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Modern Russian Poetry/Alexey K. Tolstoy

Alexey K. Tolstoy

(1817-1875)


Alexey Tolstoy was a playmate of Alexander II and sat on the knees of Goethe. Like Ruskin, he made a cult of beauty, humanitarianism and Italy. In this second fatherland of his, he began to travel early in life. This courtier-æsthete was a mystic, with a leaning toward the occult. He regarded the doctrine of equality as "the foolish invention of 1793," and was wholly out of sympathy with the materialistic iconoclasts of his time. Yet he was too much of an aristocrat not to despise despotism.

His literary activity began in his middle years. His romantic interest in the Russian past produced a novel and a dramatic trilogy. The past is also the playground of Tolstoy's poetry. This frequently degenerates into pastiche. Nevertheless he was a major poet among the minor poets, at his best achieving a neat and graceful lyricism. His technique is unusual in Russian poetry for its prosodic freedom.