Статья 'The formation of a unique paradigm of religious Existentialism in the poetry of Fyodor Tyutchev' - журнал 'SENTENTIA. European Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences' - NotaBene.ru
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SENTENTIA. European Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences

The formation of a unique paradigm of religious Existentialism in the poetry of Fyodor Tyutchev

Mysovskikh Lev Olegovich

ORCID: 0000-0003-0731-1998

Postgraduate Student, Philological Faculty, Department of Russian and Foreign Literature, Ural Federal University named after the First President of Russia B. N. Yeltsin

620083, Russia, Sverdlovsk region, Yekaterinburg, Lenin str., 51, office 336

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Abstract: The philosophical nature of Tyutchev's poetry was noted by researchers of his work during the poet's lifetime. The study of Tyutchev's work makes it possible to trace the origin of a unique direction of philosophical thought in Russian poetry of the XIX century – religious existentialism. The research carried out within the framework of this article allowed us to trace the genesis of the original direction of religious existentialism in the poetry of F. Tyutchev, who interpreted Nature in his work in philosophical categories. In his poetic works, Tyutchev does not just depict the splendor of Nature, but shows his own idea of the essence of the universe and tries to solve the riddle of human existence through the knowledge of the secrets of Nature, which is presented as proof of the existence of God. Thus, Tyutchev's poetry of Nature is regarded as existential poetry, since it gives a person an answer to the question of the meaning of his existence. In Tyutchev's poetry, the tragedy of human existence correlates with a similar theme developed in the philosophical treatises of the founder of existentialism, S. Kierkegaard, and subsequently continued in the works of the German existential philosopher K. Jaspers. Kierkegaard imagined a gloomy reality where a person is doomed to exist, plunged into the abyss of despair. At the same time, the founder of existentialism offered man a way out of tragic existence through the process of self-improvement, that is, the formation of his own personality, and striving for God. However, the process of becoming a personality is also a path to the tragedy of being, as it leads to a violation of harmony between man and Nature. It is this existential problem, which is related to the borderline situation of Jaspers, that lies in the focus of Tyutchev's attention, who described in poetic form the relationship between man and Nature and showed the only possible way out of this situation through making an existential choice in favor of accepting faith in the true God.


existentialism, russian literature, theory of literature, philosophy, Tyutchev, poetry, Kierkegaard, Jaspers, aesthetics, religion


Already the first publishers and critics of Fyodor Tyutchev's poetry – I. Aksakov, N. Nekrasov, I. Turgenev, A. Fet – emphasized not only the beauty of the images of nature created by the Russian poet, but also their deep philosophical nature. Tyutchev's philosophical perception of nature underlies his existential and ideological concepts. Tyutchev 's great - grandson and biographer V Pigarev wrote: «for one Tyutchev, the philosophical perception of nature formed to such a strong degree the very basis of the vision of the world» [11, p. 203]. In modern research, it is possible to find conclusions that Tyutchev is a «harbinger of the “existence” of Jean Paul Sartre» [18, p. 87]. At the same time, it can be argued that the study of poetry in the context of existential philosophy has a basis, since Sartre himself believed that fiction is the best way to «convey ideas and ideals of a person» [10, p. 32]. However, unlike Sartre, Tyutchev «does not renounce God, preserving faith in his existential consciousness» [18, p. 88]. It is here that the fundamental boundary that separates Tyutchev from Sartre's existentialism passes.

Purpose, materials and methods

The aim of the work is to identify a unique paradigm of religious existentialism in Tyutchev's poetry, primarily through the study of the relationship between man and Nature.

The theoretical and methodological basis of the article is the classical works of outstanding existential philosophers and thinkers S. Kierkegaard, F. W. J. Schelling, K. Jaspers, as well as modern researchers in the field of existential philosophy and literary studies V. Bayevsky, L. Mysovskikh, B. Tarasov.

The research material is Tyutchev's poetic works, in which the poet's object of attention is Nature and man's place in it, the Divinity of Nature is affirmed and the purpose of man's existence in the Universe is determined. The following research methods are used: biographical, hermeneutical, dialectical. The biographical method makes it possible to understand the origins of Tyutchev's interest in religious and natural themes. The hermeneutic method allows us to consider the artistic images of Tyutchev's poetry within the cultural context of the epoch. The dialectical method promotes the knowledge of truth through reasoning and argumentation.

