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“Orchard” and “sabre”: two ontological existential types of the artistic world in T. Shevchenko’s poetry

Interpretation of Taras Shevchenko’s poetry, as well as any other artist’s works is impossible without taking into account one of the fundamental notions of literary criticism, that of the artistic world or the world of a literary world. However this notion, having become natural a priori, very often is deprived of the possibility of further terminological development and loses its categorical accuracy and definitive concreteness. It is not always mentioned in reference materials though separate researches are plenty (R. Ingarden, M. Bakhtin, E. Auerbach, D. Likhachov, U. Eco, G. Gachev, R. Nic, etc.). And this obviously restricts a heuristic potential of efficient usage and thereby actualizes the scientization process of this and related notions, as rightly observed recently by Hryhoriy Klochek 1 . In this research we do not aim to exhaustively explicate this problem. The objective is rather to outline some important theoretical issues and proposals concerning a more efficient usage of the artistic world category to the poetic works of T. Shevchenko.

The notion of the artistic world is more than often identified as the inner form of a literary work – figurative reality. “The world of a literary work, says Valentyn Khalizyev, is artistically assimilated and recreated reality” 2 . The modern Ukrainian scholars make this concept still deeper. Especially productive is the above-mentioned research of Hryhoriy Klochek, made from the position of receptive poetics and systemic approach. Here the scholar speaks of the artistic world (or inner world of a literary work) as an aesthetic object, intentional substance, a component of the work poetics. Important here is the role of the reader, since the artistic world is created by twofold intentionality – it is created by the artist’s intention and corrected in the reception process by the recipient’s intention 3 . Other Ukrainian scholars by generalization speak of the artistic universe as a graphic picture created by the writer’s imagination and embodied in the literary text, as different reality, correlative with the objective, social and psychic reality, as an artistic spiritual intentional formation with a logic of its own” 4 .

Similarly, though in a specific way is defined the structure of a literary world. Anatoliy Tkachenko, for instance, among the main components of the world of a literary work mentions the time, space and man (with the author’s and reader’s planes, according to M. Bakhtin) 5 . Adam Kulavik singles out personages, motives and events as components of represented world 6 . V. Khalizyev considers the system of personages and events as the main units of this world, and behavioral acts and portraits of the personnages, psychic phenomena and facts of real life are referred to as its components. 7 . In H. Klochek’s concept, the main elements of the artistic world include chronotope, visuality, objectivity, coloristics and voicing 8 .

One should mention also some interesting and successful attempts to outline the types of literary worlds. For instance, Erich Auerbach found in West European literature elevated heroic and everyday worlds, according to two different traditions of life depiction – the antique and the biblical ones 9 . According to the form of correlation with the empiric reality realistic and fantastic worlds are distinguished (A. Tkachenko), by the genological criterion – epic, dramatic and lirycal worlds (N. Tamarchenko). 10 On the other hand, it seems important to take into account the principle established due to the dialogue between literary criticism and natiosophy and natiology according to which the scientific and artistic (literary in the first place) world pattern are the elements of a grander national world pattern 11 .

These considerations in our opinion shall be developed and concretized by turning to hermeneutic contemplations of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger. They can help us better understand the paradigmal for the new Ukrainian literature features of Taras Shevchenko’s poetic universe, supplementing the solid Shevchenko studies of the recent years (by I. Dzyuba, V. Pakharenko, H. Klochek, N. Zborovska, V. Shevchuk, N. Chamata, D. Nalyvayko, L. Heneraliuk, A. Dakhniy, M. Shkandriy, etc.)

In poetry considerd by M. Heidegger the essence of arts, the world and the land are created. And here it goes not about purely artistic but also general ontological processes. The land is the foundation, support of existence 12 , the place, where the man establishes historically his dwelling and his shelter in this world” 13 . The nature (physis) existing in the whole helps to see the land 14 , which becomes historic as the landscape, area of settlement and exploitation, as a battlefield and a cult space 15 . It is the nature that enlightens the land as the basis of human life 16 . Instead, the world is viewed by a hermeneutist as something broader – the openness of being 17 , the face of being 18 . As M. Heidegger’s disciple Hans-Georg Gadamer will write later, it is the whole, correlated with the human experience by a schematized language 19 .

