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Modern Russian Poetry/Valery Brusov

Valery Brusov

(Born 1873)


Brusov's biography coincides with his bibliography. He has filled his life with the labors of a curious-minded poet and a sensitive erudite. In 1913, at the age of forty, he began publishing the complete edition of his works in twenty-five volumes. In addition to poetry, original and translated, it includes two novels, tales, dramas, and critical work. His tales and dramas have a timeless, abstract quality, a curious combination of the Wellsian and the Poe-esque. His two large novels are marvelous studies in the archæaeology of the soul, restoring as they do the psyche of the Roman decadence and of Germany's dying Middle Ages.

Before he came of age he fell under the spell of the French symbolists and his argosy began by sailing under their colors. His European years sharpened these sympathies. He tried to transplant the French vers libre into Russian soil, and among other things, an anthology of French lyrics of the nineteenth century bears witness to his Gallic apprenticeship. Indeed, he achieved a leading place among the Russian symbolists, becoming an editor of their Moscow organ (Vesy: The Balance). Yet although he adopted all the manners and mannerisms of the neo-romantic reaction, such as aversion to reality, violent eroticism and extreme individualism, by temperament Brusov is more of a Parnassian. His later work shows a gravitation toward a soberer and more objective conception of art. His craftsmanship is careful and conscious, whether he wanders down the ages, dedicating a line to every god, or traces the pattern of his own moods, or, like his master Verhaeren, finds a rhythm for the voices of the city. According to Gautier's precept, he works "dans le bloc résistant." He has an eye for imagery and an ear trained to complex orchestration.

The revolution has not exiled Brusov, and he is laboring to preserve the continuity of Russia's culture. In a literary capacity he holds an important Government post.