Acmeism, Post-symbolism, and Henri Bergson

Источник:
  • Slavic Review 41, no. 3 (SEP 1989)

Книги

Николай Гумилев. Слово и Дело
Юрий Зобнин.

/pics/slovoidelo.jpgК 130-летию Николая Гумилева. Творческая биография Поэта с большой буквы, одного из величайших творцов Серебряного века, чье место в Пантеоне русской словесности рядом с Пушкиным, Лермонтовым, Тютчевым, Блоком, Ахматовой. «Словом останавливали Солнце, / Словом разрушали города...» - писал Гумилев в своем программном стихотворении. И всю жизнь доказывал свои слова Делом. Русский «конкистадор», бесстрашный путешественник, первопроходец, офицер-фронтовик, Георгиевский кавалер, приговоренный к расстрелу за участие в антибольшевистском заговоре и не дрогнувший перед лицом смерти, - Николай Гумилев стал мучеником Русской Правды, легендой Русской Словесности, иконой Русской Поэзии. Эта книга - полное жизнеописание гениального поэта, лучшую эпитафию которому оставил Владимир Набоков: «Гордо и ясно ты умер - умер, как Муза учила. Ныне, в тиши Елисейской, с тобой говорит о летящем Медном Петре и о диких ветрах африканских - Пушкин».
теги: акмеизм

Ezra Pound once remarked that “the history of English poetic glory is a history of successful steals from the French.”1 To a certain degree, the same can be said of Russian poetry, particularly at the turn of the twentieth century, when the process of literary development paid little attention to national boundaries. The Acmeists, for example, owe many of their aesthetic and stylistic principles to French poets of at least three chronological periods: the medieval troubadours, the Parnassians, and, most obviously, the Symbolists. French influence did not cease with Baudelaire and Verlaine, however. The impact of the next generation of French poets was also felt in Russia, and the parallels between French Post-symbolism and Russian Acmeism are significant. Whereas Symbolism has long been acknowledged as a world-wide artistic phenomenon, the international scope of the movement which succeeded it has received little attention. In fact, Post-symbolism was also a movement of international proportions. In the first decades of the twentieth century, British and Russian poets looked to their contemporary French counterparts as a source of innovation and manifested their influence in two parallel independent movements — Anglo-American Imagism and Russian Acmeism.2 In exploring the transmission of French influence to Russia in the early twentieth century and the French sources of Acmeism, I hope to establish a basis for a comprehensive study of Post-symbolist poetry and for a more complete understanding of Acmeism.

Acmeism has traditionally been seen as a reaction to Russian Symbolism, although this oversimplification has for the most part given way to a more subtle description of Acmeism as a continuation and reform of Symbolism.3 Acmeism also owes a great deal to French poetry, however, not only to the heritage of the Parnassians and Symbolists as filtered through Valerii Briusov’s aesthetic brand of Russian Symbolism, but directly as well. Acmeism, of course, was not the only literary school among the many Russian modernist groups to feel the effects of the pervasive French influence, but it remains one of the more nebulous poetic movements of the early twentieth century in terms of its origins and philosophy. The international context can clarify its genesis and growth, although it does not provide a complete explanation. Acmeism occupies a crucial stage in the development of modern poetry, and a study of its evolution may provide valuable insight into the process of literary development in general. If this article seems to focus more sharply on Nikolai Gumilev than on the other Acmeists, it is because, as acknowledged leader of the movement, he seems to have been most active in making French literary contacts and importing their influence into Russia.

The term Post-symbolist was not used by the poets to whom it is now applied. Although they turned against the mysticism and vagueness of the Symbolist movement, they recognized their common heritage in Symbolism. In spite of their sometimes antagonistic rhetoric, they saw themselves as part of a reform and development of main-line Symbolism, rather than a reaction against it. Consequently, the dividing lines between Symbolism and Postsymbolism are indistinct, as are those which separate the various Postsymbolist groups. In Russia, among the many competing modernist coteries, Acmeism was a reasonably well defined movement, at least in terms of practitioners and poetic output, if not poetic philosophy. The history of French poetry from 1905 until the war, however, is a confusing mesh of poetic groups with such provocative names as naturisme, visionnarisme, paroxysme, néo-paganisme, néo-Mallarmisme, and unanimisme. All were short-lived, with crosscurrents and indistinct, often overlapping poetic philosophies. Of special interest are those groups referred to in general as les jeunes or second-generation Symbolists. They include Jules Romains, Rene Arcos, Charles Vildrac, and Georges Duhamel, who, along with numerous other young writers, gained prominence in the world of poetry around 1909. In spite of superficial differences, there is a central core of common ideals among these poets which allows a productive comparison with Acmeism. The parallel is more than simply a convenient classification. Factual justification for looking to the French as a source of Acmeism is provided by Gumilev’s stated preference in the Acmeist manifesto for Romanic light and clarity over Germanic mistiness.4 Later he was to draw explicit parallels, and, in a recently discovered article published in an English journal in 1917, he acknowledged certain contemporary French poets as models.5 Although the actual lines of communication between poets of the two countries are still, to a degree, a matter of speculation, certain links have been definitely established, and other conjectures can be affirmed with reasonable assurance.

A brief survey of the Russian periodical press at the turn of the century clearly indicates that the Russian modernist literary world had a profound and sustained interest in French literature. Briusov’s journal Vesy (The Scales) was founded with a special orientation toward Western literature and at times seemed to be more French than Russian.6 Thus, the poets who were coming to maturity during the years Vesy was the leading literary journal were brought up in a poetic atmosphere which had a distinctly French flavor. Gumilev, the future founder of Acmeism, evidently had a considerable knowledge of progressive French poetry already in 1905, for his first collection of verse is headed by an epigraph from André Gide’s Les Nourrituves terrestres. Published in 1897, this celebration of earthly life was one of the earliest expressions of a philosophy then emerging to counter Symbolism. In terms which anticipated Gumilev’s “primitivism”, Gide explained; “I wrote this book at a time when literature was extremely artificial and musty, when it appeared urgent to me to make it touch the earth anew and simply to set a naked foot on the ground.”7 One of the precursors of the new poetic movements, Gide was the subject of an article in Vesy in 1904,8 considerably before he gained an international reputation.

Gumilev visited Paris for the first time during 1907 and 1908. He studied medieval French literature at the Sorbonne, published his second collection of poetry, and put out a small literary journal which closed after two issues.9 From the Russian literary world he made the acquaintance of Dmitrii Merezhkovskii, Zinaida Gippius, and Andrei Belyi.10 Also in Paris in 1908 was another future Acmeist, and it was at this time that Gumilev may have become acquainted with Osip Mandel'shtam.11 Gumilev’s connections with the French literary community on this visit are still uncertain.12 Following the visit with Merezhkovskii and Gippius, at which Belyi was also present and which proved disastrous for Gumilev’s ego, he developed a “mystical terror of celebrities.”13 Thus, it is unclear to what extent Gumilev pursued the contacts provided him by Briusov. Eventually, however, he made an important acquaintance in Rene Ghil.14 Gumilev attended his Friday salons, and undoubtedly met the young poets who recognized Ghil as their teacher.

