War and Peace By Leo Tolstoy Book IX: Chapters 16–23


At the beginning of July more and more disquieting reports about the war began to spread in Moscow; people spoke of an appeal by the Emperor to the people, and of his coming himself from the army to Moscow. And as up to the eleventh of July no manifesto or appeal had been received, exaggerated reports became current about them and about the position of Russia. It was said that the Emperor was leaving the army because it was in danger, it was said that Smolensk had surrendered, that Napoleon had an army of a million and only a miracle could save Russia.

On the eleventh of July, which was Saturday, the manifesto was received but was not yet in print, and Pierre, who was at the Rostovs', promised to come to dinner next day, Sunday, and bring a copy of the manifesto and appeal, which he would obtain from Count Rostopchin.

That Sunday, the Rostovs went to Mass at the Razumovskis' private chapel as usual. It was a hot July day. Even at ten o'clock, when the Rostovs got out of their carriage at the chapel, the sultry air, the shouts of hawkers, the light and gay summer clothes of the crowd, the dusty leaves of the trees on the boulevard, the sounds of the band and the white trousers of a battalion marching to parade, the rattling of wheels on the cobblestones, and the brilliant, hot sunshine were all full of that summer languor, that content and discontent with the present, which is most strongly felt on a bright, hot day in town. All the Moscow notabilities, all the Rostovs' acquaintances, were at the Razumovskis' chapel, for, as if expecting something to happen, many wealthy families who usually left town for their country estates had not gone away that summer. As Natasha, at her mother's side, passed through the crowd behind a liveried footman who cleared the way for them, she heard a young man speaking about her in too loud a whisper.

"That's Rostova, the one who . . ."

"She's much thinner, but all the same she's pretty!"

She heard, or thought she heard, the names of Kuragin and Bolkonski. But she was always imagining that. It always seemed to her that everyone who looked at her was thinking only of what had happened to her. With a sinking heart, wretched as she always was now when she found herself in a crowd, Natasha in her lilac silk dress trimmed with black lace walked — as women can walk — with the more repose and stateliness the greater the pain and shame in her soul. She knew for certain that she was pretty, but this no longer gave her satisfaction as it used to. On the contrary it tormented her more than anything else of late, and particularly so on this bright, hot summer day in town."It's Sunday again — another week past," she thought, recalling that she had been here the Sunday before,"and always the same life that is no life, and the same surroundings in which it used to be so easy to live. I'm pretty, I'm young, and I know that now I am good. I used to be bad, but now I know I am good," she thought,"but yet my best years are slipping by and are no good to anyone." She stood by her mother's side and exchanged nods with acquaintances near her. From habit she scrutinized the ladies' dresses, condemned the bearing of a lady standing close by who was not crossing herself properly but in a cramped manner, and again she thought with vexation that she was herself being judged and was judging others, and suddenly, at the sound of the service, she felt horrified at her own vileness, horrified that the former purity of her soul was again lost to her.

A comely, fresh-looking old man was conducting the service with that mild solemnity which has so elevating and soothing an effect on the souls of the worshipers. The gates of the sanctuary screen were closed, the curtain was slowly drawn, and from behind it a soft mysterious voice pronounced some words. Tears, the cause of which she herself did not understand, made Natasha's breast heave, and a joyous but oppressive feeling agitated her.

"Teach me what I should do, how to live my life, how I may grow good forever, forever!" she pleaded.

The deacon came out onto the raised space before the altar screen and, holding his thumb extended, drew his long hair from under his dalmatic and, making the sign of the cross on his breast, began in a loud and solemn voice to recite the words of the prayer . . .

"In peace let us pray unto the Lord."

"As one community, without distinction of class, without enmity, united by brotherly love — let us pray!" thought Natasha.

"For the peace that is from above, and for the salvation of our souls."

"For the world of angels and all the spirits who dwell above us," prayed Natasha.

When they prayed for the warriors, she thought of her brother and Denisov. When they prayed for all traveling by land and sea, she remembered Prince Andrew, prayed for him, and asked God to forgive her all the wrongs she had done him. When they prayed for those who love us, she prayed for the members of her own family, her father and mother and Sonya, realizing for the first time how wrongly she had acted toward them, and feeling all the strength of her love for them. When they prayed for those who hate us, she tried to think of her enemies and people who hated her, in order to pray for them. She included among her enemies the creditors and all who had business dealings with her father, and always at the thought of enemies and those who hated her she remembered Anatole who had done her so much harm — and though he did not hate her she gladly prayed for him as for an enemy. Only at prayer did she feel able to think clearly and calmly of Prince Andrew and Anatole, as men for whom her feelings were as nothing compared with her awe and devotion to God. When they prayed for the Imperial family and the Synod, she bowed very low and made the sign of the cross, saying to herself that even if she did not understand, still she could not doubt, and at any rate loved the governing Synod and prayed for it.