An important accent in the ontological existential concept of the philosopher is put on the fact that both the land and the world are not abstract notions – they are essentially national phenomena: the land of the nation and the world of the nation. Because land is the primordial ground on which the nation is founded and rests in its historical realization 20 . Here it goes not only about the place of the nation’s private residence but also of collective national existence, where peoples can practically establish themselves and create in order to act and gain authority 21 . Instead the world of a nation in its historic realization is created by powerful expanse of disclosed connections, in which the birth and death, damnation and blessing, victory and defeat, firmness and collapse. That is the world is a "revealing openness of large tracts of simple and essential decisions in the destiny of the people." The land (as something that is closed) and the world (as something that is closed) are combined dialectically: "the world founded upon the land, and the land permeates the world by rising in it" 22 .

If for the pre-war period the most important for outlining the world was the treatise “The Source of Artistic Creation” (1935), in the post-war period the more accurate world concept most completely probably was expounded in Heidegger’s "Building Dwelling Thinking" (1951). Here the world is a quadrangle (a tetrad) – crossing or coexistence of four elements: the land (nature), the heaven (time), the divine entities and the mortals. It is within this unity that the man lives, protecting the quadrangle i. e. giving a free space for realization of his entity, in four ways: by saving the land, agreeing with the heaven, expecting the divine entities and agreeing with the essence of the mortals (trampling death by death). Thereby an important role in protecting the world, i.e. in existence is played by things (assistants): “Dwelling protects the quadrangle, when introducing its entity into things. The things, however, contain the quadrangle only when they as things preserve their own entity. When does it occur? When the mortals take guardianship of the things growing by themselves, and when they advisedly build the things that cannot grow by themselves” 23 , – observes the German philosopher. Thus, the man preserves the things and the things preserve human existence. It is things that help comprehend the sense as the truth and frankness of human dwelling and being in general.

One of the characteristic instances of a thing containing the essence of the German world (quadrangle) is in M. Heidegger’s opinion a peasant house in Schwarzwald mountains: “Let’s have a glance on a manor in Schwarzwald, two hundred years ago built by peasant’s dwelling. The house was established by a stubborn force of thing opening for the simplicity of the land and the heaven, the divine entities and the mortals. It put the manor on the southern slope of the mountain, protected from the wind, in the meadow, not far from a spring. It gave it a wide-brimmed and low shingle roof with a slant so that it could withstand the weight of snow, and protect the house from blizzards during the long winter nights. It did not forget about the corner with the holy icons over the common table, allotted the sacred place for childbirth and "the wood of the dead" - as in the country the coffin is called - and thus under the same roof identified various seasons of life for their trip through time” 24 .

Thus the interpreted things acquire a clear national sense, become the talismans of the national being and are opposed to cosmopolitic products, devastating the world of a nation. Rainer-Maria Rilke rightfully wrote about the difference between the real “living” things and ontologically empty “dead” surrogates in his letter to Witold von Gurewicz: “ We fervently collect the honey of the visible to accumulate it in the golden hive of the invisible. And this activity is supported and stimulated by the fact that an enormous part of the visible disappears quickly without a replacement. For our forefathers the house, fountain, familiar tower, up to their attire, their coat belonged infinitely more to the sphere of the intimate; every thing was a container where they stored and from where they drew up the compassion. Nowadays, exported from America, empty and listless thing invade our life, the semblance of things, imitation... The house in American understanding, the apples or grapes from America have nothing in common with the house, fruit, bunches of grapes, which had absorbed the hopes and thoughts of our ancestors... Animated, living things, as we know them, are declining, they will never be replaced by anything. We may be the last people to have known them. We bear the responsibility not only to preserve the memory thereof (that would be too little and too feeble), but become the protectors of their humaneness and sacred feeling of value... ” 25 .

