Title: Dream Tales and Prose Poems
Author: Ivan Turgenev
Translator: Constance Garnett
I was walking along the street … I was stopped by a decrepit old beggar.
Bloodshot, tearful eyes, blue lips, coarse rags, festering wounds…. Oh, how hideously poverty had eaten into this miserable creature!
He held out to me a red, swollen, filthy hand. He groaned, he mumbled of help.
I began feeling in all my pockets…. No purse, no watch, not even a handkerchief…. I had taken nothing with me. And the beggar was still waiting … and his outstretched hand feebly shook and trembled.
Confused, abashed, I warmly clasped the filthy, shaking hand … ‘Don’t be angry, brother; I have nothing, brother.’
The beggar stared at me with his bloodshot eyes; his blue lips smiled; and he in his turn gripped my chilly fingers.
‘What of it, brother?’ he mumbled; ‘thanks for this, too. That is a gift too, brother.’
I knew that I too had received a gift from my brother.
I was returning from hunting, and walking along an avenue of the garden, my dog running in front of me.
Suddenly he took shorter steps, and began to steal along as though tracking game.
I looked along the avenue, and saw a young sparrow, with yellow about its beak and down on its head. It had fallen out of the nest (the wind was violently shaking the birch-trees in the avenue) and sat unable to move, helplessly flapping its half-grown wings.
My dog was slowly approaching it, when, suddenly darting down from a tree close by, an old dark-throated sparrow fell like a stone right before his nose, and all ruffled up, terrified, with despairing and pitiful cheeps, it flung itself twice towards the open jaws of shining teeth.
It sprang to save; it cast itself before its nestling … but all its tiny body was shaking with terror; its note was harsh and strange. Swooning with fear, it offered itself up!
What a huge monster must the dog have seemed to it! And yet it could not stay on its high branch out of danger…. A force stronger than its will flung it down.
My Trésor stood still, drew back…. Clearly he too recognised this force.
I hastened to call off the disconcerted dog, and went away, full of reverence.
Yes; do not laugh. I felt reverence for that tiny heroic bird, for its impulse of love.
Love, I thought, is stronger than death or the fear of death. Only by it, by love, life holds together and advances.