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Vyacheslav Ivanov

(Born 1866)


Ivanov's life was not one to "hurry to a sphere, and show, and end." Rather, its fruit slower grew, and later hung. He began to write at the age of thirty-seven, after having spent half as many years abroad as a student, and joined the ranks of the symbolists. He learned antiquity from "Mommsen, Athens and Rome," and modernity from Nietzsche and Dostoyevsky. A curious feature of Ivanov's thinking is a synthesis of Dionysos and Christ, which is characteristic of the Greek revival in Russia, and which is attested to in his profound treatise on "The Hellenic Religion of the Suffering God." His exquisite art feeds on the Dionysian grape, but this has a sacramental flavor, and strangely through the features of his Dionyscs shows the effigy of a tragic Christ. To him religion is the very stuff of culture, and art a myth-making, and eren a theurgic power. Unlike his older fellow-symbolists, he builds not upon individualism, but upon the principle of sobornost, or communal religious expression suggestive of Vachel Lindsay's creed. He has the mentality and the manner of a mystagogue and a pontiff.

Ivanov's poetry is caviar to the general. His Pegasus is caparisoned with abstruse erudition and weighed down with intricate thought. Yet a limpid, golden beauty triumphs over the shadows in many lyrics. These are cast in the pure Grecian mold, these burn with "Æ" 's spiritual flame, and these are the ordered ecstasies of a Francis Thompson. His latest poems are a cycle of Winter Sonnets—written in blockaded Petrograd in 1920—filled with the sadness of resignation to loss and change.

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