Ghil was a regular contributor to Vesy, having been invited to participate in the newly organized journal by Maksimilian Voloshin, who was then living in France. Beginning in 1904, Ghil kept Russian readers informed of artistic developments in France, first through his regular columns in Vesy and later through his contributions to Apollon. But Ghil was not simply a reporter. A poet and theoretician remembered primarily for his idiosyncratic theory of verbal instrumentation, he nonetheless played a significant role in the development of French poetry. Moreover, his own poetic preferences and theoretical tendencies are apparent in his Fesy reviews. Formerly a follower of Mallarme, Ghil broke with Symbolism around 1890 and put forth his own ideas in his study “Traite du verbe ” which appeared in successive editions from 1885 to 1904.15 In opposition to what he saw as the subjective “egotism” of Symbolism, Ghil proposed “la poesie scientifique”, an attempt to reconcile the spiritualist sensibility of Symbolism with materialist thought.16 His basic principle was that poetry must be based on science: Like science, it must be the manifestation of thought, though expressed in images rather than abstract language. The poet must be a “poet-philosopher” who, through his capacity of “intuitive synthesis”, surpasses the limitations of aiiy individual branch of science to provide in his creations a unity or synthesis of modern life. In Ghil’s words, “Poetry must become an impassioned metaphysics of man and the universe in their interrelationship, apprehended scientifically.”17 Ghil’s metaphysics was based on evolutionary and transformational philosophy, that is, on the precept that all things evolve toward the cosmic and universal, that matter is in perpetual evolutionary and transformational movement toward the true synthesis of universal harmony.18 Ghil provided a model of his theories in his unfinished cosmic epic “Oeuvre”, a work of twenty volumes composed over forty years. In it he proposed to survey the fate of the planet, from the origins of the earth through the evolution of plant and animal life to the condition of man in the modern age and in the future.

According to Briusov, who was himself an admirer and supporter of Ghil, Ghil sacrificed popularity for uncompromising loyalty to his theoretical ideal. This, coupled with the complexity of his thought, caused him to be largely ignored until the turn of the twentieth century, when his theories were rescued from oblivion by a group of rising young poets. From the 1890s into the first decade of the twentieth century, the poets surrounding Ghil included Charles Vildrac, Georges Duhamel, Jules Romains, Alexandre Mercereau, and Rene Arcos.19 Taking as their point of departure the conscious “scientific” perception and observation of the world around them, they expressed in their poetry “the maximum effort for the greatest affirmation of being”, and “the latent evolution of things.”20 In simpler terms this meant an acceptance of action and “the grand adventure of life”, an emphasis on the material and human presence in the world, a repudiation of the bizarre in favor of the ordinary. Mandel'shtam retrospectively described their poetry as expressing “the desire to speak in simple words about simple rudimentary and ordinary things”, about “the average common man.”21 Reflecting Ghil’s emphasis on synthesis and unity, their movement subsequently became known as Unanimisme, from the title of Romains’s 1908 book La Vie unanime, The Unanimists expressed a doctrine of universal brotherhood and saw the poet’s task as the depiction of man’s individuality as it merges with the greater soul of the group, as in society or the church. Mandel'shtam summarized this endeavor as “the poetry of mass breathing, the poetry of the collective soul.”22 The Unanimist poetic technique was based on the principle of “poesie immediate”, which was the notion that the poet can enter into direct, intuitive communion with reality without the intervention of reasoning or symbols.23 Essentially a materialist philosophy, Unanimism nonetheless reflected Ghil’s effort to reconcile materialism with Symbolist-like spiritualism. The Unanimists believed in the immanence of the spiritual within the visible world and expressed it in simple direct language. Jules Romains himself described Unanimism as “un lyrisme objectif d’essence spirituelle.”24 Thus, Unanimism stressed the perception of mystery not in another transcendent world, but in temporal life. Indeed, as Kevin Cornell, one of the leading scholars of Post-symbolism has put it, the common denominator of the Post-symbolist movements in France and England (and the generalization may also be extended to Acmeism) is a conception of the absolute within the temporal, rather than the eternal world. In contrast to Symbolism’s perception of the world as a reflection of transcendent reality, the Post-symbolists believed the universal forces were manifested in the material world, which accordingly gained a new importance in their poetry.25

Unfortunately, even the recently discovered letters written by Gumilev to Briusov from 1907 to 1912 do not shed light on the impulse for Acmeism or on the thought processes that developed it.26 But it is not difficult to see certain parallels between Acmeism (in its manifesto form) and Unanimism. Acmeism’s “battle for this world” was the same acceptance of historical time and three-dimensional space that we find in Unanimism. Both Gumilev in “Akmeizm i nasledstvo simvolizma” and Mandel'shtam in “Utro akmeizma” emphasize their rejection of a Symbolist-like escape to some realm of pure spirit in favor of “building” with concrete material within the confines of earthly reality. This aspect of Acmeism is too well known to require extensive comment here. The social and cosmic concerns of Ghil and the French Post-symbolists are also present in Acmeism, though they are generally ignored in the cliché-ridden definitions of the movement. For example, there is a hint of the cosmic-communal flavor of Unanimism in Gumilev’s assertion:
For us, the hierarchy of phenomena in the world is merely the specific weight of each of them, though the weight of the most insignificant is still immeasurably greater than the absence of weight, non-existence, and therefore, in the face of non-existence, all phenomena are brothers. We could not bring ourselves to force an atom to bow to God, if this were not in its nature. But feeling ourselves to be phenomena among phenomena, we become part of the world rhythm, accept all the forces acting upon us and ourselves become forces in our turn. . . . To rebel in the name of other conditions of existence, here, where there is death, is as strange as for a prisoner to break down a wall when in front of him there is an open door. Here, ethics becomes aesthetics, expanding into the latter’s sphere. Here, individualism in its highest effort creates community.27
This ideal of cosmic community is only hinted at in Gumilev’s polemical and vaguely worded manifesto, but it is prominent in Mandel'shtam’s more philosophical essay. Mandel'shtam continually stressed the social and moral aspects of Acmeism. (Compare Gumilev’s comment “here, ethics becomes aesthetics.”) Mandel'shtam believed that Acmeism was a social as well as a literary phenomenon, and he was concerned with the role of the individual in society and the Acmeist poet’s obligation to him.
We infer the particularity of a man, that which makes him an individual, and it forms part of the far more significant concept of the organism. Acmeists share their love for the organism and organization with the physiologically brilliant Middle Ages. . . . The Middle Ages are dear to us because they possessed to a high degree the feeling of boundary and partition. They never mixed various levels, and they treated the beyond with huge restraint. A noble mingling of rationality and mysticism and the perception of the world as a living equilibrium make us kin to this epoch and impel us to derive strength from works which arose on Romance soil around the year 1200.28
Clarence Brown comments, “What is important in a man [according to Mandel'shtam] is not his individuality in the sense of what is special and different about him, but his individual share in what is common to all men: his participation in existence. Man is a system of functioning parts and is the essential reality of a larger system of functioning parts, society.”29 And the poet’s widow confirms that Mandel'shtam “sought harmony in social life and the integration of the parts with the whole. This was consistent with his view of culture as the underlying idea which imposes order on the historical process and defines its structure.30 One might amend these interpretations of Mandel'shtam’s comments by expanding the notion of “a larger system of functioning parts” to include not only society but the world as a whole and, indeed, the entire universe. The Acmeist world view then, like that of the Unanimists, is one of order, proportion, and equilibrium, but not of a static or mechanical nature. The phenomenal world for the Post-symbolists is dynamic, or in Mandel'shtam’s term “a living equilibrium”, an integrated organic cosmos in which “all phenomena are brothers.” A hint of Ghil’s cosmic materialism is present here in “the noble mingling of rationality and mysticism” and in the prevailing sense of universal harmony.

