Modern Russian Poetry/Alexander Blok
Alexander Blok was educated at the University of St. Petersburg, of which his grandfather was the rector. He belongs to the second generation of symbolists, and his first volume, which appeared in 1905, savors strongly of Solovyov's spirituality. The upheaval which was shaking his country is ignored in this book, instinct with vague eschatological expectations and devoted to the Eternal Feminine. Yet here she wears the medieval aspect of the Lady Beautiful, and spirit in her is married to flesh. These songs, employing an easy symbolic cryptogram, mingle the prayers of the postulant with a rarefied sensuousness. This asserts in the succeeding volumes. The white melody is muffled by the voices of earth. Blok flees monastic walls for the confusion of the thoroughfares. The skirts of the Lady Beautiful are defiled, and the poet is stretched upon the cross of passion, with the bitter conviction that he is "fated to love her in Heaven only to betray her on earth." Christ and Russia are the other hypostases of Blok's trinity, their Golgotha strangely at one with his own. Whether he is a maker of masques for monastic harlequins, or another Œdipus before the Russian sphinx, whether he writes children's verse, lyrical dramas of an elusive symbolism, or poems reminiscent of the earlier Yeats, he reveals a keen emotional intensity and an unfailing sensitiveness of technique.
It was given to this delicate and remote lyricist to produce the most significant poem of the proletarian revolution. This is his striking epic, called "The Twelve," which is known far beyond the confines of Russia, and is accessible in half a dozen languages.