The Attitude of the Peasant Poets Toward the City

16 May

My friends are the fields, the forest,
The dawn of spring, the storm’s thunder…. Essenin

O city, city! In a cruel combat
Thou hast christened us a carrion and a curse …. Essenin

In order to grasp and understand the spirit of contemporary Russia one must bear in mind the significant fact that the peasants have no love no sympathy, and no good will, either for the city or the proletariat. Numerous and varied are the causes of this attitude. Men who jealousy cherish a reverent feeling for the village and its mystical and patriarchal atmosphere; men who constantly revel in the bright colors of the fields and the country cannot be attracted by the confused noise and the sooty sky of the industrial centers. The sinister silhouettes of the big cites, the smoky aspect of the restless factories, the huge machines with their hidden mechanism are repulsive to the tillers of the soil. The rapid development of the cities material luxuries and machines and the enthusiasm shown by city workers for the demoniác forces of the lathes and machines have no fascination for the peasants. Having always felt deeply the iron yoke of the city, which was crushing them, the peasants look with great suspicion upon all its elements, agencies, and forces. They are particularly afraid of the unfathomed discordances of passions, of the anarchy and chaos evolving therefrom. Thus, despite some purely external appearances that have deceived certain foreign observers, the peasants have no love for the city. On the contrary they despise it; it schemes, aims, and aspirations are absolutely foreign to them.
Along with this hostility toward the city the peasant poetry reveals a feeling of antagonism and of deep resentment against urban workmen, whose minds, as we shall see are indelibly impressed by iron and steel and factories, furnaces and machines, and by “cities of concrete” The feeling of animosity between peasants and workmen is more striking when one remembers that they are all of the same stock.
For almost every city worker was originally a peasant…

The root of the enmity between these two classes lies hidden in the depths of their contrasting outlook on life, of their psychology and their aspirations. The urban workmen imbued as they are with the ideas of scientific socialism, consider themselves supermen, free thinkers, ardent adherents of science, and worshipers of progress.
The peasant’s spirit on the other hand is essentially individualistic. They have no sympathy for communism and are abloultely opposed to the gospel of Internationalism … They still recognize the sacredness ( I would interject the word necessity) for private property and strongly support the principle of free trade. besides the peasants … continue to be attached to religion and to remain faithful to past traditions

George Z. Patrick; Popular Poetry in Soviet Russia (University of California Press; Berkeley, California 1929) p. 68-69

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