In his essay “Anatomiia stikhotvoreniia” (1921), Gumilev explicitly compares the poetic standards of Acmeism with those of the Abbaye group, which was composed of many Unanimist poets and is linked in literary history with Unanimism.31 Named for the Abbaye de Creteil on the banks of the Marne where they gathered in a communal society in 1906, the Abbaye poets put their philosophy of the superiority of the simple life to a practical test, as they raised their own food, did manual labor, and operated their own printing press.32 The experiment lasted only fourteen months, but during that time it attracted a great deal of attention. Up to three hundred visitors attended the weekly Sunday poetry readings and art exhibits at the Abbaye, including numerous foreign visitors. Briusov mentions the Abbaye group in a letter to Belyi from 1906: “Don’t believe Zinaida Nikolaevna [Gippius] that Paris is an old-fashioned city. As a whole, it is old-fashioned, but in it there are circles and people who are ahead of all contemporaneity [vperedi vsei sovremennosti]. One must find them. For example, the society “l’Abbaye” and its poets Arcos, Duhamel, and others.”33 In the fall of 1908, Briusov himself visited Paris and met Ghil and many of the Abbaye poets,34 He established continuing correspondence with Arcos and Mercereau, and they became contributors to Vesy.

Two of the Abbaye poets had direct links to Russia. Alexandre Mercereau, a founding member of the Abbaye, lived in Russia in 1906 and 1908 and contributed to Vesy and Zolotoe runo under the pseudonym Eshmer-Valdor.35 An even more significant link between the French and Russian poetic worlds was the young Abbaye poet Nicolas Deniker, who was the nephew of the Russian poet Innokentii Annenskii. Gumilev became acquainted with Deniker in Paris, probably through the introduction of Annenskii, Gumilev’s director at the Tsarskoe Selo gymnasium and one of the mentors of Apollon and Acmeism. He continued his friendship with the Deniker family on subsequent visits to Paris and was led into Deniker’s circle of friends.36 Deniker was associated with a quarterly journal Vers et prose, coedited by Paul Fort and Alexandre Mercereau, which, from 1905, presented the best poetic production of the younger generation of Symbolists and paid homage to the older poets who inspired them. In addition to poems by Deniker and Ghil, the journal featured the work of Henri de Régnier, Jean Moréas, Francis Jammes, Paul Claudel, Paul Valéry, Guillaume Apollinaire, Remy de Gourmont, André Gide, and others. There is evidence that Deniker and his colleagues were known to rising young Russian poets — the list of subscribers to Vers et prose includes the Russian journal Vesy, as well as Innokentii Annenskii himself.37 There are still further links and channels of French influence which remain to be explored. One need only recall Akhmatova’s enigmatic and provocative mention of the unidentified “frantsuzy” in attendance at the first meeting of the Poets’ Guild in 1911.38

Besides René Ghil, two poets of the older generation who broke with Symbolism and helped determine the direction of international Post-symbolism were Remy de Gourmont and Henri de Régnier. Of the representative transitional figures, Gourmont and Regnier were exceptionally well received abroad, by the Imagists in England and the Acmeists in Russia. T. S. Eliot called Gourmont “the critical consciousness of a generation”,39 and Gumilev referred to him as “the most influential critic on the French Parnassus.”40 In his inimitable fashion, Pound expressed the importance of Gourmont in a more trenchant comment; “My generation needed Remy de Gourmont.”41 What Gourmont contributed to Pound’s generation was a renovated poetic vision to counter Symbolism. In his major work of the Post-symbolist period, Le Probleme du style (1902), Gourmont presents a theoretical poetics based on the acceptance of existence and the importance of material phenomena, with an Acmeist insistence on a poetic style that would, by its visual immediacy, bring the word “close to the thing.” His understanding of poetry as visual memory, the “faculty for changing the abstract into the concrete, for making the very stone breathe and the stars palpitate”,42 anticipates the Acmeist, Imagist, and Unanimist pronouncements. Gourmont’s interest in philology, for example, especially in the development and evolution of meaning, parallels MandePshtam s interest in the process of signification in poetry; his “active concept of tradition” has an analogue in Mandel'shtam’s synchronic vision of literary history.43 And Gourmont’s objection to Symbolism, on the grounds that the world of things had been supplanted by the world of signs, that the sign had usurped the thing it originally served to signify, foreshadows Mandel'shtam’s picture of the excesses of Symbolism in his essay “O prirode slova.”44 Direct influence here is not out of the question. Gourmont’s theoretical views had been well represented in the pages of Vesy, and both Remy de Gourmont and his brother Jean were frequent contributors to the journal.

If Gourmont’s poetics was influential for Post-symbolism, Henri de Régnier provided inspiration through his highly individual poetic style. The first of the ex-Symbolists to be elected to the French Academy, Regnier succeeded in his later work in harmonizing the heritage of Symbolism with a sensibility more akin to the Parnassians. His conservative, measured style prompted Pound to call him “the last of the Parnassians, or at least, the last one who counts”,45 and the sense of order and harmony he created in his verse provided a model for those seeking a way out of Symbolism. In an article in Apollon in January 1910, Voloshin characterized the art of Regnier as a transition from Symbolism to a new realism and proposed Regnier as a model for Russian poets, who, he said, had already entered upon the path to neorealism, built on the foundations of Symbolism.46 And as if to affirm this view, the same issue carried Kuzmin’s call for clarity and simplicity in his article “O prekrasnoi iasnosti.”47

In his Acmeist manifesto, Gumilev acknowledges only the highest sort of influence, Shakespeare, Villon, Rabelais, Gautier, in order to ground Acmeism firmly in the cultural tradition. Although he pays homage elsewhere to Annenskii and Briusov, Gumilev seems reluctant to lessen the originality of his new movement by acknowledging the influence of contemporaries. Regardless of whether there was direct French influence on the development of Acmeism, the shape and tenor of the movement were consonant with the poetic mood of the times. Clearly, there were surface similarities, as represented in the ideals of Acmeism and Unanimism, and it is not difficult to trace the principal underlying influences in Gourmont and Regnier. Was there a primary creative impulse behind the prevalent trend?

In an environment as intellectually vibrant as Paris at the turn of the century, it may be futile or superfluous to pinpoint a single stimulus, but some observers have singled out such an impulse in the philosophy of Henri Bergson. French literary historians have credited Bergson with formulating the entire philosophical outlook of the period, and his influence on poetry was so pervasive that one contemporary British critic, categorizing the French poets by group and generation, also classified them as pre-Bergson or post-Bergson.48 From another point of view, Bergson was simply the embodiment of the spirit of the era. As Gide wrote in his diary in 1924, “Later, people will think they see his influence on our time everywhere, but it is he himself who is a part of our time and unceasingly follows its intellectual movements. That explains his importance.”49 Whatever the reason for his appeal, by 1910 Bergson’s influence had spread to England, where his works were popularized by T. E. Hulme and John Middleton Murray, and to Russia, where his works were translated between 1900 and 1914. He was known to Russian poets: his work was mentioned in Vesy and Apollon, and extensive, often very technical articles and reviews of his books appeared in Vestnik Evropy, Voprosy filosofii i psikhologii, Russkoe bogatstvo, Sovremennyi mir, and other journals.50 More specific references attest to Bergson’s appeal to the Acmeists. Mandel'shtam, for example, begins “O prirode slova” with a reference to Bergson and bases his considerations of the history of Russian language and literature on his interpretation of Bergsonian principles. And Gumilev mentions Bergson’s philosophy, along with the neo-Catholicism of Paul Claudel, as a potential ideological basis for Russian poetry.51 It is not difficult to see the impact of Bergsonism on Russian modernist poetry, Symbolist, Futurist, and Imaginist, as well as Acmeist. Although Bergson’s influence on Western European literature has become a commonplace of literary scholarship, his impact on Russian modernism has not yet been thoroughly examined.52

Bergson’s best known theories of duration, memory, and evolution play a significant role in the general modernist preoccupation with time, memory, and perception. At issue here, however, are the most fundamental Bergsonian principles, set forth first in Laughter (1900) and Introduction to Metaphysics (1903) and most completely in Creative Evolution (1906), which molded the world view of a generation of artists and poets. For the French Post-symbolists, Bergson’s doctrine provided the metaphysical legitimation of their aesthetic, and they adopted Bergson’s vision of reality as their own. A complete and thorough survey of Bergson’s ideas is beyond the scope of this paper, but it is important to attempt a definition of his vision of reality, which proved inspirational to the Post-symbolist poets.

