Friday, July 10, 2009

A beautiful July day

There is July, and then there is Turgenev's July. Here is the wonderful and magical first paragraph of "Bezhin Meadow" (translation by Charles and Natasha Hepburn):
It was a beautiful July day, one of those days which come only after long spells of settled weather. From the earliest morning the sky is clear; the dawn does not blaze and flame, but spreads out in a gentle blush. Instead of the flaming incandescence that goes with sultriness and drought, or the dark crimson that precedes the storm, the sun has a bright and friendly radiance, as it swims peacefully up from behind a long, narrow cloud, shines out briskly, and then veils itself in the lilac-coloured mist. The tenuous upper edge of the spreading cloud sparkles with a serpentine brilliance, like that of beaten silver. But now the dancing beams come shooting out again—and gaily, grandly, as if on wings, the mighty luminary emerges. About midday there usually appears a multitude of high, round clouds, golden-grey, with edges of tender white. Like islands, scattered across a boundless and brimming river, which surrounds them with deep, translucent expanses of an even blueness, they scarcely stir; farther off, towards the horizon, they concentrate, crowd together, there is no more blueness to be seen between them; but the clouds themselves are of the same azure as the heaven, they are penetrated through and through with light and warmth. The colour of the horizon, a pale and floating lilac colour, remains unchanged the whole day, and uniform all around; there is no darkening or deepening to foretell a storm; sometimes, here and there, there are bluish shafts falling down, betokening the passage of a hardly perceptible shower. Toward evening, these clouds vanish; the last of them, blackish and vague as smoke, lie with a pink curling face turned to the setting sun; over the place where it disappears, as quietly as it rose into the heavens, a scarlet radiance stands for a while over the darkening earth, and, trembling gently, like a carefully carried taper, the evening star begins to burn. On such days, all colours are softened; they are clear, but not brilliant; they are tinged with a gentleness that is somehow touching. Such days may be scorching-hot, and the steam may rise from the sloping fields; but the wind disperses and breaks up the accumulated sultriness, and whirlwinds—sure sign of settled weather—march in tall white pillars along the tracks across the plough-land. In the dry, clean air there is a smell of wormwood, of rye-harvest, and of buckwheat; even an hour before nightfall you feel no dampness. This is the weather that the husbandman needs to gather in his crop… .

4 comments:

William Michaelian said...

Hmm... Sounds to me like this Turgenev fellow is getting under your skin....

Chrees said...

Like Anton Ego in "Ratatouille" (funny how my references are now kid's shows), I was transported back to many July days from that description.

William Michaelian said...

I love the patience of the description. And yet I also love Dostoevsky’s seeming impatience — which, I’ve read, extended to his relationship with Turgenev.

The hottest July day I remember growing up in the San Joaquin Valley was 114 degrees.

Chrees said...

My hottest July was working construction in Dallas. Temperatures may have not rivaled highs elsewhere, but for unrelenting brutality, I will vouch for it. I'm hoping that parking garage is still standing...