Page:Rolland Life of Tolstoy.djvu/177

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night, hear and guess at the crime which is being enacted off the stage.

The end is voluntary expiation. Nikita, accompanied by his father, the old Hakim, enters bare-footed, in the midst of a wedding. He kneels, asks pardon of all, and accuses himself of every crime. Old Hakim encourages him, looks upon him with a smile of ecstatic suffering.

"God! Oh, look at him, God!"

The drama gains quite a special artistic flavour by the use of the peasant dialect.

"I ransacked my notebooks in order to write The Power of Darkness," Tolstoy told M. Paul Boyer.

The unexpected images, flowing from the lyrical yet humorous soul of the Russian people, have a swing and a vigour about them beside which images of the more literary quality seem tame and colourless. Tolstoy revelled in them; we feel, in reading the play, that the artist while writing it amused himself by noting these expressions, these turns of thought; the comic side of them by no means escapes him,[1] even while the apostle is mourning amidst the dark places of the human soul.

While he was studying the people, and sending into their darkness a ray of light from his station above them, he was also devoting two tragic romances to the still darker night of the middle

  1. The creation of this heart-breaking drama must have been a strain. He writes to Teneromo: "I am well and happy. I have been working all this time at my play. It is finished." (January, 1887. Further Letters.)