Praying to Souls of Nature

Forgive me, my mountains!
Forgive me, my rivers!
Forgive me, my fields!
Forgive me, my grass!

Mother was putting a cross on a solder,
Mother was bidding farewell to her son…
And again from the crooked shack –
Forgive me, forgive me, my rivers…

May 14, 1918

(Transl. by V. Enyutin)

Christianity can create in the very sensitivity of country people the possibility of a marriage between pantheism and moral imperative, the chance for moral projection into nature, not only pragmatic, aesthetic and mystical ties with it. Of course, Christianity as any other organized religion produced in believers a lot of hateful feelings because it made them usurp the super-human (godly) truth as a justification for their very human pride/hubris/superbia, and also innocent and cruel competition with other religious systems for the place of being the best and “closest to god”. But in some souls gifted with existentially spiritual sensitivity, like protagonist of Tsvetaeva’s poem, a peasant woman and a mother, it creates a unique combination of humanism and love for the world.

The intensity of her suffering connected with her son’s probable future death in one of meaningless wars solemnly proclaimed by the leaders with monarchic power, made her feel sinful for not being able to protect her son from militaristic grinder. Tsvetaeva here is not talking about Christian faith or even belief – the mother, obviously, doesn’t believe in the protective power of the cross, but about Christian sensitivity. This mother should be a role model for the conformist Christian anti-Christian parents (even when they are the church’s regulars and with the best intentions transform Christ into a ten-star general with the icon/banner of militant ideology of conquests) who are proud to have their children sent to other countries to die on the battlefields for the sake of their monarchs’ glory, nationalistic megalomania or corporate profiteers’ profit.

We remember bitter lamentations of doctor Astrov in Chekhov’s “Uncle Vania” about the abusive exploitation and destruction of nature in Russian countryside that Chehov continues in his “Cherry Orchard” by depiction of mutilation of nature’s body by human compulsive greed (during the Soviet period predatory destruction of nature reached even more massive proportions). Of course, Astrov was an educated man, but this living in poverty peasant mother asking forgiveness from nature for her sin of surrendering her son to the army, is a genius of genuine Christian sensibility.

*The topic of Tsvetaeva’s “Forgive Me, My Mountains” is close to the meaning of Kathe Kollwitz’print “The Parents”. The essay on this Kollwitz’ work – “Not just Tormenting Grief but Deadly Shame” was posted on 07 Jul. 2012. Also Akira Kurosawa’s film “Dersu Uzala” where scholarly director examines the possibility of collaborative unity between man and nature and reverential respect for it (instead of exploitative domination over it) semantically echoes with Tsvetaeva’s poem. The essay on Kurosawa’s film – “A monument to An Alternative Civilization” was posted on 26 Apr. 2011.