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Evening bells

January 17, 2013

Вечерний звон

(Памяти Козлова)

Мечтанье было то иль сон?
Мне слышался вечерний звон;
А над рекою, над холмом,
Стоял забытый сельский дом,
И перелив тяжелых дум

Давил мне сердце, мучил ум.

Пустынный дом! где твой жилец?
Увы! вдали поэт-слепец
О родине не забывал
И сладкозвучно тосковал.
Он спит: его глубокий сон

Уж не прервет вечерний звон.

Но что ж, — певец земных скорбей,
Ты не умрешь в сердцах людей! —
Так я мечтал — и надо мной
Пронесся чрез эфир пустой
Какой-то грусти полный стон,

И я запел “Вечерний звон”.

Fet, who was active into the 1890s, always makes me think of the mid-to-late nineteenth century, but this poem apparently dates to 1840 when the blind poet Kozlov (other posts) died. On the other hand, Вечерний звон / “Those Evening Bells” makes me think of a particular melody that turns out not to be the same one Fet had in mind. A brief history:

Those Evening Bells by Moore and Stevenson sheet music1818 – “Those Evening Bells” by Thomas Moore is published.

1828 – “Вечерний звон” by Kozlov, a free translation of Moore’s poem apparently written in 1827, is published (see Wikipedia for parallel text of Moore and Kozlov).

1828 – Aleksandr Aliab’ev (1787-1851) sets Kozlov’s poem to music, and it becomes popular in the late 1820s and 1830s. A recording of this version by Antonina Kleshcheva and Georgii Nelepp is available here. Sheet music reproduced here.

1840 – Fet writes the poem above, rather mechanically fulfilling Moore/Kozlov’s prophecy after Kozlov’s death. Boris Bukhshtab’s notes say that the song in the last line is Aliab’ev’s.

possibly late nineteenth or early twentieth century – Another melody appears and becomes the most popular of several settings of Kozlov’s text. For a long time this tune was listed as a folk song of unknown authorship or misattributed to Aliab’ev. Now some sources credit it to Orthodox priest V. Zinov’ev (1874-1925). See this article by Marina Shimanskaia or this page dedicated to the history of Вечерний звон, with links to more. You can listen to several versions of this song here and even more here. This is the one I had always heard, and I can’t help liking it, though Aliab’ev’s version seems to better match the mood of lines like “Лежать и мне в земле сырой!” / “I am to lie in the damp earth too!”

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