Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis was expressing himself not only in painting and music. During his creative period, which lasted for almost ten years, he did not part with pen trying his hand in the field of literature. As it is known from his letters, he intended to seriously ‘come to grips with’ writing and commit himself to this task.

At the age of thirty the artist and composer has already described this undertaking of his as “literature”. Those were works moulded not by a youthful or some other ambition. Rather, it was a real creative imperative. His whole publicistic writing and particularly letters are marked by picturesque word and spacious image; here one can see the potential of feeling, imagery and style germane to the realm of written word. […]

Čiurlionis wrote in Polish and did not publish his literary writings. In the beginning, perhaps, he considered it to be not mature enough (he had similar opinion regarding the offer to organise his personal exhibition in Warsaw in 1907), later he could have been not willing to be regarded as a Polish man of letters since he was not enough skilful in Lithuanian for his pen to be up to his though or imagination. In any case, only one of his attempts to publish his writing is known – Notes of a Convalescent in autumn of 1905. […]

Having had Čiurlionis’ very valuable manuscripts at his disposal, I. Šlapelis wrote in his unpublished monograph:

He worked a great deal in the field of literature. […] He left belles-lettres compositions in the form of letters, elaborated diaries, as well as various depictions. All of his works, his writings, created in the same vein as his artworks, are deeply lyrical, symbolical and musical.

Regrettably, only excerpts from those elaborated diaries and depictions have survived. I. Šlapelis included them in the text of his monograph, and published some of them in periodicals. All the belles-lettres compositions he mentions and quotes were not dated. The only case where I. Šlapelis alludes to dating, namely 1900, is allegorical depiction, or, perhaps, contemplation on artist’s vocation in his diary: “Here passes a cloud big and grey, there comes the black one…” According to I. Šlapelis, Čiurlionis wrote this ten years before the black one came”. […]

[Čiurlionis’ literary output] deserves to be presented to the reader in an appropriate language form. In this regard I. Šlapelis’ translation is too poor. Here again, we face a certain problem concerning Čiurlionis’ literary output. […]

The originals have not survived, perhaps, they are lost irreversibly. The translation is neither literary nor in style. If only literal, it jeopardises the artistic expression. It needs to be revised and edited (Čiurlionis is not responsible for syntax’s shortcomings), thus translated anew, but from what source? This translation is the only existing reference; one has the feeling that it needs to be left untouched as a document […]

Vytautas Lansbergis


  • 1908


Sea (poem)