Page:Rolland Life of Tolstoy.djvu/171

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to spring; the emotion has a quality of universality; and is freed of all transitory details of local realism; and finally the diction is rich in illustrations, racy, and smacking of the soil.

His love of the people had long led him to appreciate the beauty of the popular idiom. As a child he had been soothed by the tales of mendicant story-tellers. As a grown man and a famous writer, he experienced an artistic delight in chatting with his peasants.

"These men," he said in later years to M. Paul Boyer,[1] "are masters. Of old, when I used to talk with them, or with the wanderers who, wallet on shoulder, pass through our countryside, I used carefully to note such of their expressions as I heard for the first time; expressions often forgotten by our modern literary dialect, but always good old Russian currency, ringing sound. . . . Yes, the genius of the language lives in these men."

He must have been the more sensitive to such elements of the language in that his mind was not encumbered with literature.[2] Through living far from any city, in the midst of peasants, he came to think a little in the manner of the people. He had the slow dialectic, the common sense which reasons slowly and painfully, step by step, with

  1. Le Temps, August 29, 1901.
  2. "As for style," his friend Droujinin told him in 1856, "You are extremely illiterate; sometimes like an innovator and a great poet; sometimes like an officer writing to a comrade. All that you write with real pleasure is admirable. The moment you become indifferent your style becomes involved and is horrible." (Vie et Œuvre.)