Results and discussion

In relation to Tyutchev's poetry, the term «landscape lyrics» was often used. However, in our opinion, this term does not fully reflect the wide range of topics poetically presented in Tyutchev's poems about nature. In his work, the poet seeks not so much to show the beauty of nature, as to present his views on the universe, the laws governing it and man, to highlight issues concerning human existence, the relationship between nature and man. This romantic belief in the identity of the two worlds was most fully expressed in Schelling's natural philosophy: «nature must be a visible spirit, spirit – an invisible nature. Therefore, here, in the absolute identity of the spirit in us and nature outside of us, the problem of how nature is possible outside of us must be solved with necessity» [14, p. 128].

Tyutchev seeks to know the secrets of human existence, looking for answers in the natural world. The action and states of nature are identified with the actions and states of man. Tyutchev's identification of God with nature is connected with Schelling's romantic pantheism. Tyutchev takes from Schelling a characteristic understanding of nature as a living, spirit-filled whole, as well as a conviction in the unity of the phenomena of the natural world and the human world. The duality of being, the perception of nature and man as two sides of the dialogue has its source in the romantic worldview. The images of the natural world in Tyutchev's poems can be interpreted as allegories. Nature is a proof of the existence of God, and its knowledge is synonymous with the desire for self–knowledge. Thus, Tyutchev's «landscape lyrics» are rather existential lyrics, since the poet is looking for answers to his existential questions in poetic natural philosophy, and not in metaphysics.

The world of nature is shown by Tyutchev with the help of images of night, day, spring, autumn, winter, summer, motifs of space, chaos, sky, sea, earth. These images are transformed into symbols and myths. Romantic poetry and aesthetics were formed in the circle of beliefs that the life of nature is primitive and indivisible, and access to it is not the mind, but the imagination with the help of symbols. At the same time, Tyutchev remains within the framework of romantic aesthetics, which does not recognize the mechanistic, soulless reflection of nature. Nature creates symbols, speaks with symbolic speech, writes with symbolic writing, and only through symbols can one penetrate into it, enter into a dialogue with it. Tyutchev takes up this dialogue, trying to find a new language of existential poetry.

In Tyutchev 's early poems, sometimes a direct expression of the author 's thoughts and emotions appears with the help of a clearly defined lyrical theme: «I love a thunderstorm in early May» [13, p. 89]; «No, my predilection for you / I cannot hide, Mother Earth!» [13, p. 137] But in most poems about nature, the lyrical «I» is hidden, especially in the «poetry of the night». The active hero of the poem – nature – acts, creates and thinks. This is how the basic principle of transcendental poetry is realized – the unity of the creative action of nature and man.

The poem, which can be considered programmatic in Tyutchev's existential landscape lyrics, is «Not what you think, nature». Here the position of the lyrical subject is clearly defined against the background of a materialistic view of nature, perceiving it as a soulless mechanism. For the lyrical subject, nature is a mother full of feelings, speaking to a person in a peculiar language of forests, stars and nights. The poet describes those who do not understand him as deaf and dumb blind people. These lyrical «they» are spiritually flawed in Tyutchev's eyes. The poem is clearly polemical in nature, the lyrical theme at the very beginning of the poem involves the reader in a dispute about what nature is.

The power of nature fascinated the poet both in the early period of his work and in the later period, replete with a number of tragic events in his personal life. After returning from abroad, when his romance with Elena Denisieva begins, Tyutchev writes a poem «The sun shines, the waters shine», in which he creates an expressive, plastic landscape saturated with movement, brilliance, beauty. There is no division into the world of nature and the world of man. The idea of their unity is visible – «There is a smile on everything, life in everything» [13, p. 196]. Each line shows the joy of being, the activity of nature. The first two lines reflect the philosophical thesis that nature is a living organism. This idea develops in the following lines: «And the world, the blooming world of nature, is intoxicated with an excess of life» [13, p. 196]. Here, too, Tyutchev and Schelling's favorite thought about the unity of the natural world and the human world is presented in an extremely plastic form. This idea also appears in the poem «The Sight of the Earth is still sad». Here the characteristic features of the existential landscape lyrics of the Russian classic are most clearly manifested. The poem consists of two eight-line stanzas. The first one shows the spring awakening of nature against the background of a sad, dead winter landscape. The second stanza can be meaningfully divided into two parts. The first four lines speak of the awakening of the human soul from spiritual sleep. In the last lines, the visions of the reborn nature and the renewed human soul merge into an indivisible symbolic and pictorial unity. The poet emphasizes this process by combining in one sentence a description of the nature and state of the human soul: «Azure shines, blood plays» [13, p. 150].