The very foundation of our being and “the very substance of the world in which we live”, according to Bergson, is duration, that is, unceasing change, a continuous becoming, in which “reality appears as a ceaseless upspringing of something new.”53 If they would comprehend this reality, philosophers and poets must develop a new way of seeing it, an immediate or “virginal” manner of perception.54 Ordinary perception, according to Bergson, is governed by the primal impulse to action, for “life is action. Life implies the acceptance only of the utilitarian side of things in order to respond to them by appropriate reactions; all other impressions must be dimmed or else reach us vague and blurred.” For utilitarian purposes, it is not necessary to see the actual things themselves, but only to read the labels affixed to them. “The individuality of things escapes us.”55 The special object of Bergson’s philosophy is “to intervene here actively, to examine the living without any reservation as to practical utility, by freeing itself from forms and habits that are strictly intellectual. Its own special object is to speculate, that is to say, to see.”56 Like the Bergsonian philosopher, and in contrast to the ordinary observer, the artist is free of utilitarianism and is able to perceive “just for the sake of perceiving.”57
From time to time . . . in a fit of absentmindedness, nature raises up souls that are more detached from life. Not with that intentional, logical, systematic detachment — the result of reflection and philosophy — but rather with a natural detachment, one innate in the structure of sense or consciousness, which at once reveals itself by a virginal manner, so to speak, of seeing, hearing or thinking. . . . And thus [the artist] realizes the loftiest ambition of art, which here consists in revealing to us nature."58
The poet, then, is a “seer” in the literal, not the Symbolist, sense of the word, and his perception is not mystical or visionary, but a refinement of normal perception, characterized by increased precision, clarity, and intensity. And this, according to Bergson and the Post-symbolists, is the very essence of art.
So art, whether it be painting or sculpture, poetry or music, has no other object than to brush aside the utilitarian symbols, the conventional and socially accepted generalities, in short, everything that veils reality from us, in order to bring us face to face with reality itself. . . . Art is certainly only a more direct vision of reality. . . . Could reality come into direct contact with sense and consciousness, could we enter into immediate communion with things and with ourselves, probably art would be useless, or rather, we should all be artists, for then our soul would continually vibrate in perfect accord with nature.59
The ability to see beyond the “fleeting, transitional variations” and to “enter into immediate communion with things” is a concept which Bergson developed most fully in Creative Evolution and termed “intuition” (Latin intueor, “looking into”). There are two ways of knowing reality, according to Bergson — through the intellect and through intuition. The intellect apprehends the world externally, as a collection of things in space, as discrete units, static and immobile. This is the vision of science, which uses symbols to express its findings and yields knowledge that is relative. Intellect is incapable of grasping duration, reality in its “upspringing”, and is thus incapable of comprehending life.60 By contrast, intuition is a nonmystical process capable of perceiving duration, by which we “enter into” the thing and identify ourselves with it. Whereas intellect “goes all round life, taking from outside the greatest possible number of views of it, . . . it is to the very inwardness of life that intuition leads us."61 The verbal expression of this vision dispenses with “symbols” in favor of “images”, which have the advantage of being “concrete”, and the knowledge attained is absolute and perfect.

A complete and perfect humanity would be that in which these two forms of conscious activity, intellect and intuition, attained their full development. In the humanity of which we are a part, however, intuition is almost completely sacrificed to intellect. Only by an “effort of intuition” can the individual discern behind the manifold manifestations of nature the flux which is the essence of reality and place himself in it. Only a mind that supplements intellect with intuition can grasp duration, the creative power which rolls through all things, and reintegrate man’s existence in the harmonious whole of life. “Such a mind would see facts succeed facts, states succeed states, things succeed things. What it would note at each moment would be things existing, states appearing, events happening. It would live in the actual, and, if it were capable of judging, it would never affirm anything except the existence of the present.”62 We must train our mind to perceive intuitively “the unity of the impulse which, passing through generations, links individuals with individuals, species with species, and makes of the whole series of the living one single immense wave flowing over matter.”63 When we reach this intuitive perception,
we feel ourselves no longer isolated in humanity, humanity no longer seems isolated in the nature that it dominates. As the smallest grain of dust is bound up with our entire solar system, drawn along with it in that undivided movement of descent which is materiality itself, so all organized beings, from the humblest to the highest, from the first origins of life to the time in which we are, and in all places as in all times, do but evidence a single impulsion. . . . All the living hold together, and all yield to the same tremendous push.64
Given such a view of the world, “nature takes on new majesty”, says Bergson. “No longer can any phenomenon be unworthy of description or any fact unimportant; all changes, great and small, have the same causes; the same forces are responsible for the rusting of iron and the decay of the universe, every description points up that same eternal truth.”65

One need only change the terminology to see the correspondence between this world view and that of the Post-symbolists. “No longer can any phenomenon be unworthy of description.” This tenet of Bergson’s philosophy validates the Post-symbolist concern with the minor manifestations of reality, the concrete images from everyday life that became the hallmark of their poetic style. The Acmeist poet, for example, sees the world as a system of equal phenomena requiring no external justification, whose hierarchy is determined only by the “specific gravity” of each of them.66 Bergson’s vision of the world as a harmonious whole could have inspired the ideal of community, Ghil’s organic cosmos, the collectivism of the Unanimists, and Mandel'shtam’s “living equilibrium.”67

Recognizing the continuous novelty of life in duration, the Acmeist poet turns his attention to this world and affirms only “the existence of the present”, seeing the world as did Adam on the first day of creation.68 Thus, the Post-symbolists found the absolute in duration, in the existence of the present, and in the law of identity. “A = A: what a splendid theme for poetry!” wrote Mandel'shtam in “Utro akmeizma.”69 The unadorned fact of existence became a sacred commandment of Acmeism: “Love the existence of the thing more than the thing itself and your own existence more than yourself; that is the highest commandment of Acmeism.”70

The special intuition granted to the artist in Bergson’s philosophy might help to explain the Romantic insistence of the Post-symbolists on the privileged nature of the poet, which stands in apparent contradiction to their emphasis on observation, realism, and craftsmanship.71 In fact, the peculiar appeal of Bergson to the Post-symbolists may have been his reconciliation of materialism with the idealism of Symbolism in a nonmystical doctrine. Commenting on his concept of “virginal” vision, Bergson maintains that purity of perception implies “a certain immateriality of life which has always been called idealism. Realism is in the work when idealism is in the soul, and it is only through ideality that we can resume contact with reality.”72 Bergson’s intuition, it must be remembered, has nothing in common with instinctive foresight or spiritual projection, but is an aesthetic mode of apprehension which involves a full physical and spiritual reaction to the things of the world, by which we place ourselves within the object of perception. By an “effort of intuition”, Gumilev’s persona in “Otkrytie Ameriki” perceives “In every puddle the smell of the ocean, / In every stone the breath of the desert.”73 And in one of his later poems, which too often have been judged a return to mysticism, he sees “Moseses among the oaks/Marys among the palms.”74

