Page:Columbia University Lectures on Literature (1911).djvu/330

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Peace Conferences before the World and "Red Sundays" at home, is of to-day and need not be dwelt upon.

Such has been Russia's history, the foundation on which its Literature was reared. The instrument in question, the Russian language, has had enough admirers to save one the delicate task of rhapsody, though a tolerable acquaintance with several modern tongues and familiarity with the languages of Greece and Rome would seem to warrant having an opinion on the subject.

Lomonosoff, "Russia's First University" in Pushkin's felicitous phrase, one of the world's few all-embracing geniuses of the type of Aristotle and Leibniz, with the gift of poetry in the bargain, says, in the Dedication of his Russian Grammar (1755):—

"Charles V, Emperor of Rome, was wont to say that it b proper to address oneself in Spanish to God, in French to friends, in German to the enemy, and in Italian to the female sex. Had he been skilled in (the knowledge of) Russian, he would doubtless have added that in the last named it behooves one to speak to all the above. For therein he would have found the magnificence of Spanish, the vivacity of French, the strength of German, the tenderness of Italian, and, besides, the opulence of Greek and Latin and their forceful gift for concise imagery. The powerful eloquence of Cicero, the magnificent stateliness of Virgil, the pleasing poesy of Ovid, do not lose their worth in Russian. The finest philosophical concepts and reasoning, the multiform properties and changes of nature occurring in this visible edifice of the universe and in the intercourse among men as well, have, in our tongue, locutions befitting and expressing the matter."

Over a hundred years later, Turgenieff, a master of the principal modern languages, thus voiced his admiration for Russian:—

"In days of doubt, in days of distressing meditations on the fate of my country, in thee alone I trust, O Russian language, great, mighty, truthful, free" . . .