Valery Bryusov

Poems by Valery Bryusov

Born into a wealthy merchant’s family, Bryusov studied history at Moscow University from 1892 to 1899. Like Konstantin Balmont, Bryusov was one of the most celebrated poets of his time. Famous for his erudition, he was regarded as the legislator of literary fashion and head of the Symbolist school. He founded the most important literary journal of the time, Vesy (The Scales), which was the focal point of Russian Symbolism from 1904 to 1909.

After the Revolution, Bryusov joined the Communist party and became head of the Literary Division of the Commissariat of Education (Narkompros). In the poem “Invective”, he admonished his former Symbolist colleagues for not recognizing the Revolution and for seeing in it only blood and destruction. Marina Tsvetayeva criticized him in her memoirs as a self-regarding poet whose poetry was not based on feeling but was artificially constructed.

Bryusov’s poetry indeed suffers from bookishness and an overreliance on sheer musicality. Erotic, even perverse, love is a favorite subject, and his one-line poem included here was famous as a provocative joke. Boris Pasternak reproached him and valued him at the same time: in gratitude he once queried Bryusov, “That I thereupon, perhaps, will not die, because you yourself, now tired to death from the nonsense, at one time, in the morning, taught us not to die?”

Bryusov was prominent not only as a poet but also as a literary critic, historian, and playwright. He compiled and published the three-volume anthology The Russian Symbolists, which included mainly his own works; he was the author of a study of Pushkin and essays about the criticism and theory of poetry. A scholar of true merit, he also translated extensively from the French Symbolists, Armenian poets, and Edgar Allan Poe. Bryusov’s cautionary tale “The Republic of the Southern Cross” (1905), a fantasy of a totalitarian utopia that is destroyed by a mysterious epidemic of its inherent contradictions, first introduced the idea of dystopia in the twentieth century and belied his own political sympathies.

1895

1896

1899

1900

1901

1903

1905

1906

1907

1908

1909

1917

1921

in german

Waleri Brjussow (deutsch)

1911

in dutch

Valeri Brjoesov (nederlands)

1914