Every fairy tale has its beginning. Our story began in Russia when a young poet, Alexander Pushkin, copied his early poems by hand with a goose feather, glued the pages in a small notebook and gave it to his brother, Lev Sergeevich, to send the notebook to the censorship. The notebook was only 19 pages of lyceum poems by a young poet. It happened in the spring of 1825.
The notebook included the poet’s early works, which he created when he was only 17 years old. This manuscript is known under the title “P.I. Kapnist’s Notebook”. Mr. Kapnist have probably kept it until the last day of his life, although, according to the extant correspondence, the notebook was preserved at the Academy of Sciences by academician L. N. Maikov.
This was the moment for our fairy tale to begin. In 1898, the owner of the handwritten Pushkin’s notebook, Mr. Kapnist, died suddenly in Rome, and two years later died academician Maikov, who have been working on the notebook’s publication. Kapnist’s daughters got all the archives of their father, including the manuscript of the poet, but after the October Revolution the sign of the notebook seemed to be completely lost. When suddenly ….
Now our story moves to the true Kingdom of all fairy tales — Denmark, where its main storyteller Hans Christian Andersen lived. He has never been to Russia and never met Pushkin, but still their paths crossed.
Unexpectedly — as it happens in fairy tales — the copy of the letter written by Andersen was found in the archives of the Academy of Sciences of Russia. In this letter dated 1865, Danish storyteller thanks his acquaintance, Elizaveta Karlovna Mandershtern3, born Swede, for a wonderful gift — the autograph of the great Russian poet written by his hand. Andersen has met this Russian girl of a noble family in 1862 in the mountains of Switzerland, and was absolutely fascinated by Russian sisters from the Mandershtern family, who were having a vacation there.
One of the sisters, Elizabeth, frivolously promised Danish writer to send Pushkin’s autograph. But — as they say in the fairy tales — “it is easier to say than to do!”.
It took three years for the young lady to fulfill the promise given to the Danish writer. She finally succeeded: the first page of the manuscript written by the great poet was presented by Kapnist’s young wife, Ekaterina Mandershtern, as a gift to her cousin. Finally, she cut out the first page from the Pushkin’s manuscript with scissors and gave to her beloved cousin. What a generous gift from a cousin it was! And already in 1965 the manuscript of the Russian poet along with a kind letter from Elizabeth Mandershtern, travels with postal horses to Copenhagen, to Andersen himself, where it was kept until the death of Danish writer.
In 1939, the Russian State Literary Museum sends its representative, professor P.G. Bogatyrev, to the Archive of the Copenhagen Royal Library. And right there in Andersen’s archives he found the first page of Puskin’s manuscript, carved from Kapnist’s notebook, with his two poems written by the poet’s hand in the distant 1825 and with the handwriting note by Andersen..
The poem “Awakening” (1816) was written on the first page of Pushkin’s autograph, and on the back there was a part of the poem “To a friend” with some remarks made by Pushkin (II of Elegies, 1816).
Time passes. And again in 1952, after the war, a representative of the Academy of Sciences, Professor I.E. Glushchenko arrives to Copenhagen. He again made pictures of Pushkin’s manuscript and a letter from the storyteller Andersen with gratitude to his Russian acquaintance. A wonderful handwritten page from the missing Kapnist’s copybook is still carefully stored in the Royal Library of Denmark.
Below is the text and the photo of the manuscript.
O dreams, my dreams,
Where is your treasure?
It dims, it dims,
The night’s sweet pleasure.
The dream is gone,
The joy has run,
And in the dark room,
Amid the lone gloom,
Awake, I’m one.
The bed is guarded
By silent night.
At once is thwarted,
At once departed
Away from sight
Love’s sweetest yearning.
The soul still wants,
It’s filled with burning,
The dream still haunts,
It’s still returning.
O love, sweet love,
There’s mercy in you:
May fancies of
These lures continue,
Once more may I
Feel blithe and taken,
And may I die
Before I waken.
In 2017, the Royal Library receives a gift from Russia — from International Foundation ““Dialog of Culture — United World” — a bronze bust of the great Russian poet, which was decided to install in a new, recently opened university library building, directly opposite from the Russian language department. And the chief librarian of the faculty, Hans Christian Mikkelsen, turns out to be a specialist in Russian literature who fluently speaks Russian! What the amen!
Everyone who knows Russian language, loves poetry and fairy tales were invited on the birthday of Russian poet, June 6 for the Great Opening. Of course, it was a lot of young people, who attended the ceremony.
There, at the opening ceremony, two poems from the Pushkin’s manuscript, written by his hand, has been released for the first time — but in the language of Andersen, in Danish.
If one day your travel will cross Danish ground,, take your time and visit the University library on the island of Amager and be sure to put flowers on the monument of the great Russian poet, who stands there forever guarding his manuscript.
Well, if you won’t find time for it, then just take a look at the silhouette of the new University building in the window of the plane at take-off. Perhaps, you will recall this fairy tale story about Pushkin’s manuscript.
But what about the very “Kapnist’s Notebook”? Rumor said that after the revolution it turned up in Japan and, probably, was lost there in the big japaneese earthquake of 1923. So if you ever go to Japan, try to find a trace of the lost manuscript of the great Russian poet, because our life can turn into a fairy tale, if we really want it.
Introduction written by Irina Bjørnø
Thanks to all sponsors
We would like to thanks all sponsors, who help us to make this event unforgettable:
The Royal Danish Library
The Russian Embassy in Copenhagen
International Foundation “Dialog of Culture — United World”, who donated the monument to Royal Danish library by artist A. Leonov
The Russian Center for Science and Culture in Copenhagen (RCNK)
The Russian Culture Mission in Denmark (RKMD)
All-Russian Union of NGO
Russian International Bank
International publishing company “Belbooks”
The Russian society in Denmark (Russam)
Inauguration of the Pushkin Monument in Copenhagen
Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Kingdom of Denmark, mr. Mikhail V. Vanin