Alexander Blok

Poems by Alexander Blok

The preeminent symbolist and lyric poet of early-twentieth-century Russia, Blok was perhaps the most powerful echo of Pushkin’s voice. His father was a professor of law at the University of Warsaw and his mother a translator of literature. He spent his youth with his grandfather, who was rector of the University of St. Petersburg, where Blok studied jurisprudence and then philology. Blok’s first collection, Stikhi o Prekrasnoi Dame (Verses on a Beautiful Lady) (1904), contains the recurring symbolic image of a beautiful lady he had once seen crushed under a train; in his poetry she becomes the tortured countenance of suffering Russia. The plays or lyrical dramas and the cycles of poetry that follow confirm him as the Symbolist of greatest authority.

In his poetry Blok mercilessly extolled the disintegration of Russia. Mercilessness toward the epoch, however, began first toward himself: nearly a decade after 1907 came a period of highest creativity in the tragic pathos of confessional poems that give an accounting of passions, temptations, and vices. His response to the traumatic events that arose from the unsuccessful Revolution of 1905 and the Revolution of 1917 alternated between a gloomy despair and a powerful, irrational love of Russia. The feminine image with which he described the motherland became in his later poems increasingly identified with the fallen women and prostitutes of earlier poems.

Blok’s mystical perception of the 1917 Revolution as a cosmic event, as an inevitable historical retribution is reflected in his undoubted masterpiece “The Twelve” (1918), in which the very element of the revolutionary street is splashed on the page. Writers opposed to the Revolution demonstrably refused to give their hands to Blok because he summoned them to listen to what he called the “music of the Revolution”.

Blok was the first chairman of the Petrograd branch of the All-Russian Union of Poets organized immediately after the Revolution. But the chaos and disastrous disruptions of life that followed were more than his spirit could bear. Exhausted and disillusioned, Blok’s health and spirit declined rapidly and he fell into silence. Whenever he was asked why he did not write poetry anymore, Blok answered: “All sounds have stopped. Can’t you hear that there are no longer any sounds?”

His swan song was a speech honoring Pushkin in February 1921 in which he said that the peace and liberty indispensable to a poet were being taken away from him. “Not liberty to misbehave, not freedom to play the liberal, but creative liberty, the secret freedom. And the poet dies because he cannot breathe”. Following Pushkin’s lead he labeled bureaucrats “rabble”, and in a gloomy vision of the dark future he went on to warn: “Let those bureaucrats who plan to direct poetry through their own channels, violating its secret freedom and hindering it in fulfilling its mysterious mission, let them beware of an even worse label. We die, but art remains”.

Stricken ill later that spring, Blok died in July, but in the testimony of E. Gollerbakh, “the people who observed the poet up close in the last months of his life affirmed that Blok died because he wanted to die”.

1898

1899

1900

1901

1902

1903

1904

1905

1906

1907

1908

1909

1910

1911

1912

1913

1914

1915

1916

1918

in german

Alexander Blok (deutsch)

1898

1901

1903

1905

1906

1908

1909

1910

1912

1914

in french

Alexandre Blok (français)

1906

1912

1918

in spanish

Aleksandr Blok (español)

1899

1906

1908

1909

1912

1915

in bulgarian

Александър Блок (български)

1906

1909

in italian

Aleksandr Blok (italiano)

1906

1907

1909

1910

1912

1914

in esperanto

Aleksandr Blok (esperanto)

1907

in eastern lombard dialect

Alexander Blok (dialèt bresà)

1912

in hungarian

Alekszandr Blok (magyar)

1912

in dutch

Aleksandr Blok (nederlands)

1909

in romanian

Aleksandr Blok (română)

1909