aristocratic vagabond –
he was in love with all ages,
countries, professions and positions, where the human soul
blossoms in daring
heroic beauty. When
you read his poems, you think that they were written
with shining eyes,
with a cold in their hair and with a proud
and gentle smile on their lips.
Poet-konkvistador, poet-warrior, poet-knight – these figurative definitions have long been fixed in the literary world for Nikolai Stepanovich Gumilev – original Russian lyrics, inspired by the “muse of distant wanderings.”
Nikolai Gumilev was born to love the sea and exotic countries. The future poet was born in the port city of Kronstadt on a stormy night on April 3, 1886. His father served in the navy as a military doctor, his grandfather was a naval officer. Nikolai grew up in a quiet, brooding, sickly child. But, winning the right to leadership in the circle of peers, despite poor health and shyness, he tried to be liberated and independent. From early years, the character of a strong, proud, courageous conqueror was read in him. The romantic aspirations of the future poet were influenced by his father’s stories of round-the-world sea trips and the upbringing of his mother, who, from a young age, introduced Nikolai to literature and history. It is no accident that he began to write poetry from the age of six. The favorite writers
A year after the birth of his son the Gumilevs moved to the suburbs of St. Petersburg – Tsarskoe Selo. Education Nicholas received in the Tsarskoye Selo High School, whose director was a wonderful teacher and poet Innokentiy Annensky, who in many ways formed the aesthetic taste of Gumilev. After graduating from high school, the young man leaves for Paris to continue his studies at the Sorbonne. There he listens to lectures on French literature, studies painting, communicates with his poetic mentor Valery Bryusov, publishes the magazine Sirius, where he publishes his works, as well as poems of the young poetess of the future wife of Anna Gorenko.
Still a schoolboy Nikolay releases his first poetic collection “The Way of the Conquistadors.” In the opinion of critics, in this book there is a significant influence of Russian and French symbolists, however, in spite of this, the constant lyric hero of Gumilev – a conqueror, a pilgrim, a soldier, a wise man who knows the world openly and boldly. And in 1908 the second book of the poet “Romantic Flowers” was published in Paris. It is in this collection included the poem of Nikolai Gumilev “Giraffe”, which became the “calling card” of the poet:
… far, far away on Lake Chad The
gourmet wanders giraffe.
He graceful slenderness and a negative is given,
And his skin is adorned with a magical pattern,
With which only the moon dare to dare,
Fracturing and swaying on the moisture of wide lakes.
The romance of distant wanderings perfectly coexisted with Gumilev’s judicious attitude toward poetry. In his soul, complementing and enriching each other, the poet and traveler coexisted peacefully. In 1908 Gumilev returned to his homeland, but soon sent a two-month trip to Egypt. Africa inspired him to an amazing poem. The craving for this distant exotic country was so great that the poet-traveler makes two expeditions in 1910 and 1913 to Abyssinia. On his return, in 1910, he publishes a collection of “Pearls”, which brought him wide fame. In 1912 the fourth book of the poet – “Another’s sky” is published.
After three years of dating Nikolai Gumilev marries Anna Gorenko. Their life together was short-lived, but the poetic dialogue of two lovers is one of the best pages of Russian love lyrics:
From the serpent’s lair,
From the city of Kiev,
I took not a wife, but a sorceress.
And I thought it was a funny thing,
Gadal – a wayward girl, A merry
Together with the poet Sergei Gorodetsky, Nikolai Gumilev in 1911 created the literary association “The Poets’ Workshop.” This name very accurately reflected the view of Gumilyov himself on the poet and creativity. In his opinion, the poet should be a professional, an artisan, chaser and a cutter of verse. Polemically based on symbolism, on its blurring and uncertainty of meaning, metaphorical saturation, NS Gumilev lays the foundations for a new artistic trend in literature – acmeism, whose goal is to return the word to its original meaning.
The First World War broke the habitual life, destroyed all plans. Nikolay Gumilev went as a volunteer to the front. For fearlessness and legendary courage, he was awarded two St. George crosses. The military impressions of the poet were reflected in his collection “The Quiver”.
The revolution of 1917 Gumilev met in Paris, while on a business trip abroad. The poet did not accept Bolshevism and openly demonstrated his loyalty to the monarchy with his own directness. Despite the danger, in 1918 he returned to St. Petersburg and plunged headlong into the habitual elements for him: publishes poems “Fire”, “Tent”, “The Pillar of Fire”, a book of translations of Eastern poetry “Porcelain Pavilion”, lectures on the Russian and foreign literature, he deals with young poets.
Postwar period in the work of Nikolai Gumilev researchers unanimously characterize as the time of the highest heyday of his literary talent. Gumilev’s mature lyrics are becoming more and more filled with tragic forebodings and religious philosophical reflections, a sense of the inevitability of premature death. It becomes complex and symbolic.
August 3, 1921 Nikolai Gumilev – poet and literary critic, researcher and translator – was arrested on suspicion of involvement in a counter-revolutionary conspiracy. And three weeks later he was shot without trial. Gumilev was only thirty-five years old…
One of the ideological inspirers of the Silver Age, Vyacheslav Ivanov, said about Gumilev: “Our lost great hope.” Alexander Blok wrote in his diary about the Acmeists: “Everything is under Gumilev.” Vladislav Khodasevich recalled: “He had an excellent literary taste… In the mechanics of the verse, he penetrated as few people.” And one of the greatest poets of the Russian emigration, Georgy Ivanov, noted: “Gumilyov’s poetry can be regarded differently, but there can be no two opinions about the significance of Gumilyov as a teacher of poetry.”