The personification of natural phenomena is enhanced by the poet's introduction, especially in the early stages of his work, of mythological motifs and figures: Hebe, Zeus, Muses, who act and live as people. These deities, personifying the personified phenomena of nature, more clearly emphasize the unity of man and nature. The poem «Spring Thunderstorm» is permeated with a joyful, fresh sense of being. The process of imperceptible transition from the representation of the elements of nature to the human is defined by M. Gasparov as «interiorization» [3]. Unlike personification, which from the very beginning gives the described phenomenon the characteristics of a person, interiorization means a gradual, slow personification, as if the introduction of the human soul into the phenomenon of nature. In «Spring Thunderstorm» Tyutchev creates an image of a spring storm, showing all the stages of this phenomenon – from the first thunder to a downpour. The poem ends with mythological anthropomorphic images: «You will say: windy Hebe, / Feeding the eagle of Zeus, / A thundering cup from the sky, / Laughing, spilled on the ground» [13, p. 320].

A person striving for self-knowledge tries to unravel the mysteries of nature, but his cognitive abilities are limited. Man's attempts to understand the essence of being and to know the secrets of the universe are futile. This belief is expressed by Tyutchev in the poem «Fountain». Knowledge is given to man, but it is limited by a higher power: «But the hand is invisibly fatal, / Your persistent beam is refracting, / It overthrows in spray from a height» [13, p. 148]. And if in Schelling's work man is a part of nature, and even his striving for self-knowledge and the discovery of the essence of being does not violate the harmony of the universe, then Tyutchev's image of man is changeable: man was once an element of nature, but at some point, having made his existential choice, he separated from it and now lives according to his own principles, sometimes bringing confusion into the ordered world of nature. The tragic fate of the human personality, unable to find itself in the harmony of nature, is shown in the poem «There is a melodiousness in the sea waves». The poet uses the metaphor of Pascal, depicting a person as a «thinking reed». It was the awareness of the drama of human existence, which at the same time was evidence of the greatness of man, that connected Tyutchev with the French religious philosopher Blaise Pascal. The parallel between the Russian poet and the French philosopher is shown in detail by B. Tarasov [12]. The development of Pascal's philosophical thought can be found in many existential philosophers, such as S. Kierkegaard, K. Jaspers, J.-P. Sartre, for whom it was important to capture the tragedy and paradoxes of human existence.

The tragic fate of a person in Tyutchev's lyrics is consonant with the theme of tragedy in the works of the founder of existentialism, S. Kierkegaard, who painted gloomy pictures of human existence in despair and tragedy: «there is no one in whom anxiety, anxiety, disharmony, fear of something unknown does not reside deep inside» [6, p. 39]. According to Kierkegaard, the only way out for a person is to believe that the impossible is possible in God, that time and eternity are one in Him, that both life and death have meaning. Modern researchers can find interesting comparisons of Tyutchev and Kierkegaard. So, V. Bayevsky believes that the primacy in the foundation of existentialism can be given to Tyutchev: «in Russia, ten years before Kierkegaard, a poet of mystical revelations was born, for whom his deeply personal tragedies were echoes of the world disorder, like Kierkegaard, the creator of esoteric texts. Yes, it's about Tyutchev» [2, p. 2].

Tyutchev's tragic existence is often associated with the theme of the night. Night is the time of a person's transition from the empirical to the metaphysical sphere, in which he himself encounters the horror and beauty of the universe. In Tyutchev's poetry, night reveals to man a dark chaos, a «mysterious world of spirits», the abyss of infinity. The reader is confronted with such a lyrical situation in the poem «Day and Night». The word «day» has a huge philosophical meaning here. In fact, it is an analogue of Kierkegaard's faith, because the day heals sick souls and is a friend of gods and people, while the night is an analogue of despair. In the poem «What are you howling about, night wind?» the anxiety of the lyrical subject, the inability to express through the language of accumulated feelings and thoughts, confusion, fear and delight are expressed through the use of exclamations, questions, dots, dashes. The only language that can convey a whole range of emotions is the language of the night wind. Here the night speaks with the voice of the wind. From that moment on, the night in the poetry of the Russian classic becomes not only a time of revelations. The words «howling», «madly», «scary», «deafly plaintive», «flour» convey an atmosphere of fear, disbelief, horror before the forces of nature.