It is easy to see that eloquently important for grasping the essence of the Ukrainian life-in-the-world in Shevchenko’s poetry is the prevailing image of a house (especially a peasants’ one) and the whole circle of close entities - garden, yard, well, orchard, pond, mountain, church, steppe, mound, etc. It is the house – and eloquent testimonies to this are his elegiac masterpieces like "A cherry orchard near the house..." (1847) and "Still dreaming: under the hill ..." (1850) – that is the most important entity, the most substantial thing, protected by the Ukrainian people, and which, in its turn, protects their existence. In these works the self-sufficient and unthreatened explicitly everyday being of presence is shown. It goes about Ukrainian(s) living within the Heidegger-defined "quadrangle." Using thing images ("garden", "house", "cockchafer" etc.) in these works we can see how protectively people live within a world of integrity, in their own shelter, home: saving the earth, while agreeing with the sky, waiting for the Divine essence, following their own substance. Absolutely all types of things - products and plants and animals and artifacts - are present in Shevchenko’s eidological discourse. And each of them is so dear from the childhood, unobtrusively but clearly Ukrainian, "immediate and spontaneous" and reveals in detail the national world, "whitewashed hut", "mountain," "willow," "water". One way or another they open for the lyrical hero the essence of Ukrainian here-being and help a thoughtful Recipient to understand/highlight the national existence of Ukrainian people in general (for the world is the openness of being, its Aletheia). But one thing is to be clarified. This co-existence of the Earth, the Heaven, the divine and the mortals creates the artistic world of a peaceful, quiet, unthreatened national existence. This is, using the language of Shevchenko’s images, the world garden of earthly paradise (or the world of being-around-the-house, being-in-the-garden).

On the other hand, we find contrasting poems, where the existential ties of protection have been ruined, the world is being changed. This is, for instance, the contemplation poem “Don’t abandon the mother, they said”” 26 (1847) from the same cycle (“In dungeon”), that “A cherry orchard near the house” is. The lyrical hero worries over the disappearance of a young girl who despite advice (“Don’t abandon the mother”) left her mother (whereafter she died of sorrow – “died weeping”), and now is pleasing someone in the palace abroad. The hero as a Christian benevolently wishes the girl well (“ I pray God that sorrow never woke you up …”), he does not wish obviously a fate of a mother with a fatherless child, but his reproachful message is filled with the images of the abandoned world, where she used to live and preserved the close man-made and vernacular things, which now, without her, without a personified Ukrainian presence, are dying, as they have nobody to preserve in their turn: “… since then no one is heard wherein you played once; a mongrel trots away somewhere; the house has a window smashed; the lambs are grazing in the orchard at daytime idly; and at night the black owls hoot predicting fright and cause the neighbours sleepless tortures your cross-shaped periwinkle scorches with cowbane weeded waiting still for you unwreathed. And in the grove now the crystal pond dries slowly out wherein you used to bathe so oft. The hanging grove in sadness caught; the bird in it no more sings loud; when mother died, its song with her; the well stands ruined in the valley, the willow moldered and distorted, and the footpath whereon you trotted grown over with the spiny thorn ”. So dramatically is the primordial Ukrainian world of the cherry orchard near the house disintegrating, and with it the Ukrainian being is gradually vanishing. All the depicted things – house, mongrel, lambs, orchard, grove, pond, bird, well, willow, etc. – signify the desolation of the world.

The main idea of the poem, in our opinion, is twofold. First, there are no native things in the foreign land, so there is no real existence (as dwelling in the quadrangle preserved by the things); existence in the foreign land is treacherous, incomplete, perfidious, and may instantly become a personal tragedy (leading to the deprecation by God and damnation by the mother). Second, the girl implicitly impersonates all these Ukrainians who in Shevchenko’s time were voluntarily seeking happiness, as they saw it, in foreign lands and are doing so now; they may find a personal happiness as they see it, but the must remember: thereby they are ruining the Ukrainian being, the mother and the home (here are the images of the foundation of human existence), and all native, close national entities, natural and supernatural. All the things need a Ukrainian for them to continue, for the diverse and complex Ukrainian to exist.

