by: Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883)
- SUMPTUOUS, brilliantly lighted
hall; a number of ladies and gentlemen.
- All the faces are animated, the talk is lively. . . . A noisy
conversation is being carried on about a famous singer. They
call her divine, immortal. . . . O, how finely yesterday she
rendered her last trill!
- And suddenly -- as by the wave of an enchanter's wand --
from every head and from every face, slipped off the delicate
covering of skin, and instantaneously exposed the deadly whiteness
of skulls, with here and there the leaden shimmer of bare jaws
- With horror I beheld the movements of those jaws and gums;
the turning, the glistening in the light of the lamps and candles,
of those lumpy bony balls, and the rolling in them of other smaller
balls, the balls of the meaningless eyes.
- I dared not touch my own face, dared not glance at myself
in the glass.
- And the skulls turned from side to side as before. . . .
And with their former noise, peeping litke little red rags out
of the grinning teeth, rapid tongues lisped how marvelously,
how inimitably the immortal . . . yes, immortal . . . singer
had rendered that last trill!
POEMS BY IVAN TURGENEV
"The Skulls" is reprinted
from Dream Tales and Prose Poems. Ivan Turgenev. (Trans.
Constance Garnett). New York: The Macmillan Company, 1920.