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A Visit by Ivan Turgenev

 

I was sitting at the open window ... in the morning, the early morning of the first of May.

The dawn had not yet begun; but already the dark, warm night grew pale and chill at its approach.

No mist had risen, no breeze was astir, all was colourless and still ... but the nearness of the awakening could be felt, and the rarer air smelt keen and moist with dew.

Suddenly, at the open window, with a light whirr and rustle, a great bird flew into my room.

I started, looked closely at it.... It was not a bird; it was a tiny winged woman, dressed in a narrow long robe flowing to her feet.

She was grey all over, the colour of mother-of-pearl; only the inner side of her wings glowed with the tender flush of an opening rose; a wreath of valley lilies entwined the scattered curls upon her little round head; and, like a butterfly's feelers, two peacock feathers waved drolly above her lovely rounded brow.

She fluttered twice about the ceiling; her tiny face was laughing; laughing, too, were her great, clear, black eyes.

The gay frolic of her sportive flight set them flashing like diamonds.

She held in her hand the long stalk of a flower of the steppes—'the Tsar's sceptre,' the Russians call it—it is really like a sceptre.

Flying rapidly above me, she touched my head with the flower.

I rushed towards her.... But already she had fluttered out of window, and darted away....

In the garden, in a thicket of lilac bushes, a wood-dove greeted her with its first morning warble ... and where she vanished, the milk-white sky flushed a soft pink.

I know thee, Goddess of Fantasy! Thou didst pay me a random visit by the way; thou hast flown on to the young poets.

O Poesy! Youth! Virginal beauty of woman! Thou couldst shine for me but for a moment, in the early dawn of early spring!

May 1878.