This is the logical end of Gumilev’s ideological progression, a further development of the basic Acmeist emphasis on observation and the “specific gravity” of every object combined with Bergson’s concept of intuition and cosmic harmony. The ordinary objects of nature and everyday life are still valuable for themselves rather than as symbols of some higher reality, but now the poet is aware of a numinous quality resident in those objects, and they acquire for him a more concentrated reality than they present to the ordinary perception. He sees the absolute in duration, and he enters into immediate communion with the things of reality through his poetry. The value of the world for Symbolism was in its correspondence to a higher realm, in its insubstantiality, while Post-symbolism increases the metaphysical significance of the phenomenon by emphasizing its corporality. In a programmatic poem entitled “Estestvo” (“Substance”),75 Gumilev lifts the veil from reality and finds not the unspoken mysteries of a transcendent reality, but “slow sluggish transformations of substance”, in whichhe sees “apledge of immortality for mortals, the primary words. ”76 By an effort of intuition, the poet identifies with the object and experiences the inward life of the thing. “Having been a god, become now a thing”, Gumilev tells the poet, “And proclaim the word of the thing, / So that the terrestrial globe, which gave you birth, / Might suddenly tremble on its axis.”77

The expression of “the word of the thing” required a new approach to language, and Bergson advocated a direct style of expression through concrete images. All of the Post-symbolist movements stressed the return to a direct language and the mastery of craft, and an analysis of the poetry and language of Post-symbolism is a rich topic for another study. Let it suffice to recall Mandelshtam’s description of the opposition of Acmeism to Symbolism in “O prirode slova”, which opens with a reference to Bergson. Contrived symbolism, says Mandel'shtam, is a sin against the Hellenistic nature of the Russian language, for it expresses, in “sealed-up images” (Bergson used the term “symbols”) the stasis of the noumenal world. Acmeism provided a new and valuable “taste for the integral verbal representation, the image understood in a new organic way.” Through poetic intuition, “we can consider representations not only as objective data of consciousness, but also as human organs, just like the liver or the heart.”
In its application to the word such an interpretation of verbal representations opens up broad new perspectives, allowing us to dream about the creation of an organic poetics, a poetics of a biological [read “intuitive”] rather than legislative [read “intellectual”] nature, a poetics which would destroy the canon in the name of the internal unity of the organism, a poetics which would exhibit all the traits of biological science.78
 
Acmeism was the “organic poetics” which was specifically adapted to represent verbally the Bergsonian “biological” notion of organic unity.

Since its creation in 1912, Acmeism has caused problems for the literary historian who would define it.79 The manifestoes, overly dogmatic and deliberately antagonistic, tend to exaggerate Acmeism’s reaction to Symbolism, and they provide only vague clues as to the positive philosophy which informs the movement. Consequently Acmeism has been characterized in aesthetic and stylistic terms as a short-lived Russian poetic school which emphasized craftsmanship and concrete imagery and which its best poets “outgrew.” There has been no suggestion of a coherent philosophical basis underlying the movement. Upon further inquiry, however, it becomes clear that Acmeism did not develop in an aesthetic vacuum, but partook of the vibrant intellectual atmosphere pervading prewar Europe. By setting Acmeism into the international context and viewing it as part of a larger movement, we free it from a too restrictive genetic and adversary relationship with Russian Symbolism. The comparative perspective, then, sheds light on the process of literary development and reveals it as a productive exchange and amplification of poetic values, inspired by a commonly held world view.

Recognition of the Bergsonian subtext reveals in Acmeism a previously unsuspected metaphysical dimension, which is denied by characterizations of the movement as a purely aesthetic phenomenon. For the Acmeists, the poetic word was far more than a literary phenomenon; it was a social, creative, metaphysical force. Bergsonian philosophy points up this original contribution of Acmeism and helps to clarify this complex and sometimes contradictory poetic doctrine. It is clear, for example, that in Acmeism, a neorealistic poetic praxis (restraint, objectivity, precise descriptive imagery) was superimposed on a seemingly Romantic aesthetic (its organic poetics and the concept of the privileged intuitive nature of the poet). The theoretical inconsistencies that have made a definition of Acmeism so difficult can now be seen as a reflection of Bergson’s philosophical reconciliation of idealism and realism. These philosophical features, which remain to be thoroughly examined, may bring us closer to a complete definition of the movement.

___
1. “Remy de Gourmont”, The New Age, 13, no. 20 (September 11,1913): 577. Pound’s series of articles on French poets, published in The New Age under the title “The Approach to Paris”, is included in Cyrena N. Pondrom, The Road from Paris: French Influence on English Poetry 1900-1920 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974).

2. See Elaine Rusinko, “Russian Acmeism and Anglo-American Imagism”, Ulbandus Review, 1, no, 2 (Spring 1978): 37-49. For the influence of French poetry on British and American literature, see Pondrom, Road from Paris and René Taupin, L’Inftuence du symbolisme frangais sur la poésie américaine (Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honore Champion, 1929).

3. See Sam Driver, “Acmeism”, Slavic and East European Journal, 12, no. 2 (Summer 1968): 141-56.

4. N. S. Gumilev, “Nasledie simvolizma i akmeizm”, Sobranie sochinenii, 4 vols. (hereafter cited as SS), ed. G. P. Struve and B. A. Filippov (Washington, D.C.: Victor Kamkm, 1962-68), 4:171-76. The marked preference for the Romanic or French tradition in Gumilev s verse was often noted by the critics, frequently with reproaches for his “foreignness.” As early as 1908, Innokentii Annenskii noted that Gumilev’s second collection “Romanticheskie tsvety”, which was published in Paris, was “suffused with Paris” (Annenskii, “O romanticheskikh tsvetakh”, reprinted m Novyi zhurnal, 78 [March 1965]: 285). Andrei Levinson, in a review of the same book, called Gumilev "a French poet in the Russian language” (Levinson, “Nikolai Gumilev. ‘Romanticheskie tsvety,’” Sovremennyi mir, 7 [July 1909]: 189 [second pagination]). Perhaps the most strident condemnation of this feature of Acmeism came from Aleksandr Blok in his 1918 article “Bez bozhestva, bez vdokhnoveniia”, which revived the Acmeist-Symbolist controversy. He reproached Gumilev for equating Russian Symbolism with French and consequently for overemphasizing formal considerations in his approach to poetry (Blok, Sobranie sochinenii, 8 vols., ed. V. N, Orlov [Moscow-Leningrad 1960-63], 6:181). In the same volume the editors note a comment reportedly made by Blok in anargument with Gumilev: “What you say, for me, is not Russian. It can be said very well in French You are too much the littérateur, and what’s more, a French one” (quoted from K. Chukovskii A. Blok kak chelovek i poet [Petrograd, 1924], p. 45). These reproofs were exaggerated and unreasonable, of course, but there is no doubt that Gumilev’s poetic orientation was noticeably influenced by French literature,

5. Elaine Rusinko, “Gumilev in London: An Unknown Interview”, Russian Literature Triquarterly, 16 (1979): 73-85.

6. For an extensive discussion of the French impact on Vesy and Russian Symbolism, see Georgette Donchin, The Influence of French Symbolism on Russian Poetry (The Hague: Mouton, 1958). Detailed information from Briusov’s correspondence concerning the establishment of the journal can be found in K. M. Azadovskii andD. E. Maksimov, “Briusov i Vesy: Kistorii izdaniia”, in Literaturnoe nasledstvo, vol. 85: Valerii Briusov, ed. V, R. Shcherbina (Moscow, 1976). 257-324. Briusov’s role in importing French literature into Russia cannot be underestimated. Gumilev compared him to Peter the Great for his “Westernization” and modernization of Russian poetry (Gumilev, 55, 4:235). Of course, Gumilev began his poetic career as a “student” of Briusov’s, and Briusov’s influence on Acmeism has been widely noted. See Driver, “Acmeism”, and other studies of Gumilev cited herein.

