad. For a long time he wept, for a long time he yearned to say something—and, without having said it, he died.
Here is a long row of little bumps. Who lies there?
Ah, yes. These are children. Little, frisky, playful hopes. There were so many of them, and they filled one’s soul with bustle and cheer—but, one after another, they died.
There were so many of them, and they made one’s soul so cheerful!
The graveyard is quiet and the birches are rustling their leaves mournfully.
Let the dead rise! Open yourselves you gloomy graves, fall apart you heavy tombstones, and step aside you iron rails!
If only for one day, if only for a moment, set free those whom you are suffocating with your weight and darkness!
You think they are dead? Oh no, they are alive. They were silent, but they are alive.
Let them see the radiance of the cloudless blue sky, let them breathe in the pure spring air, let them drink their fill of warmth and love.
Come to me, my sleeping talent. Why are you rubbing your eyes in that amusing manner—are you blinded by the sun? It’s true, isn’t it, just how bright it shines? You’re laughing? Ah, laugh, laugh—people have so little laughter. I too will be laughing with you. Look, there’s a swallow flying—let’s fly after it! The grave has made you heavy? And what is that strange horror I see in your eyes—as if a reflection of the grave’s darkness? No, no, there’s no need. Don’t cry. I’m telling you, don’t cry!
After all, life is so wonderful for the resurrected!
And you, my little hopes! Your faces are so funny and cute. Amusing chubby tot, who are you? I do not remember you. And what is making you laugh? Or has the very grave failed to frighten you? Quieten down, my children, quieten down. Why are you picking on her—see how small, pale and weak she is? Live in peace—and don’t spin me. Don’t you know that I too was in the grave, and now my head is spinning from the sun, from the air and from joy.
Ah, how wonderful is life for the resurrected!
You came too, you majestic, wonderful sisters. Let me kiss your delicate white hands. What is that I see? You brought bread? The gloom of the grave has not terrified you, and there, under that heavy mass you were thinking about bread for the hungry? Let me kiss your feet. I know where they will walk now, your light, quick feet, and I know that flowers will spring from the ground upon which they tread—marvelous, fragrant flowers. You are calling me with you? Let’s go.
This way, my resurrected talent—what, have the little floating clouds lulled you into reverie? This way, my little, frisky hopes.
I hear music. Oh, chubby tot, don’t shout like that! Where are these marvelous sounds coming from? Soft, harmonious, wildly-cheerful and sad. They speak of immortal life…
…No, don’t be afraid. It will pass now. After all, it is from joy that I weep.
Ah, how wonderful is life for the resurrected!