When he had finished the Litany the deacon crossed the stole over his breast and said,"Let us commit ourselves and our whole lives to Christ the Lord!"

"Commit ourselves to God," Natasha inwardly repeated."Lord God, I submit myself to Thy will!" she thought."I want nothing, wish for nothing; teach me what to do and how to use my will! Take me, take me!" prayed Natasha, with impatient emotion in her heart, not crossing herself but letting her slender arms hang down as if expecting some invisible power at any moment to take her and deliver her from herself, from her regrets, desires, remorse, hopes, and sins.

The countess looked round several times at her daughter's softened face and shining eyes and prayed God to help her.

Unexpectedly, in the middle of the service, and not in the usual order Natasha knew so well, the deacon brought out a small stool, the one he knelt on when praying on Trinity Sunday, and placed it before the doors of the sanctuary screen. The priest came out with his purple velvet biretta on his head, adjusted his hair, and knelt down with an effort. Everybody followed his example and they looked at one another in surprise. Then came the prayer just received from the Synod — a prayer for the deliverance of Russia from hostile invasion.

"Lord God of might, God of our salvation!" began the priest in that voice, clear, not grandiloquent but mild, in which only the Slav clergy read and which acts so irresistibly on a Russian heart.

"Lord God of might, God of our salvation! Look this day in mercy and blessing on Thy humble people, and graciously hear us, spare us, and have mercy upon us! This foe confounding Thy land, desiring to lay waste the whole world, rises against us; these lawless men are gathered together to overthrow Thy kingdom, to destroy Thy dear Jerusalem, Thy beloved Russia; to defile Thy temples, to overthrow Thine altars, and to desecrate our holy shrines. How long, O Lord, how long shall the wicked triumph? How long shall they wield unlawful power?

"Lord God! Hear us when we pray to Thee; strengthen with Thy might our most gracious sovereign lord, the Emperor Alexander Pavlovich; be mindful of his uprightness and meekness, reward him according to his righteousness, and let it preserve us, Thy chosen Israel! Bless his counsels, his undertakings, and his work; strengthen his kingdom by Thine almighty hand, and give him victory over his enemy, even as Thou gavest Moses the victory over Amalek, Gideon over Midian, and David over Goliath. Preserve his army, put a bow of brass in the hands of those who have armed themselves in Thy Name, and gird their loins with strength for the fight. Take up the spear and shield and arise to help us; confound and put to shame those who have devised evil against us, may they be before the faces of Thy faithful warriors as dust before the wind, and may Thy mighty Angel confound them and put them to flight; may they be ensnared when they know it not, and may the plots they have laid in secret be turned against them; let them fall before Thy servants' feet and be laid low by our hosts! Lord, Thou art able to save both great and small; Thou art God, and man cannot prevail against Thee!

"God of our fathers! Remember Thy bounteous mercy and loving-kindness which are from of old; turn not Thy face from us, but be gracious to our unworthiness, and in Thy great goodness and Thy many mercies regard not our transgressions and iniquities! Create in us a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us, strengthen us all in Thy faith, fortify our hope, inspire us with true love one for another, arm us with unity of spirit in the righteous defense of the heritage Thou gavest to us and to our fathers, and let not the scepter of the wicked be exalted against the destiny of those Thou hast sanctified.

"O Lord our God, in whom we believe and in whom we put our trust, let us not be confounded in our hope of Thy mercy, and give us a token of Thy blessing, that those who hate us and our Orthodox faith may see it and be put to shame and perish, and may all the nations know that Thou art the Lord and we are Thy people. Show Thy mercy upon us this day, O Lord, and grant us Thy salvation; make the hearts of Thy servants to rejoice in Thy mercy; smite down our enemies and destroy them swiftly beneath the feet of Thy faithful servants! For Thou art the defense, the succor, and the victory of them that put their trust in Thee, and to Thee be all glory, to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, now and forever, world without end. Amen."

In Natasha's receptive condition of soul this prayer affected her strongly. She listened to every word about the victory of Moses over Amalek, of Gideon over Midian, and of David over Goliath, and about the destruction of"Thy Jerusalem," and she prayed to God with the tenderness and emotion with which her heart was overflowing, but without fully understanding what she was asking of God in that prayer. She shared with all her heart in the prayer for the spirit of righteousness, for the strengthening of the heart by faith and hope, and its animation by love. But she could not pray that her enemies might be trampled under foot when but a few minutes before she had been wishing she had more of them that she might pray for them. But neither could she doubt the righteousness of the prayer that was being read on bended knees. She felt in her heart a devout and tremulous awe at the thought of the punishment that overtakes men for their sins, and especially of her own sins, and she prayed to God to forgive them all, and her too, and to give them all, and her too, peace and happiness. And it seemed to her that God heard her prayer.

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