In other poems the ruined being-in-the-garden is transformed into a contrastive ontological existential form – the world ruined by the imperial evil. Desolation and abandonment is revealed as the transformation of everything – the world, the man, the land – into a desert. 27 An example may be served by Shevchenko’s explicit image of a plundered and tortured by the invaders and their handymen (Muscovite, Jew, Germans, werewolves) mother-Ukraine (in other poems – God’s world), essentially and originally a peaceful world, the dear land 28 in “Ransacked Grave” (1843), almost word for word repeated implicitly in the end of his life by the image of a “fettered and walled” by false Christian Pharisees “clear world! peaceful world!” 29 (in the thematically close poem of 1860 of the same title). And another image of the bound closed world of a young Ukrainian soldier in his “What meaning have the words …”.

Therefore, in Shevchenko’s poetry we can find many works which speak not about quiet self-sufficient being of the national presence, but of a stateless being, associated with a dramatic confrontation with different types of imperial devastation. For instance, in “Haidamaky”, “Caucasus”, or “Dream” (1844). In this poems, prevailing in the poets stock due to the historical and cultural circumstances of the colonial subjugation, the world basic structure is essentially changed, since the images of things (“ consecrated knife”, “boats”, “spear”, “mace”, “sabre”, etc., but mostly the house as a symbol of state) preserve another ontological existential simplicity.

For the literary existential thinking of Shevchenko’s protagonist the homeland is, on the one hand, the paradise, wonderful, magnificent, rich land, this is the world of the cherry orchard near the house, a peaceful world, dear land, Cossacks’ and God’s country, soaked with the blood of defenders of Ukraine (Cossacks), on the other hand, it is the hell (anti-paradise), robbed land, robbed mountains, it is our land that does not belong to us, it is the dying world of the plundered grave, of treacherous swineherds, depraved of their history: “ Such deeds, O God. do we do there Where piety rules over all And all in paradise should dwell! Of heaven we have made a hell, Yet for another heaven call .” 30 (“If You But Knew” (1850)). This is the world of desolation, and slavery, the Hades.

If the quadrangular world (the orchard) creates the co-existence of the four elements (the land, the heaven, the divine entities and the mortals), the triangular world (the saber) is created by crossbreeding of three elements (fundamental existentials), where the God corresponds to the divine entities, and Ukraine (homeland) combines the national land (space), heaven (time) and mortals (people and the nation). Freedom (liberating assumption of being (Heidegger)) is singled out into a separate entity, in contrast to the quadrangle, where the free, protected space of the state is implicit. It is singled out, since it is not just important but the most important thing for any enslaved nation – the national liberation. Without it neither the God nor Ukraine can obtain a complete existential value, cannot preserve the presence, and very often become the symbols of the imperial idol (as the imperial Sabaoth of Russian Orthodox Church) or the area devoid of active life (hence the numerous images of a dead, ruined and desolate country). In the quadrangle (the world of peace) the presence dwells poetically, freely preserving the truth of being and finding here a shelter. In Shevchenko’s poetic triangle (the world of struggle) the national man and the nation as a whole are still to win the right to live poetically (near a source) – to be peaceful shepherds, free protectors of their own national being in their ofn house of a state, the right to dwell protected in their own quadrangle (the world of peace, the world of orchard).

It should be stressed that in the world of struggle the quadrangle is not denied, it is just somewhat restructured, actualizing new basic structures – the Homeland and Freedom. The here-being in the quadrangle means interrelated processes reformatting the unity of the land, the heaven, the God and the mortals in the aspect of a struggle for shelter home: an active consolidation of the God’s truth (as in Shevchenko’s “pray to God only”) and the national Aletheia truth, a sacrificial defence of the Homeland as the mother, an uncompromising struggle for the national liberation, for Ukraine’s freedom. Therefore the Ukrainian artistic world looks different from the one observed in the previous case. This is, first of all, the world of the saber (weapon in general), the world of being-with-a-saber.