An extremely solemn, mysterious and inaccessible image of the night is shown by the poet in the poem «Vision». Night becomes a symbol that helps to penetrate into the deepest spheres of the human soul, and at the same time remains the bearer of secrets inaccessible to human knowledge. Mythological images are combined with the motif of the night – the night thickens as «chaos on the waters». Oblivion overtakes the earth, only the Muse is frightened by prophetic dreams that inspire her to create. In the poem «How well you are, O night sea», the charm of the night sea attracts a person who is able to know the beauty of the elements when he is alone with the sea. A desire is born in him to connect his soul with the elements. As in the previous verses, the human self tends to merge into one with nature.

The night in Tyutchev's poetry is shown in a dialogical way, in the image of the night there are opposite emotions and feelings. Often this time is presented as dangerous: «The night is gloomy, like a hundred-eyed, / Looks out of every bush!» [13, p. 121]. The image of the night gives rise to ambivalent feelings in a person. On the one hand, it attracts a person with its mysterious beauty, on the other hand, it scares him. The tragedy of man is that he is torn between the elements of day and night, between the mysterious forces of chaos and the natural world.

For Tyutchev, the heavenly dimension is the sphere of the sacred, to which a person aspires, trying to free himself from the restrictions imposed on him by his own imperfect nature. The sharp opposition of earth and sky is represented by the poet in the poem «Snowy Mountains». The difference between the earth and the sky has a tragic dimension: the earth, devoid of power, falls asleep, while in the sky the icy peaks of the mountains play with the azure of the sky. In the poem «The night sky is so gloomy» there is no open opposition «earth-sky». Tyutchev's attention is focused on creating an image of a dark, gloomy sky and the representation of a primitive beginning that has its source in chaos. However, when a bright flash appears for a moment, along with it you can see elements of the landscape – fields and forests. The final lines, however, once again transfer the reader from the earthly plane to the heavenly one, where the most important mysteries of existence are solved. In the poem «Even though I built a nest in the valley» the lyrical subject, like a bird, wants to soar into the sky, rejecting everything earthly. The earth is the sphere of the profane. In dedication to E. N. Annenkova's heavenly ether becomes something native and close to the human soul. It emphasizes the belonging of a person to the heavenly sphere, where everything is better and cleaner than on earth.

In Tyutchev's poetry, the Earth is represented in several contexts. First of all, in thinking about man's place on earth and his attitude towards him. In this case, we are dealing with two polar attitudes: man as a son of the earth or as a being belonging to the higher, spiritual, world, aspiring to the heavenly sphere. The image of the earth also appears in the poet's cosmogony regarding the structure of the world and the mechanisms occurring in it. Phenomena concerning the earth, nature, generate processes in the human psyche («Fountain»). The image of the earth also appears in verses close to Christian cosmogony. The «Last Cataclysm» depicts a kind of inversion of Christian cosmogony. The poet imagines an apocalyptic scenario when the earth collapses and is covered with waters, over which the Spirit of God will soar, reflecting. The process of creating the world is somehow reversed. Through the landscapes of the elements, Tyutchev creates a «legendary» metaphor of the image. The image of water, the abyss circling around the earth and merging with the element of air, is ambiguous already due to the rich and diverse meaning of the symbols of water, sky, air. Water as an intermediate element between the etheric elements, such as air and fire, and the stationary elements, earth, between life and death... Water is always in motion, changeable, gives life, but also contains danger, uniting these two worlds.

Tyutchev's vision of the world is based on the principle of antinomy of phenomena. The world of nature and the inner world of man combine opposite elements, which the poet perceives dialectically. The life of nature and human life are subject to the polar forces, which are the cause of constant changes: day and night, seasons, joy from the harmony of the world and horror in the face of chaos. As a result, a person who is on earth with a mortal body, and aspires to heaven with his soul, finds himself in a state of existential schism, about which Karl Jaspers wrote: «A person's spiritual situation arises only where he feels himself in borderline situations. There he remains as himself in existence, when it does not close, but all the time breaks up again into antinomies» [15, p. 322]. In the process of liberation, man strives to achieve unity with the highest form of existence, which can be the Absolute or God. This desire is clearly expressed in Tyutchev's lyrics. Man is not satisfied, he seeks to free himself from the limitations imposed by his imperfect nature.

In the philosophical miniature «The kite rose from the clearing», depicting the rapid ascent of a free bird, a bitter, ironic conclusion sounds: a man – the «king of the earth» – is actually her prisoner. The poet shows that any search for meaning in the natural world can be meaningless. Perhaps any study of the laws governing nature, an attempt to see more than empirical data shows, will turn out to be a mistake. The words «there is no riddle and she did not have it» [13, p. 148] sound like a bitter doubt in the idealistic approach to nature. The liberation of the person depicted in Tyutchev's poetry ultimately seems impossible, because a person is not able to go beyond the boundaries that exist in himself. He cannot attain faith or merge into unity with infinity and nature. The discrepancy between man and nature, shown by Tyutchev, is caused by an internal conflict that determines the existential split of a person. The individual cannot finally free himself, and this is the tragedy of his existence. But the fact that a person is aware of the «shortcomings» of his nature is his great achievement.