7. André Gide, preface to the 1927 edition of Les Nourritures terrestres (Paris: Gallimard, 1947), pp. 11-12. In a lecture from 1911, Gide quoted C. L. Philippe’s trenchant formula, “The time of sweetness and dilettantism is over. What we need now are barbarians” (cited in Marcel Raymond, From Baudelaire to Surrealism [London: Methuen and Co., Ltd., 1970], p. 173). Note the similarity of Gumilev’s statement from the Acmeist manifesto, “As Adamists, we are somewhat like forest animals and in any case will not surrender what is animal in us in exchange for neurasthenia” (Gumilev, 55, 4:174).

8. L. Annibal, “V raiu otchaianiia”, Vesy, 1, no. 10 (October 1904): 16-38.

9. For more detailed information concerning Gumilev’s activities in Paris, see Struve’s biographical essay in the first volume of Gumilev’s collected works (55, l:vii-xliv) and Earl Sampson, Nikolay Gumilev (Boston: Twayne, 1979). Of special interest is Struve’s collection of previously unpublished letters written by Gumilev, which contains letters to Briusov from Paris (N. S. Gumilev, Neizdannye stikhi i pis’ma, ed, G. P. Struve [Paris: YMCA Press, 1980]). Mandel shtam also studied medieval French literature in Paris and in Heidelberg in 1909 and 1910 (see Clarence Brown, Mandelstam [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973], pp. 32-36).

10. The interested reader can find an amusing account of the unfavorable impression Gumilev made on his new acquaintances in Struve’s commentary to Neizdannye stikhi i pis'ma, pp. 155-62. Gumilev’s reaction to the meeting is presented in his letter to Briusov from January 8,1907 (ibid., P-7).

11. See Arim Akhmatova’s memoirs of Mandel'shtam, where she cites the following couplet written by Mandel'shtam relating to his acquaintance with Gumilev: “No v Peterburge akmeist mne biizhe/Chem romanticheskii P'ero v Parizhe” (Akhmatova, Sochinemia, 2 vols ed. G. P. Struve and B. A. Filippov [Munich: Inter-Language Literary Associates, 1968], 2:170).

12. Gumilev also visited Paris oh his honeymoon in 1910, in the spring of 1911, and with the imperial Army in the years 1917-18. Little is known about his contacts and activities during these trips. Undoubtedly, the visits in 1910 and 1911 were significant for the development of Acmeism, which Was announced in 1912.

13. Letter of January 8, 1907 (Neizdannye st'tkhi i pis'ma, p. 7).

14. Letter of October 9, 1907, ibid., p. 25.

15. René Ghil, Traité du verbe: Etats successifs (1885-1886-1887-1888-1891-1904), ed. Tiziana Goruppi (Paris: Editions A.-G. Nizet, 1978). Briusov introduced Ghil and his ideas to the Russian reading public through extensive review articles: “René Ghil. Oeuvre, Vesy, 1, no, 12 (December 1904): 12-31; “Literaturnaia zhizn' Frantsii: Nauchnaia poezua, Russkaia mysl, 3 , no 6 (June 1909): 155-67 (second pagination). The latter article is reprinted in Valerii Brusov, Sobranie sochinenii, 7 vols., ed. P. O. Antokol'skii (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1973), 6:160-75

16. René Ghil, Les Dates et les oeuvres: Symbolisme el ’poesie scientifique (Paris, 1923),

17. Quoted by Briusov in his Russkaia mysl' article, reproduced in Briusov, Sobranie sochinenii, 6:167.

18. Ghil, Les Dates et les oeuvres, pp. 110, 117.

19. See Robert Montal, René Ghil: Du Symbolisme à la poesie cosmique (N.p.: Editions Labor, 1962), pp. 202-207. Besides Ghil, other formative influences on these poets were Paul Fort, Francis Jammes’ naturisme, Verhaeren, Nietzsche, and Walt Whitman (see Marie-Louise Bidai, Les Ecrivains de I'Abbaye [Paris, 1938]),

20. Ghil, Les Dates et les oeuvres, p. 207.

21. See the foreword to Mandel'shtam’s translation of Jules Romains’s poetic drama Cromedeyre-le-vieil (Kromedair-staryi), which appeared in 1927 (Osip Mandel'shtam, Sobranie sochinenii, 2 vols., ed. G. P. Struve and B. A. Filippov [New York: Inter-Language Literary Associates, 1966], 2:397).

22. Ibid.

23. See Denis Boak, Jules Romains (New York: Twayne, 1974), pp. 24, 39.

24. Preface to the 1925 edition of La Vie unanime (Paris: Gallimard, 1926), pp. 19-20.

25. Kevin Cornell, The Post-Symbolist Period: French Poetic Currents, 1900-1920 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1958), pp. 124-34.

26. In a letter from February 7, 1908, Gumilev writes to Briusov, “You will not be ashamed to call me your pupil. The more so as, having seen a great deal of Gustave Moreau’s paintings and having read a lot of the Parnassians and occultists (who were, alas, very weak), I composed for myself an amusing theory of poetry, something like Mallarmé, only not idealistic, but romantic, and I hope that it will keep me from stopping in my development. You and your work play a large role in this theory” (Gumilev, Neizdannye stikhi i pis'ma, p. 37). Precisely what this theory consisted of and whether it eventually developed into Acmeism is a matter of speculation, This letter dates from the period of Gumilev’s acquaintance with Ghil, and some influence here is not unthinkable. In a review of Briusov from 1909, Gumilev mentions Ghil and Mallarme together with Briusov as sharing the desire to “return to the word its metaphysical value” (Gumilev, SS, 4:200). In another review from 1909 of Briusov’s translations of French poetry, Gumilev points to Ghil’s “scientific poetry” as one of the three basic currents of contemporary French poetry (Gumilev, SS, 4:385), though later, in 1912, he recognized the bankruptcy of Ghil’s “scientism” (SS, 4:312).

27. Gumilev, SS, 4:173-74. In a letter from May 1910, Gumilev informs Briusov that he feels he has completed one cycle of experience and is striving for something new in his poetry; “I believe that it is still possible to do a great deal, not by abandoning the lyric-epic (liro-epichesktt) method, but only crossing over from personal themes to general themes, common to all mankind, even if elemental (stikhiinye), but under the condition of always feeling the firm ground under one’s feet” (Neizdannye stikhi ipis'ma, p. 66). The parallel to Unanimism’s “down-to-earth spiritual collectivism” is apparent here, in the period when Gumilev was developing the theory of Acmeism. It is also interesting to note the similarity between Gumilev’s emphasis on the “specific weight” of phenomena and Ezra Pound’s metaphor describing the attitude of Imagism: “Poetry is in some odd way concerned with the specific gravity of things” (Poetry Review, 1, no. 3 [March 1912]: 134).

