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Anna Karenina 158


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Anna Karenina

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But he could do nothing, and had to lie and look on and listen. When the peasants, with their singing, had vanished out of sight and hearing, a weary feeling of despondency at his own isolation, his physical inactivity, his alienation from this world, came over Levin. Some of the very peasants who had been most active in wrangling with him over the hay, some whom he had treated with contumely, and who had tried to cheat him, those very peasants had greeted him goodhumoredly, and evidently had not, were incapable of having any feeling of rancor against him, any regret, any recollection even of having tried to deceive him. All that was drowned in a sea of merry common labor. God gave the day, God gave the strength. And the day and the strength were consecrated to labor, and that labor was its own reward. For whom the labor? What would be its fruits? These were idle considerations-- beside the point. Often Levin had admired this life, often he had a sense of envy of the men who led this life; but today for the first time, especially under the influence of what he had seen in the attitude of Ivan Parmenov to his young wife, the idea presented itself definitely to his mind that it was in his power to exchange the dreary, artificial, idle, and individualistic life he was leading for this laborious, pure, and socially delightful life. The old man who had been sitting beside him had long ago gone home; the people had all separated. Those who lived near had gone home, while those who came from far were gathered into a group for supper, and to spend the night in the meadow. Levin, unobserved by the peasants, still lay on the haycock, and still looked on and listened and mused. The peasants who remained for the night in the meadow scarcely slept all the short summer night. At first there was the sound of merry talk and laughing all together over the supper, then singing again and laughter. All the long day of toil had left no trace in them but lightness of heart. Before the early dawn all was hushed. Nothing was to be heard but the night sounds of the frogs that never ceased in the marsh, and the horses snorting in the mist that rose over the meadow before the morning. Rousing himself, Levin got up from the haycock, and looking at the stars, he saw that the night was over. "Well, what am I going to do? How am I to set about it?" he said to himself, trying to express to himself all the thoughts and feelings he had passed through in that brief night. All the thoughts and feelings he had passed through fell into three separate trains of thought. One was the renunciation of his old life, of his utterly useless education. This renunciation gave him satisfaction, and was easy and simple. Another series of thoughts and mental images related to the life he longed to live now. The simplicity, the purity, the sanity of this life he felt clearly, and he was convinced he would find in it the content, the peace, and the dignity, of the lack of which he was so miserably conscious. But a third series of ideas turned upon the question how to effect this transition from the old life to the new. And there nothing took clear shape for him. "Have a wife? Have work and the necessity of work? Leave Pokrovskoe? Buy land? Become a member of a peasant community? Marry a peasant girl? How am I to set about it?" he asked himself again, and could not find an answer. "I havent slept all night, though, and I cant think it out clearly," he said to himself. "Ill work it out later. One things certain, this night has decided my fate. All my old dreams of home life were absurd, not the real thing," he told himself. "Its all ever so much simpler and better..." "How beautiful!" he thought, looking at the strange, as it were, mother-of-pearl shell of white fleecy cloudlets resting right over his head in the middle of the sky. "How exquisite it all is in this exquisite night! And when was there time for that cloud-shell to form? Just now I looked at the sky, and there was nothing in

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