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Ivan Turgenev was a Russian novelist and playwright who gained major attention for his breakthrough novel, "Fathers and Sons." He was also famous for his friendship with Leo Tolstoy, a relationship which turned bad, so much animosity that Tolstoy challenged Turgenev to a duel. Tolstoy later apologized.

Turgenev was an avid hunter and woodsman. This piece is from "Sketches From A Hunter's Album" :


   I was on my way home from hunting, and was walking up the garden avenue. My dog was running in front of me.

   Suddenly he slackened his pace, and began to steal forward as though he scented game ahead.

   I looked along the avenue; and I saw on the ground a young sparrow. It had fallen from the nest (a strong wind was blowing, and shaking the birches of the avenue); and there it sat and never stirred, except to stretch out its little half-grown wings in a helpless flutter.

   My dog was slowly approaching it, when suddenly, darting from the tree overhead, an old black-throated sparrow dropped like a stone right before his nose, and, all rumpled and flustered, with a plaintive desperate cry flung itself, once, twice, at his open jaws with their great teeth.

   It would save its young one; it screened it with its own body; the tiny frame quivered with terror; the little cries grew wild and hoarse; it sank and died. It had sacrificed itself.

   What a huge monster the dog must have seemed to it! And yet it could not stay up there in its safe bough. A power stronger than its own will tore it away.

   My dog stood still, and then slunk back disconcerted. Plainly he too, had to recognize that power. I called him to me; and a feeling of reverence came over me as I passed on.

   Yes, do not laugh. It was really reverence I felt before that little heroic bird and the passionate outburst of its love.

   Love, I thought, is verily stronger than death and the terror of death. By love, only by love, is life sustained and moved.






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