Page:Modern Russian Poetry.djvu/76

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Vladimir Solovyov

(1853-1900)


Coming from a family of scholars and churchmen, Solovyov was himself a mystic and visionary: an alien seed in an exorcised age. He was a cross between a Bohemian and a lay monk, whose asceticism only emphasized his powerfully erotic nature. A spirit dedicated to the creation of the greatest philosophical system which Russia has given to the world was fain to express itself also in poetry. His one slender volume of lyrics has the quality of soaring spirituality, and is generally engaged with a supersensuous reality, occasionally broken by irruptions of spasmodic comedy. It is largely centered about the concept of the Eternal Feminine, which also plays an important part in his grandiose religious system. He conceives it not as Aphrodite, but rather as Sophia: Divine Wisdom.

This feminine principle materialized itself for the mystic in a Dantesque experience. In a reminiscential poem written eight years before his death, he relates how, as a boy of nine, he first glimpsed his Eternal Mate. This was in Moscow; he next sees her in the reading-room of the British Museum thirteen years later, as he bends over volumes of abstruse mystical literature. She bids him follow her to Egypt. It is a biographic fact that the young Dozent traveled across the continent to Cairo, and went afoot into the desert, where he beheld his beatific vision for the last time.

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