Mystical Feeling of Being Maternal to Nature

Icy tiara of mountains
is like a frame of mortal landscape.
Today I parted the ivy
on the granite of the castle.

Today on all the roads I advanced ahead
of camps of pines.
Today I have taken a tulip
as a child by the chin.


August 16 – 17, 1936

(Translated by V. Enyutin)

The responsibility for nature’s future and destiny cannot be based only on scientific knowledge that if we destroy it we will die along with it, nor on our “love” for nature and habit of enjoying it. Love is a visceral feeling and enjoyment of nature is instinctive, while scientific knowledge about the fragility of eco-system is always, as we see today, can be rebutted by those who make profit on its destruction and have enough money to hire specialists claiming that nature is too grand to need our care.

Only having mystical feeling of being one with earth and universe can really position us to assume responsibility for nature – only this feeling can make us feel pain when earth is in pain under the axe of predatory mining, or fracking (the barbaric blasting of the mountain tops to extract coal) instead of developing more sophisticated ways to obtain energy.

But, may be, this Tsvetaeva’s little poem will help us develop a spiritual feeling of being congruent with nature like a drop of water from the ocean is one with the ocean.

The first two lines of the first stanza. Tiara can only help the Pope and those Catholic believers who think about their personal salvation (it can be a frame for the mortal human face), but “Icy tiara of mountains” will not save the landscape (nature that is battered, physically abused). “Icy tiara of mountains” is like a double exposition-image in cinema – it simultaneously refers to tiara and to icy tiara and emphasizes a similarity but also difference between two contexts, the human and the natural (the whole image can be read – what tiara is for the mortal human face, the icy tiara is for the landscape). Is it the same difference as between the subject and the vehicle of the metaphor? Can these two halves of the double image be considered as simultaneously subjects and vehicles for one another – icy tiara above the landscape metaphorizes the “frozen” (embellishing) tiara above the human face and simultaneously is metaphorized by it? With the formal structure of this double-image (by simultaneously talking about both) Tsvetaeva implies and “proves” that humankind and nature share the same destiny.

Second two lines of the first stanza. To part the ivy means to treat it like human hair – to celebrate their identity. The spiritual inspiration behind this gesture expresses Tsvetaeva’s lyrical heroine’s mystical identification of the human and the natural. In some translations of this poem into English it’s not certain – is parting the ivy on the wall of the castle a physical gesture or just the work of imagination; and this very ambiguity, it seems, undermines the basic semantic matrix of the poem. The unity of human race and nature in the context of the poem cannot be metaphorical.

First two lines of the second stanza. Why Tsvetaeva’s twin – the subject of the annunciated (the “I” of the poem), needs to surpass the “camps of pines on the roads“ (image suggesting that nature is on alert)? May be, because she instinctively rushes ahead in time to save nature from human greed and conformism? Her position is not just to observe the situation as it evolves but to be ahead of it to try to prevent nature’s demise we today are living through (“on all the roads” becomes a metaphor of the movement in time, not in space).

Second two lines of the second stanza. What is the “big deal” about an “eccentric but trivial” gesture of taking child/tulip by the chin? The non-differentiation between human child and nature is a revolutionary stance in culture which for eons nurtured in men megalomaniacal idea of being superior to nature. To invent this “strange” gesture of taking tulip by the chin is already not only elevation of nature to the status of human being but debunking of humans’ sin of pride/hubris/superbia. As we see, in this “atheistic” poet, Tsvetaeva, there is more of an essential Christianity than in many church goers. The unity of the human race and nature can be only physical; otherwise the sin of human ontological pride is left intact. “Surpassing camps of pines”, “taking a tulip as a child by the chin”, and equalizing mortality of human face and the face of the landscape are links of the semantic spine of the poem.

The awareness that nature today is an orphan is an urgent call of conscience to stop the slaughter of nature, the planet, human beings and the human soul. As humanity and nature become one in Tsvetaeva’s poem, human spiritual transformation, psychological revolution and leap in sensibility should become one with politics of progress.