The way of warrior, the heroic way of being-with-the-saber is described in many Shevchenko’s poems, and it is always rooted in Cossack’s fate, as a Ukrainian for Shevchenko is historically always a Cossack: “ When we all were Cossacks …” 31 (“To the Poles” (1847)). An important fateful feature for liberation from under the foreign yoke becomes the restoration as the realization of the essence of the former Cossack existence. It is the restoration mode that forms the main problem of the poem “In bondage would I recall …” 32 (1857) as a reminiscent search of the ancient roots (according to his own instructionsin the Message), encoded in the old Cossack’s statement about the shout of glory, which helps to understand the meaning of the past Cossack being: “ And when we battled, when we perished What for we fell and were buried Into these mounds? ”. The reminiscence in a dream leads the hero back to his childhood, when the boy met an old Cossack. The Cossack leads him into the mound and tells him of the causes of wars with the Poles and a dramatic history of life and death of his sons, his daughter Prisia and himself. However, at the same time he outlines the essence of the Cossacks’ historical being helping the hero to restore the heritage of the past, realize the peculiarity of the Ukrainian historical fate as the way of the fight-for-the-national-freedom (the Cossacks in the mound symbolize the fate of the nation as a whole, not individual fates): “ In all Ukraine Stand lofty grave mounds. Behold you, my dear; All these high grave mounds are very alike Compressed to the hilt with our noble dead bodies, Compressed very tightly. It’s freedom that sleeps. It fell asleep bravely and now lies together with us with the Cossacks. Alike we fell down for freedom as one. Alike we’ll be risen .” The essence of Cossacks’ being, Cossacks’ fate to be restored in the here-being by the writer’s contemporaries to return on the Ukrainian historical road is the struggle for Ukraine’s freedom. As S. Smal-Stotsky says, it is out of the question that the poet became critically despaired in the national historic romanticism 33 .

It is interesting to note that modern scholars believe that the idea of the struggle for national liberation, even revolution as a prerequisite for liberation, statehood and free development of the nation and a concept of implementing this idea by organized peasants was first put forward by Shevchenko in the conceptual image of a peasant and. 34

The poems showing the transformation process of the world of orchard and paradise into the world of hell and struggle need a separate research. It is observed in the poems “The Blind” (1845) and “Slave” (1858). A separate research of the issue of two worlds dialectics is also necessary. Since it is obvious that dwelling in the quadrangle implies a possibility of dwelling in the triangle and vice versa: peace and struggle are dialectically interconnected. For peace to exist in the being-in-the orchard, it must be protected (at least, potentially) by the saber. Inversely, the liberation struggle (active life-with-the-saber) is waged for the sake of a free and protected peaceful dwelling, being-in-the-orchard.

Generally, the fundamental ontological existential structures – created by poetry artistic world – lead to a profound understanding of the national truth the sense and idea of existence (dwelling) of the literary man and nation in Shevchenko’s poetry. There arises a possibility to understand essentially the hermeneutic objective of Shevchenko’s poetry: to show the road to a free, peaceful, unthreatened coexistence (poetic dwelling near the source and its protection) in the quadrangle of peace (orchard), but through a prior coexistence in the national existential triangle of struggle (saber). That is to teach (provide an artistic example of) historical thinking (comprehensive consideration), necessary for preservation of the national identity. The identity present not as an exploiter but as a careful Evangelically kind “pastor of being” both in the triangle and quadrangle.


PhD (Philology), professor, Department of Theory and History of Ukrainian Literature,

Ivan Franko National Pedagogical University, Drohobych

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(1883 – 1973)

Науково-ідеологічний центр імені Дмитра Донцова
Роwеrеd bу Аgеd Prоgrаmmеr SіMаn СMS 1.4