[Passage] Dead Souls - Nikolai Gogol

Happy the wayfarer who, after a long, boring journey with its cold, slush, dirt, sleepy stationmasters, clanking bells, repairs, altercations, coachmen, blacksmiths, and all sorts of scoundrels of the road, sees at last the familiar roof with its lights rushing to meet him, and before him stand familiar rooms, the joyful shout of his people running to meet him, the noise and scampering of children, and soothing soft speech, interrupted by burning kisses with the power to wipe out all that is mournful from the memory. Happy the family man who has such a corner, but woe to the bachelor!

Happy the writer who, passing by characters that are boring, disgusting, shocking the lofty dignity of man, who from the great pool of daily whirling images has chosen only the rare exceptions, who has never once betrayed the exalted tuning of his lyre, nor descended from his height to his poor, insignificant brethren, and, without touching the ground, has given the whole of himself to his elevated images so far removed from it. Twice enviable is his beautiful lot: he is among them as in his own family; and meanwhile his fame spreads loud and far. With entrancing smoke he has clouded people's eyes; he has flattered them wondrously, concealing what is mournful in life, showing them a beautiful man. Everything rushes after him, applauding, and flied off following his triumphal chariot. Great world poet they name him, soaring high above all the other geniuses in the world, as the eagle soars above other high fliers. At the mere mention of his nameyoung ardent hearts are filled with trembling, responsive tears sine in all eyes . . . No one equals him in power—he is God!

But dared to call forth all that is before our eyes every moment and which our indifferent eyes do not see—all the terrible, stupendous mire of trivia in which our life is entangled, the whole depth of cold, gragmented, everyday characters that swarm over our often bitter and boring earthly path, and with the firm strength of his implacable chisel dares to present them roundly and vividly before the eyes of all people! It is not for him to win people's applause, not for him to behold the grateful tears and unanimous rapture of the souls he has stirred; no sixteen-year-old girl will come flying to meet him with her head in a whirl and heroic enthusiasm; it is not for him to forget himself in the sweet enchantment of sounds he himself has evoked; it is not for him, finally, to escape contemporary judgement, hypocritically callous contemporary judgement, which will call insignificant and mean the creations he has fostered, will allot him a contemptible corner in the ranks of writers who insult mankind, will ascribe to him the qualities of the heroes he has portrayed, will deny him heart, and soul, and the divine flame of talent.

For contemporary judgement does not recognize that equally wondrous are the glasses that observe the sun and those that look at the movements of inconspicuous insects; for contemporary judgement does not recognize that much depth of soul is needed to light up the picture drawn from contemptible life and elevate it into a pearl of creation; for contemporary judgement does not recognize that lofty ecstatic laughter is worthy to stand beside the lofty lyrical impulse, and that a whole abyss separates it from the antics of the street-fair clown! This contemporary judgement does not recognize; and will turn it all into a reproach and abuse of the unrecognized writer; with no sharing, no response, no sympathy, like a familyless wayfarer, he will be left alone in the middle of the road. Grim is his path, and bitterly will he feel his solitude.

— Nikolai Gogol, Dead Souls, pp. 133-134, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky