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Modern Russian Poetry/Afanasy Shenshin-Foeth

Afanasy Shenshin-Foeth

(1820-1892)


It is said that Foeth, like the nightingale, sang only at dawn and at sunset. Between 1840 and 1856 he published three volumes of poetry. The following two decades he devoted to the pleasures and profits of a gentleman farmer. He waxed fat and prosperous. His famous apple-cakes were sent to no less a friend than Alexander III. On the road to the ripe old age of three score and ten, the poet superseded the pomeshchik and paid court to the Muse with four volumes of verse.

Although an admirer and translator of Schopenhauer, Foeth enjoyed the distinction of being one of the few men who were actually happy in Russia. He had an Horatian serenity, and the æsthete's indifference to society's ills. These elements in his character alone are reflected in his poetry, which is written in major, yet has withal the ethereal, insubstantial quality of dream experience. His lyrics are invested with a rarefied sensuousness, a keen feeling for life's cosmic context, and a dominating interest in melody. Tchaikovsky, who set many of his poems to music, likened Foeth to Beethoven.