28. Mandel'shtam, Sobranie sochinenii, 2:364, 367.

29. Brown, Mandel'shtam, p. 148.

30. Nadezhda Mandelstam, Hope against Hope: A Memoir, trans. Max Hayward (New York: Atheneum, 1970), p. 255.

31. Gumilev, SS, 4:188.

32. See Christian Sénéchal, L'Abbaye de Créteil (Paris, 1930). The founding members were Charles Vildrac and his wife Rose, René Arcos, Georges Duhamel, Henri Martin-Barzun, Albert Gleizes, and Alexandre Mercereau. It is likely that Gumilev made the acquaintance of the Vildracs, at the very least. In a notebook he kept during his 1918 visit to Paris and London, Gumilev listed the Paris address of the Vildracs’ art gallery (SS, 4:542).

33. Literaturnoe nasledstvo, vol. 85: Valerii Briusov, p. 402.

34. In his diary Briusov noted: “Paris. . . . seeking acquaintances. Impression of Ren6 Ghil. Mme. Rene Ghil. Visit of Arcos and Mercereau. The entire circle ‘Abbaye.’ At Max Voloshin’s. At Krulikova’s. Russians and French. . . . Two meetings at our place: R. Ghil, Mme. Rene Ghil, Arcos, Duhamel, Mercereau, Castiaux, J. Romain [sic], Ch. Vildrac” (Briusov, Dnevniki 1891-1910 [Moscow, 1927], pp. 140-41).

35. See his reviews in Vesy. ‘“René Ghil.’ Marcel Lenoir”, Vesy, 3, no. 5 (May 1906): 76-77; “‘Les Largesses de Marianne. Histoire d’un prix de Rome littéraire’ G. Guyarded.”, Vesy, 4, no. 1 (January 1909): 95-96. Mercereau’s story “Elfride", from his collection Contes des ténèbres (Paris, 1911) is dedicated “Au noble poite Valère Brussov.”

36. In a letter to Briusov from December 16, 1907, Gumilev writes, “Now I am about to go to Rene Ghil’s again, his Fridays have already begun. I will probably go with Nicolas Denicer [sic], a young French poet, my friend. You probably already read about him in René Ghil’s article for Vesy” (Gumilev, Neizdannye stikhi i pis'ma, p. 28). Deniker was the youngest son of Joseph Deniker (1852-1918) and Liubov' Annenskaia, the sister of the Russian poet Innokentii Annenskii. Descended from an officer of Napoleon’s army who was captured during the Russian campaign, Joseph Deniker returned to France around 1880 and became widely, respected as a scholar of anthropology. The Deniker family lived on the premises of the Jardin des Plantes and received many young people and students, as well as numerous Russians who visited Paris before the war. Unfortunately, Nicolas Deniker died young and left but a small mark on French poetry. Guillaume Apollinaire, a friend and colleague of Deniker’s on a 1903 journal entitled Le Festin d’Esope, referred to Deniker in 1911 as “a poet of great inspiration who, for quite a long while, has retirement"(Mercure de France, November 16, 1911, reprinted in G. Apollinaire, Anecdotiques [Paris: Gallimard, 1955], p. 50). (For information concerning the Deniker family, I am indebted to Doctor Pierre Deniker, nephew of the poet.)

37. Poems by Deniker appeared in Vers et prose, no, 1 (1905), and no. 31 (1912). The appearance of a collection of Deniker’s poems published by L’Abbaye is mentioned in Vers et prose, no.12 (1907-1908). Ghil noted the appearance of Vers et prose in “Pis'ma o frantsuzskoi poezii”, Vesy, 2, no. 7 (July 1905): 27, and again in “Vers et prose, (Tome VI, juinaout 1906)”, Vesy, 3, no. 8 (August 1906): 76. In a review of young French poets, Ghil mentions Deniker with an allusion to his Russian heritage (“Novye sbornild stikhov, Pis'mo iz Parizha”, Vesy, 5, no. 3 [March 1908]: 116-17). In the same review he also refers to Vildrac and l’Abbaye.

38. Akhmatova, Sochineniia, 2:172-73.

39. Quoted in Glenn S. Burne, Remy de Gourmont: His Ideas and Influence in England and America (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1963), p. v.

40. Gumilev, “V'ele-Grifen”, (1914), SS, 4:396.

41. Quoted in Burne, Remy de Gourmont, p. 3.

42. “The Problem of Style”, in Remy de Gourmont: Selections from All his Works, trans. Richard Aldington (New York: Covici-Freide, 1929), p. 425.

43. These ideas of Mandel'shtam’s, which are close to those of Tynianov and Bakhtin, represent another significant aspect of Acmeism, dealt with in detail in Elaine Rusinko, Intertextuality: The Soviet Approach to Subtext”, Dispositio, 4, no. 11-12 (Summer-Autumn 1979): 213-35.

44. Mandel'shtam, Sobranie sochinenii, 2:296.

45. The New Age, 13, no. 23 (October 2, 1913), reprinted in Pondrom, Road from Paris, p. 189.

46. “Anri de Ren'e”, Apollon, 1, no. 4 (January 1910): 25, reprinted in M. A. Voloshin, Liki tvorchestva (St. Petersburg, 1914).

47. In her reminiscences of Modigliani, Akhmatova notes that1 on having Henri de Régnier pointed out to her in the Luxemburg Gardens in 1911, she did not recognize the name (Sochineniia, 2:160). Gumilev referred to Regnier a few times in his essays, only briefly but always positively (SS, 4:329, 385, 413). A study of Régnier’s influence on Gumilev’s poetic style may prove fruitful.

48. F. S. Flint, “Contemporary French Poetry”, in Pondrom, Road from Paris, p. 116.

49. André Gide, Journal 1899-1939 (Dijon: Bibliotheque de la Pleiade, 1955), p. 783. In his incisive study of French poetry, From Baudelaire to Surrealism, Marcel Raymond takes the same view of Bergson’s impact on the modern era. “As for Bergson, a study of his influence, in the proper sense of this term, would be extremely difficult in the field of modern poetry. For the philosophy of L’Évolution creatrice also drew its dynamism from the deep vitalist current that it later helped to enrich and direct: by and large, the analogies between the works of Bergson and those of the poets testify to a kinship between speculative thought and literature, but do not warrant the conclusion that they are related as cause and effect. . . . Bergsonism . . . seems to have developed along a curve parallel to that followed by the general development of literature in the same period” (Raymond, From Baudelaire to Symbolism, pp. 52-53).

50. “Vtoroi mezhdunarodnyi filosofskii kongress”, Vesy, 1, no. 10 (October 1904); 59-62; Jean de Gourmont, “Iziashchnaia slovesnost' Frantsii”, Apollon, 2, no. 7 (1911): 70-71; N, Kostylev, “Le-Dantek i Bergson”, Vestnik Evropy, 1910, no. 261, p. 89; I. Grossman, “Bakunin i Bergson”, Zavety, 5 (1914): 47-62; A. Lazarev, “Filosofiia Bergsona”, Mysl' i slovo, 1 (1917): 177-214; P. S. Iushkevich, “Bergson i ego filosofiia intuitsii”, Russkoe bogatstvo, 11, no, 2 (1914): 33-59 and no. 3 (1914): 47-67; G. Plekhanov, “Anri Bergson”, Sovremennyi mir, 3, no. 2 (1909): 118-22; N. Losski, “Nedostatki gnossologii Bergsona i vliianie na ego metafiziki”, Voprosy filosofii i psikhologii, 24, no. 118 (1913): 224-35; B. N. Babynin, “Filosofiia Bergsona”, Voprosy filosofii ipsikhologii, 22, no. 3 (1911): 251-90 and no. 4 (1911): 472-516; I. Khlopov, “K voprosu o prirode intuitsii”, Voprosy filosofii i psikhologii, 23, no. 5 (1912): 667-703; K. M. Miloradovich, “Dva uchenii o vremeni Kanta i Bergsona”, Ministerstvo narodnogo prosveshcheniia, Zhurnal, 18 (1913): 323-29.

