Article abstract: Blok is one of Russia’s greatest poets. He was called the “last Romantic poet,” and his work in literature and drama reflected the profound changes that his country and its people experienced during the era of World War I and the Russian Revolution.
Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Blok was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on November 28, 1880, into a family of the gentry. His father, Aleksandr L. Blok, was a jurist, a professor of law at Warsaw University, and a talented musician. His mother, the former Aleksandra A. Beketova, was a writer. Blok’s parents divorced soon after he was born, and he spent much of his childhood in the family of his maternal grandfather, Andrei Beketov, a botanist and rector of the University of St. Petersburg, in St. Petersburg and at his estate, Shakhmatovo, near Moscow. Blok rarely saw his father. In 1889, Blok’s mother married an officer, F. F. Kublitsky-Piottukh, and the family moved back to St. Petersburg. After graduation from the Gymnasium, Blok entered the law school at the University of St. Petersburg, but in 1901 he transferred to the historical philology faculty. He was graduated in 1906. Blok had an early interest in drama and in becoming an actor, but by the age of eighteen he had begun to write poetry seriously and was almost immediately successful.
In 1903, Blok married Lyubova D. Mendeleyeva, the daughter of the famous chemist Dimitry Mendeleyev. She inspired much of his early poetry, but their marriage was always a turbulent one. In his later years, for example, Blok also developed strong relationships with the actress Natalia Volokhova and the singer Lyubov Delmas, who together inspired much of his work at the time.
Blok’s first published poetry appeared in the literary journal Novyi put’ (new path) in 1903, and his first volume of poetry, Stikhi o prekrasnoy dame (verses on a beautiful lady), appeared in 1904. These early works reflected the influence of the philosopher Vladimir Solovyov, his nephew and Blok’s cousin Sergei Solovyov, Andrei Bely, and other Symbolists, and they were well received by them. Blok already showed some innovation by giving new meaning to old symbols. It was his second book of poems, Nechayannaya radost (inadvertent joy), in 1907 and his lyrical drama Balaganchik (The Puppet Show, 1963) in 1906 that first gained for Blok real fame.
At this time his poetry was profoundly lyrical and deeply interwoven with mysticism and religious decadence. Blok can thereby also be linked to the tradition of Afanasy Fet. Consequently, some literary critics have called him the “last Romantic poet” for his work during this early period, but it is a label that might also be applied to his entire career.
Yet, Nechayannaya radost and another volume, Zemlya v snegu (1908; land in snow), also heralded a change coming about in Blok’s worldview, brought on in part by the so-called Revolution of 1905 in Russia and its eventual failure. His classical mystical symbolism was beginning to collapse, and the breakdown of rhyme in these works anticipated Futurism.
Symbolism had its origins in...
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Aleksandr Blok was born on November 28, 1880, into an upper-class intellectual family. His father was a professor of law at the University of Warsaw and his mother the daughter of a famous botanist at the University of St. Petersburg. His parents were divorced when he was nine, and his mother remarried, but Blok maintained close ties with his father. His mother exposed the young Blok to the arts, and he developed a taste for them. After graduating from high school with distinction, he entered the school of law at the University of St. Petersburg, mostly at his father’s insistence, but soon transferred to the school of languages. He was graduated in 1906, and as he later said, his truly independent life began after graduation. He had begun to write poems when he was four years old (childish verses, to be sure), but he wrote poetry in earnest in high school and at the university. He also wrote his first play, The Puppet Show, the year of his graduation from the university, and it was published immediately. In the same year, he published his first book of poetry, Stikhi o prekrasnoy dame, featuring ninety-three poems selected from the more than eight hundred he had written over the years.
Blok showed little interest in the events surrounding Russia’s 1905 revolution, and they are not reflected prominently in his writings. He felt that he could not become involved with liberal, revolutionary movements, not because he did not believe in them but because of his spiritual experience. Another reason was that he was in love with Lyubov Mendeleyeva, the daughter of...
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