Dream Tales and Prose Poems/Poems in Prose/The Two Brothers

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1962332The Novels of Ivan Turgenev
Volume X: Dream Tales and Prose Poems
Poems in Prose — The Two Brothers
Constance GarnettIvan Turgenev


It was a vision . . .

Two angels appeared to me . . . two genii.

I say angels, genii, because both had no clothes on their naked bodies, and behind their shoulders rose long powerful wings.

Both were youths. One was rather plump, with soft smooth skin and dark curls. His eyes were brown and full, with thick eyelashes; his look was sly, merry, and eager. His face was charming, bewitching, a little insolent, a little wicked. His full soft crimson lips were faintly quivering. The youth smiled as one possessing power — self-confidently and languidly ; a magnificent wreath of flowers rested lightly on his shiniug tresses, almost touching his velvety eyebrows. A spotted leopard's skin, pinned up with a golden arrow, hung lightly from his curved shoulder to his rounded thigh. The feathers of his wings were tinged with rose colour ; the ends of them were bright red, as though dipped in fresh-spilt scarlet blood. From time to time they quivered rapidly with a sweet silvery sound, the sound of rain in spring.

The other was thin, and his skin yellowish. At every breath his ribs could be seen faintly heaving. His hair was fair, thin, and straight; his eyes big, round, pale grey ... his glance uneasy and strangely bright. All his features were sharp; the little half-open mouth, with pointed fish-like teeth; the pinched eagle nose, the projecting chin, covered with whitish down. The parched lips never once smiled.

It was a well-cut face, but terrible and pitiless! (Though the face of the first, the beautiful youth, sweet and lovely as it was, showed no trace of pity either.) About the head of the second youth were twisted a few broken and empty ears of corn, entwined with faded grass-stalks. A coarse grey cloth girt his loins; the wings behind, a dull dark grey colour, moved slowly and menacingly.

The two youths seemed inseparable companions. Each of them leaned upon the other's shoulder. The soft hand of the first lay like a cluster of grapes upon the bony neck of the second; the slender wrist of the second, with its long delicate fingers, coiled like a snake about the girlish bosom of the first.

And I heard a voice. This is what it said: ' Love and Hunger stand before thee—twin brothers, the two foundation-stones of all things living.

'All that lives moves to get food, and feeds to bring forth young.

'Love and Hunger—their aim is one; that life should cease not, the life of the individual and the life of others—the same universal life.'

August 1878.