They were loading a haycock onto the wagon not far from him. Ivan Parmenov was standing on the wagon, taking, laying in place, and stamping down the huge bundles of hay, which his pretty young wife deftly handed up to him, at first in armfuls, and then on the pitchfork. The young wife worked easily, merrily, and deftly. The close-packed hay did not once break away by her fork. First she tedded it, stuck the fork into it, then with a rapid, supple movement leaned the whole weight of her body on it, and at once with a bend of her back under the red belt she drew herself up, and arching her full bosom under the long white apron, with a deft turn swung the fork in her arms, and flung the bundle of hay high onto the wagon. Ivan, obviously doing his best to save her every minute of unnecessary labor, made haste, opening wide his arms to clutch the bundle and lay it in the wagon. As she raked together what was left of the hay, the young wife shook off the bits of hay that had fallen on her neck, and, arranging the red kerchief that was gone backward baring her white brow, not browned by the sun, she crept under the wagon to tie up the load. Ivan directed her how to fasten the cord to the crosspiece, and at something she said he laughed aloud.
In the expressions of both faces was to be seen vigorous, young, freshly awakened love.
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TOLSTOY: Anna Karenina Part 3, Chapter 12[Previous Chapter] [Table of Contents] Chapter 12 The load was tied on. Ivan jumped down and took the quiet, sleek horse by the bridle. The young wife flung the rake up on the load; with a bold step, swinging her arms, she went to join the women, who were forming a ring for the haymakers' dance. Ivan drove off to the road and fell into line with the other loaded wagons. The peasant women, with their rakes on their shoulders, gay with bright flowers, and chattering with ringing, merry voices, walked behind the hay wagon. One wild untrained female voice broke into a song, and sang it alone through a verse, and then the same verse was unanimously taken up and repeated by half a hundred strong healthy voices, of all sorts, coarse and fine.
The women, all singing, began to come close to Levin, and he felt as though a storm were swooping down upon him with a thunder of merriment.
The storm swooped down, enveloped him and the haycock on which he was lying, and the other haycocks, and wagonloads, and the whole meadow and distant fields all seemed to be shaking and singing to the measures of this wild merry song, with its shouts and whistles and clapping. Levin felt envious of this health and mirthfulness; he longed to take part in the expression of this joy of life. 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 good-humoredly, 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 generally delightful life.
The old man who had been sitting beside him had long ago gone home; the people had all gone their different ways. Those who lived near had gone home, while those who came from afar 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 general laughing over the supper, then singing again, and laughter.
All the long day of toil had left no trace in them save 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 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 this 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.