Page:Rolland Life of Tolstoy.djvu/56

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and recorded their miseries and his own, in his unforgettable narratives of Sebastopol.

These three narratives—Sebastopol in December, 1854, Sebastopol in May, 1855, Sebastopol in August, 1855—are generally confounded with one another; but in reality they present many points of difference. The second in particular, in point both of feeling and of art, is greatly superior to the others. The others are dominated by patriotism; the second is charged with implacable truth.

It is said that ater reading the first narrative[1] the Tsarina wept, and the Tsar, moved by admiration, commanded that the story should be translated into French, and the author sent out of danger. We can readily believe it. Nothing in these pages but exalts warfare and the fatherland. Tolstoy had just arrived; his enthusiasm was intact; he was afloat on a tide of heroism. As yet he could see in the defenders of Sebastopol neither ambition nor vanity, nor any unworthy feeling. For him the war was a sublime epic; its heroes were "worthy of Greece." On the other hand, these notes exhibit no effort of the imagination, no attempt at objective representation. The writer strolls through the city; he sees with the utmost lucidity, but relates what he sees in a form which is wanting in freedom: "You see . . . you enter . . . you notice. . . ." This is first-class reporting; rich in admirable impressions.

Very different is the second scene: Sebastopol in May, 1855. In the opening lines we read:

  1. Sent to the review Sovremennik and immediately published.