Dmitry Merezhkovsky: His God is not at all the God of the Christians, but the ancient, pagan Mars
From Peter and Alexis (1904)
Translated by Bernard Guilbert Guerney
He, of course, believes in God, – as he puts it himself, he “places his trust in Him Who is strong in battles. – the Lord.” But at times it seems that his God is not at all the God of the Christians, but the ancient, pagan Mars, – or Fate itself: Nemesis. If ever there has been a man who least of all resembled a Christian, that man is Peter. What concern has he with Christ? What connection is there between the iron of Mars and the lilies of the Evangel?
Never have I beheld such even-glows as here. To-day’s sunset was especially peculiar. The whole sky was in blood. The incarnadined clouds were scattered about, like tatters of bloodied garments, just as though a murder had been comsummated in heaven, or some sort of fearful sacrifice. And blood was dripping from heaven upon the earth. Among the sharp bristles, as black as embers, of the fir-forest, the blotches of red clay seemed like blotches of blood.
“Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is he that cometh!”
Abandoned of all, Alësha is alone with Christ in the midst of the maddened rabble. And the wild procession is moving directly upon them, with shouting and yelling, with darkness and stench, which tarnish the gold of the regal vestments and the very sun of Christ’s Visage. Lo, they will rush upon him, crush him, trample him, sweeping everything along, – and there will spring up in the holy place the abomination that maketh desolate.
Suddenly everything vanished. He is standing upon the shore of a broad, desolate river, – apparently on the high road from Poland to Ukraine. It is late evening in late autumn. Wet snow, – black mire. The wind is tearing off the last leaves from the trembling aspens. A beggar in tatters, chilled and grown blue from the cold, is piteously begging alms: “Give, if but a kopeck, for Christ’s sake!” – “See, he is a branded man,” reflects Alësha, looking upon the beggar’s arms and legs, with their bloody sores, “probably a runaway recruit.” And he feels so sorry for the “frozen lad” that he wants to give him not merely a kopeck but seven gulden. He recalls in his dream the entry he made in his travel diary, among other expenses: “22nd of November, for ferrying across the river, three gulden: for lodgings in a Jew’s inn, five gulden; – for the frozen lad, seven gulden.” He is just about to extend his hand to the beggar, when suddenly somebody’s rough hand is placed upon upon Alësha’s shoulder, and a rough voice, – probably that of the soldier on sentry duty near the barrier, – says to him:
“For giving alms, there’s a fine of five rubles; while beggars, after being beaten with cudgels and having their nostrils torn out, shall be exiled to Rogerwick.”
“Have pity,” implored Alësha. “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man have not where to lay his head…’
And, looking more closely at the frozen lad, he sees that his face is like to the sun, – that this is Christ Himself.