51. Mandel'shtam, Sobranie sochinenii, 2:283 and Rusinko, “Gumilev in London”, p. 83. In a soon to be published essay, Jane Gary Harris argues that Mandel'shtam misreads Bergson and uses him for his own purposes (see Jane Gary Harris, “Mandel'shtamian ‘Zlost'": Bergson and a New Acmeist Aesthetic”, Ulbandus Review, forthcoming. My thanks to Jane Gary Harris and the editors of Ulbandus Review for making a prepublication copy of the manuscript available to me). In general, Bergson’s philosophy, so in vogue at the time, underwent a good bit of distortion at the hands of individual writers and literary movements, who appropriated ideas they found appealing and accommodated them in a nonsystematic manner. Although certain Bergsonian principles may have been fundamental for Acmeism, it would certainly be incorrect to say that the movement fully and systematically represents Bergson’s philosophy.

52. In “Bergson and Russian Formalism”, Comparative Literature, 28, no. 2 (Spring 1976): 109-21, James M, Curtis examines the impact of Bergson’s ideas on the literary theory of Viktor Shklovskii and Iurii Tynianov. Curtis demonstrates that the Formalist concepts of estrangement and automatization, among others, derive from Bergson and were subsequently applied in the literature of the Serapion Brothers in the twenties. Of course, the Acmeists felt the impact of Bergson’s philosophy as much as a decade earlier and in a much less systematic fashion. Jane Gary Harris comments on Mandel'shtam’s use of Bergsonian concepts in her commentary to Mandelstam: The Complete Critical Prose and Letters (Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1979), pp. 615-16, n. 4 and suggests that Mandel'shtam’s essay “O prirode slova” may be read as a defense of Bergson. Harris concludes, and I second her opinion, that a monograph on Bergson’s impact on Mandel'shtam (and on Russian poetry and culture of the first two decades of the twentieth century) is sorely wanting.

53. Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution, trans. Arthur Mitchell (New York: Random House, 1944), pp. 44, 53.

54. Henri Bergson, Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic, trans. Cloudesley Brereton and Fred Rothwell (New York: Macmillan, 1911), p. 154.

55. Ibid., pp. 151-53.

56. Bergson, Evolution, p. 215.

57. T. E. Hulme, “Bergson’s Theory of Art”, in Speculations: Essays on Humanism and the Philosophy of Art, ed. Herbert Read (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, Inc., 1936), p. 159.

58. Bergson, Laughter, pp. 154-55.

59. Ibid., pp. 157, 150.

60. Bergson, Evolution, pp. 181-82.

61. Ibid., p. 194.

62. Ibid., pp. 319-20.

63. Bergson, Evolution, pp. 272-73. Cf. Ghil’s “intuitive synthesis.” To my knowledge Ghii does not refer to Bergson, but the ideas he expresses, and often his terminology as well, reveal an acquaintance with Bergsonian philosophy.

64. Bergson, Evolution, p. 295.

65. This statement comes from Bergson’s commentary on Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things), an early work which contains some germinal ideas that he was to develop subsequently in his major works. See The Philosophy of Poetry: The Genius of Lucretius, ed. and trans. Wade Baskin (New York: Philosophical Library, 1959), p, 81.

66. Gumilev, “Nasledie simvolizma i akmeizm”, SS, 4:173.

67. Another possible source of inspiration for these ideas comes from Father P. A. Florenskii (1882-1940?), a leading figure in the development of twentieth-century Russian religious philosophy. His ideas bear some resemblance to the philosophy of Bergson, though they are couched m religious terms. Florenskii maintained that truth is a living whole which transcends the logical laws of thought, but can be perceived through direct religious experience. Building on Solov'ev’s concept of “pan-unity” (vseedinstvo), according to which ail created beings are consubstantial with one another, Florenskii believed that the perception of an object involves the direct unification of perceiver and object in a metaphysical unity intrinsically connected with love, at the end of which “two become one.” Florenskii gained fame in 1914 with his monumental work Stolp i utverzhdenie istiny, and he was highly admired by both Gumilev and Mandel's ht am. Nadezhda Mandel'shtam cites Florenskii s importance to Mandel'shtam (Hope against Hope, p. 230), and Gumilev read Stolp i utverzhdenie istiny in 1916 at the front (Neizdannye stikhi i pis'ma, p. 133). Florenskii’s work can only be mentioned briefly in this study, but the possible relationship between Florenskii’s philosophy and Acmeism deserves further study, I owe this idea to Roman Timenchik.

68. Gumilev, “Ballada”, SS, 1:177.

69. This assertion of Mandel'shtam’s takes on added meaning if we refer to Bergson:
If I ask myself why bodies or minds exist rather than nothing, I find no answer: but that a logical principle, such as A = A should have the power of creating itself, triumphing oyer the nought throughout eternity, seems to me natural. . . . Suppose, then, that the principle on which all things rest, and which all things manifest possesses an existence of the same nature as . . . that of the axiom A = A: the mystery of existence vanishes, for the being that is at the base of everything posits itself then in eternity, as logic itself does (Bergson, Evolution, p. 301).
Compare Gumilev’s statement quoted above, “The weight of the most insignificant phenomenon is still immeasurably greater than the absence of weight, non-existence, and therefore, in the face of non-existence, all phenomena are brothers” (Gumilev, SS, 4:173).

70. Mandel'shtam “Utro akmeizma”, Sobranie sochinenii, 2:366.

71. Ezra Pound concludes his list of rules for the aspiring poet with a quotation from Vildrac and Duhamei’s Notes sur la technique poetique: “Mais d’abord ii faut etre un poete” (“A Few Don’ts by an Imagist”, Poetry, 1, no. 6 [March 1913]: 200-206). Similar statements can be found in Gumilev’s theoretical writings, but it is in his poetry that Gumilev most emphatically asserts the privileged nature of the poet and the power of poetic talent. Note the following example: “A te komu dovereny sud'by / Vselenskogo dvizheniia i v komi / Vsekh ritmov byvshikh i nebyvshikh dom, / Slagaiut okrylennye stikhi, / Raskovyvaia kosnyi son stikhii" (“Those who are entrusted with the fate / Of universal motion, and in whom / Reside all rhythms, past and to come, / Compose winged verses, / Unchaining the inert sleep of the elements”) “Vecher” (“Evening”), 1915, SS, 1:249.

72. Bergson, Laughter, p. 157.

73. “V kazhdoi luzhe zapakh okeana, / V kazhdom kamne veian'e pustyn'." Otkrytie Ameriki”, SS, 1:199.

74. “Est' Moisei posredi dubov, / Marii mezhdu pal'm . . .” “Derev'ia,’ SS, 2:3.

75. SS, 2:198.

76. “Zalog bessmertiia dlia smertnykh, IPervonachal’nye slova”, ibid. Cf. Bergson’s comment, “He who installs himself in becoming sees in duration the very life of things, the fundamental reality”
(Evolution, p. 344).

77. “Stan' nyne veshch'iu, bogom by vs hi, / I slovo veshchi vozglasi, / Chtob shar zemnoi, tebia rodivshii, / Vdrug drognul nq svoei osi”, “Estestvo”, SS, 2:199.

78. Mandel'shtam, Sobranie sochinenti, 2:298,

79. See “Toward a Definition of Acmeism”, a special supplement to Russian Language Journal, ed. Denis Mickiewicz (Spring 1975).


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