Unfortunately, faith also does not always provide consolation, and therefore cannot be the basis of human existence. According to the poet, the reason for this is the «disease of the century» – atheism and the general spiritual decline that captured the souls of the then generation. A man of the Tyutchev era wants faith, but at the same time rejects it. The poet paraphrases a quote from the Gospel of Mark (9:24). Unlike the biblical character, the man of the Tyutchev era «and longs for faith... but he does not ask for it...» [13, p. 185]. Tyutchev's hero falls into despair. However, despair in this case is not just a random feeling, but an attitude to life, because, as Kierkegaard wrote, «man is a synthesis of the infinite and finite, temporal and eternal, freedom and necessity» [6, p. 29]. The sufferings caused by the duality of human nature, fear of the mysteries of existence, make Tyutchev strive for God, no matter what: «Let the suffering chest / Be agitated by fatal passions – / The soul is ready, like Mary, / To cling to the feet of Christ forever» [13, p. 202].

For Tyutchev, not only the question of faith is important, but also the categories of Christian ethics. In the poem «When there is no God's consent» there is an important thought about suffering, which has, as later in the works of F. Dostoevsky, personality-forming qualities and thereby liberates the personality. Suffering is understood by the poet in the Christian spirit, it becomes a category of redemption. Faith, on the other hand, is one of the few factors that can bring comfort to the sufferer. That is why in this poem the theme of suffering is not accompanied by the theme of existential anxiety.

Tyutchev creates poetic works that show the harmony of nature and the tragedy of human existence. Paradoxically, his worldview combines different, sometimes even polar opposite views. The human personality is in the center of Tyutchev's attention. Therefore, his worldview is characterized by a kind of poetic anthropocentrism. The poet assigns man a leading place in the cosmos, interprets the world from an exclusively human position. Within the framework of anthropocentrism, one can distinguish metaphysical anthropocentrism, which perceives a person as an autonomous being, but determined by the historical time in which he is embedded. In the same way, the Tyutchev concept of man can be embedded in the circle of philosophical anthropology, the main purpose of which is to develop a general concept of man, within which it would be possible to answer the question of the specific essence of man and human nature. Tyutchev tries to determine the place and role of man in the world of nature, which is also the task of philosophical anthropology. Tyutchev's worldview is reflected in a specific way in the poetic space. This space has a vertical character. When creating a landscape, the poet uses the motifs of heaven and earth. Between them is nature, the world and man. Social space, which can be described as horizontal, is less important for Tyutchev.

The liberation of a person can be achieved through self-knowledge, understanding the meaning of his existence. This brings Tyutchev closer to Kierkegaard's views. Kierkegaard's existentialism assumed that human existence is a process of constant becoming, therefore a person must develop, seek his place, strive for authenticity. Personality acts to become infinite, and at the same time appeals to the finiteness. A departure from one of these paths leads to the disintegration of a full-fledged personality, leading it to a state of existential schism. Thus, according to Kierkegaard, it is impossible to capture existence in a single formula. The existence of man means his connection with transcendence, the desire to escape from mortal existence to true existence, the expression of which becomes religion. Despair, therefore, becomes one of the most important categories of thinking, it means the loss of one's own personality.


Human existence is overwhelming. If earlier a person was an integral part of the natural world – an element harmoniously integrated into the structure of the world, then with the growth of self-awareness, questions arise about who a person is, what is nature and what is the meaning of existence? Harmony is destroyed. And the development of personality, which is the transformation into a personality, is paid for by a sense of the tragedy of human existence. Man remains alone in the face of the dangers and mysteries of the universe. The feeling of loneliness and powerlessness of a person in the face of the immensity of the universe and its secrets leads to a desire to dissolve, merge into one with nature, lose oneself in infinity. At the same time, this aspiration causes renunciation of one's individuality, renunciation of one's own Self. This is the prediction of the existential absurdity, which will become widespread in the twentieth century in the works of Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. However, unlike atheistic existentialists, Tyutchev shows a path that leaves hope for a person through the acceptance of faith in the true God. This is the special mission and characteristic feature of the Russian literary classics of the XIX century and Tyutchev's poetry, in particular.

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