A poem, first. Blok’s The gray sky is still beautiful
And cold lights in the gray sky
Clothed the tsar’s Winter Palace
And the armored warrior in black won’t answer
Until dawn overtakes him
Then, reddening above the watery abyss
Let him lower his sword more gloomily,
To lie dead in a useless struggle
With the savage mob for an ancient fairy tale.
And a story. I found this in Mochulsky’s biography of Andrei Bely, which is, unfortunately, the only one in English.
In 1921, after Blok had died, and Bely was trying to get out of Russia, Bely gave a lecture that was supposed to be on Blok’s poetry. Maria Tsvetaeva was there. She wrote that in the middle of the lecture, Bely lost control and began to scream: “From starvation! From Starvation! Gout from starvation, instead of overeating!” and then he went on to his no doubt astonished audience:
‘ I have no room! I am the writer of the Russian land, and I don’t even have a stone on which to lay my head… I wrote Petersburg! I foresaw the downfall of tsarist Russia, I had a dream of the end of the tsar in 1905!… I cannot write! It’s a disgrace! I must stand in line to get my ration of fish! I want to write! But I also want to eat! I am not a spirit! For you I am not a spirit!.. But I am a proletarian… Lumpenproletariat. Because I am all in rags. Because they did away with Blok, and they want to do away with me. I will not permit it! I will scream until I am heard! A-a-a-a!…’
I will not permit it.
It was on ancient fairy tales, and their bloody destruction, that we have built this artificial paradise. And it will not last. It is dying in our bloodstreams as I write this. And in the sky, the tree branches, in the great migrations. So: what was it for? All this happiness.
I will scream until I am heard.