“Alexander Blok was the leader of the Russian Symbolist movement. A mystic, Blok hailed the Russian Revolution as a mystical, rather than political, rebirth of his homeland. Blok's poetry was later set by several Soviet composers, most notably Georgy Sviridov and, above all, Dmitry Shostakovich in his Seven Romances, Op. 127. Born to a law professor and the daughter of the administrator of St. Petersburg University, Blok was raised in an aristocratic environment. He published verse for the first time in 1903, the year of his marriage to Lyubov Mendeleyeva, daughter of the famous chemist D.I. Mendeleyev.
”A heavy drinker and philanderer, Blok later claimed that he had only two loves in his life: his wife and ‘all the others.’ He demonstrated far greater fidelity to the feminine ideal in his early poetry, especially Songs of the Beautiful Lady (1904). In this collection, Blok identified divine wisdom - using the Greek word ‘sophia’ - with the eternal ‘feminine world soul.’ Almost immediately, though, Blok lost his faith in the mystical, eternal feminine, and instead concentrated on the human suffering around him, searching for truth through hedonistic experience. Eastern Orthodox mystical elements began to fall away from his poetry, and he ridiculed his former beliefs in his 1906 lyrical drama ‘The Puppet Show,’ and transformed his idolized Beautiful Lady into a prostitute in the same year's play The Stranger. His poetry, too, became increasingly preoccupied with sordid, earthly matters, as in the collections Mask of Snow (1907) and The City (1908).
”Blok eventually rejected the ‘bourgeois intellectualism’ of his fellow Symbolists and threw in his lot with the Bolsheviks, but the Bolsheviks couldn't understand his work and rejected it. Blok's depression over this, and the desertion by the literary colleagues he had alienated, contributed to his premature death. He did manage to write significant works during his final decade. ‘The Scythians’ (1918) proclaimed that the West could benefit from falling in line with Russia's new world order, or be swept away if it interfered with Russia's messianic role in world affairs. The unfinished autobiographical poem ‘Retribution’ (1910 -- 1921), on the other hand, revealed his disappointment in the new regime. His last great work was the long, harsh, and slangy ballad The Twelve (1918), following a dozen Red Army soldiers through a looting and killing spree." (James Reel, All Music Guide)
(excerpt from The Whetting Stone)
The Russian poet Alexander Blok felt that musical vibrations permeate the earth’s winds, ocean currents and myriad colors – vibrations that formed mountains and valleys, and the diversity of the mineral, plant and animal realms. These vibrations exist at unfathomable depths in the human spirit, inaccessible to governments and common citizens. Blok felt it to be the poet’s calling to explore these depths and their music:The poet is the son of harmony and he has a specific role in world culture. He is entrusted with three tasks: first of all, to free the sounds from the native chaos in which they dwell; secondly, to turn these sounds into harmony; and thirdly, to bring this harmony into the outer world. *
The responsibility with which Apollo burdened the poet is often unbearable. When Blok entered into his final illness, his wife Lyubov wrote that “he had a terrible need to beat and break: a few chairs, dishes and such.” During one of these rages, Blok smashed a bust of Apollo on the bookcase to pieces with a fire-poker. He calmly answered his wife’s reproach: “I wanted to see into how many pieces his dirty snout would break.” The poet wreaked his impotent vengeance on poetry’s god.
Blok died possibly of venereal disease. His mental health had deteriorated, as had his physical health and living conditions. He died profoundly disappointed, nearly apathetic, over the dismal realities of the Revolution that he had so eagerly supported.
*Alexander Blok as quoted in Blok: An Anthology of Essays and Memoirs, translated by Lucy Vogel, Ardis, Ann Arbor, 1982.
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cited in The Whetting Stone
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