Modern Russian Poetry/Dmitry Merezhkovsky

Dmitry Merezhkovsky

(Born 1865)


Merezhkovsky had every opportunity of study and travel afforded the son of a comfortably circumstanced, bureaucratic family. He made his pilgrimage to the seats of the antique Mediterranean culture, and the Parthenon brought him, like Renan, to his knees. Yet this devout and learned Hellenist is much of a lay theologian. He has constructed a professedly mystical, but actually rationalistic religion, which dominates all his work. The synthesis of paganism and Christianity, of flesh and spirit, which is his religion of "the Third Testament," is the Procrustean bed of both his brilliant criticism and his vast historical novels. In the latter his method is chiefly that of an historical mosaicist. His trilogy is accessible to the English reader, as well as some of his critical work, notably a part of his remarkable study on Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky.

His prose forms the bulk of his writings. As a poet, Merezhkovsky was one of the initiators of the modernist movement, but he counts mainly as the champion of their poetics. His own lyrical work is largely ineffectual and imitative of men as curiously alien to him as Baudelaire, Poe, and Nietzsche. Against a background of melancholy pieces, expressing metaphysical ennui and cold intellection, one finds some poems informed with spiritual beauty and religious intensity.