Open main menu

Page:Complete Works of Count Tolstoy - 02.djvu/107

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
89
THE COSSACKS

only so long as they did not bind him. The moment he devoted himself to one subject, and felt the approach of labour and struggles,—the petty struggles with life,—he instinctively hastened to tear himself away from his sentiment or from affairs, and to regain his liberty. Thus he had begun his worldly life, his service, farming, music, to which he thought at one time of devoting himself, and even love of women, in which he did not believe.

He pondered how to expend all that strength of youth, which comes to man only once in a lifetime,—whether on art, on science, on love for a woman, or on practical life; he wished to employ not the power of his mind, heart, and education, but that unrepeated impulse, that power, granted to man but once, to make of himself everything he wishes, and, as he thinks, everything of the world he may wish.

It is true there are people who lack this impulse, and who, upon entering life, put on the first yoke they find, and continue to work honestly in it until the end of their days. But Olénin was too vividly conscious of the presence of that all-powerful god of youth, of that ability to transform himself into one desire and one thought, of the ability to wish and do, to throw himself headlong into a bottomless abyss, not knowing why, or wherefore. He carried this consciousness with him, was proud of it, and, without knowing it, was happy in its possession.

So far he had loved himself only, nor could he help loving himself, because he expected nothing but good things of himself, and had not yet been disappointed in himself. At his departure from Moscow he was in that happy, youthful frame of mind when a young man, having become conscious of his previous mistakes, suddenly says to himself that the past was wrong, that everything that preceded was accidental and insignificant, that he had not heretofore tried to live decently, but that now, with his departure from Moscow, a new life would