Fyodor Sologub

Poems by Fyodor Sologub

Sologub, the son of a tailor, worked as a rural teacher of mathematics and a district inspector of schools until 1907. His best-known work is the novel Petty Demon (Melkij bes), a mystical satire about a provincial teacher obsessed by a desire for success and fame. A highly productive writer (as a poet probably too productive), Sologub had published twelve volumes of his writings by 1909 and in 1913 initiated the publication of twenty volumes of his collected works.

Sologub’s poetry is one of the high achievements of Symbolist verse prior to Aleksandr Blok. A true decadent with a Manichean worldview, Sologub believed that the evil and ugliness of the real world are beyond humans’ capacity for improvement and leave them only the possibility of escape into a world of illusions, dreams, imagination, and art, where peace and harmony might be found. Night, death, a Satanic realm of beauty and perverse sensual desire contrast with the evil world of the day, of sunshine — “the flaming dragon.” While the form of his poetry is conventional (clear, classically pure diction and exotic symbols), the content is highly original and often profoundly disturbing.

In spite of his grafomania, he composed a few poetic masterpieces, including the work selected here. In 1920 he asked Lenin personally for permission to emigrate, but his request was denied; in consequence, his wife committed suicide. From 1923 to 1939 his poetry was not published in the USSR; now his poetry and prose are published widely.