Биография и воспоминания

Gumilev in London: an unknown interview

Книги

Зодчий. Жизнь Николая Гумилёва
Валерий Шубинский.

/pics/zodchij-shubinskij.pngЭта книга представляет собой подробную документальную биографию одного из крупнейших русских поэтов, чья жизнь стала легендой, а стихи - одним из вершинных событий Серебряного века. Образ Гумилёва дан в широком контексте эпохи и страны: на страницах книги читатель найдет и описание системы гимназического образования в России, и колоритные детали абиссинской истории, малоизвестные события Первой мировой войны и подробности биографий парижских оккультистов, стихи полузабытых поэтов и газетную рекламу столетней давности. Книга беспрецедентна по охвату документального материала; автор анализирует многочисленные воспоминания и отзывы современников Гумилёва (в том числе неопубликованные), письма и дневники. В книге помещено более двухсот архивных фотографий, многие из которых публикуются впервые, в приложении - подборка стихотворных откликов на смерть Гумилёва.
теги: биография, Лондон

In May of 1917, Gumilev, then a cavalry officer in the Imperial Army, was ordered to the Salonikan front. However, bureaucratic restraints and the uncertainty of Russia's continued participation in the war prevented him from returning to active duty, and for the next year, he remained in western Europe.1 He spent the largest part of the year in Paris (July, 1917 to January, 1918), but on his way to and from France, Gumilev had occasion to pass through London, briefly in June, 1917, and for a more extended stay from January, 1918, until his departure for Russia in April, 1918. Unfortunately, little is known about Gumilev's activities in the West, and in order to determine his contacts in literary London, it is necessary to piece together bits of information from various sources. Most valuable in this respect is the material which Gumilev left in London on his return to Russia and which is now in Struve's possession. In addition to his military records and drafts of his artistic work we have his notebooks, in which he jotted down appointments, names and addresses, and titles of books which were recommended to him or which he planned to purchase. (IV, pp. 541-543), Struve has also made available letters from Gumilev's friends in Paris and London, M. F. Larionov and Boris Anrep, which comment on his activities abroad.2

Boris Anrep, a Russian artist, specializing in mosaics, was probably Gumilev's closest acquaintance in London. In 1912, Anrep organized the Russian section of the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition at the Grafton Galleries in London, and wrote the preface to the Russian group for the catalogue, as well as a review article on the exhibit for Apollon.3 In the 1914-1918 war, he served as an officer in the Russian army and in 1917, he was posted to England, where he settled. In 1918, he arranged employment for Gumilev in the code division of the Russian Government Committee at India House, where he himself served. Anrep moved in the elite artistic-literary circles of London and undoubtedly introduced Gumilev into this world. It was probably through him that Gumilev met Roger Fry, the eminent British art critic and painter, champion of the Post-Impressionists, whose work was frequently noted in Apollon. Gumilev's notebook lists an appointment for lunch with Fry at 1:30 on Thursday, June 21 [1917]. At about this time, Fry was embarking on the translation Of Mallarme’s poetry and may well have discussed this project with Gumilev, who, of course, was also interested in poetic translation.

Anrep and Fry had been introduced some years earlier by Lady Ottoline Morrell, whose salon was the social center of literary and artistlc London. Half-sister of the Duke of Portland and wife of a liberal member of Parliament, Lady Morrell was mistress of Bertrand Russell, confidante of Lytton Strachey, and close friend of Henry James, Aldous Huxley, and T. S. Eliot. At her Oxfordshire home, Gasington Manor, one might meet D. H. Lawrence, Y. B. Yeats, Virginia Woolf, Arnold Bennett, Augustus John, and other prominent figures. Anrep had been brought into this circle by his friend, the artist Henry Lamb, and there he became acquainted with his compatriots from the Russian Ballet, Diaghilev, Nijinsky, and Bakst. There is evidence in Lady Ottoline's memoirs that as early as March, 1916. Anrep was introducing Russian army officers into her circle.4 It is unfortunate that she does not single out Gumilev by name, though other sources suggest that he did, in fact, visit Garsington. In a letter dated circa June 14, 1917, Aldous Huxiey writes, "I have been meeting a distinguished Russian poet, Goumilov (of whom I may say I had never heard - but still!) who is also editor of their paper, Apollon. We talked to each other with great difficulty in French, which he speaks rather haltingly and which I always stumble and trip in most fearfully. But he seemed quite interesting and pleasant. Anrep wants to bring him to Garsington this Sunday."5 And in fact, Lady Ottoline Morell's name and address are written in Anrep's hand in Gumilev's notebook, along with the Paddington-Oxford train schedule for Saturday and Sunday. This would date Gumilev's visit to Lady Morrell's salon as June 17, 1917. Lady Ottoline's memoirs indicate that at this time, in addition to Aldous Huxley, regular visitors were Katherine Mansfield, Siegried Sassoon, Lytton Strachey, and Virginia Woolf. In a personal conversation, the Soviet scholar R. D. Timenchik told me that he has seen evidence which indicates that Gumilev also met W. B. Yeats at Lady Morrell's and characterized him as "the English Vyacheslav Ivanov.''

In his letter to Struve, Larionov states that Gumilev was "well acquainted" with G. K. Chesteron, the noted English poet, novelist, and essayist (p. 406). Just how well they were acquainted is problematic, but it seems that they were, in fact, introduced. Chesterton's memoirs from this period describe his meeting with an unnamed Russian officer-poet. R. D. Timenchik agrees with me that the poet in question is Gumilev. The following account is Chesterton's description of the meeting.
There is some foundation for the anecdote told in Colonel Repington's memoirs; that Mr. Belloc and I went on talking through an air-raid and did not know it had begun. I am not sure at what stage we did eventually realize it; but I am quite sure we went on talking. I cannot quite see what else there was to do. But I remember the occasion very well; partly because it was the first air-raid that I had experienced, though I was going to and fro in London all through that period; and secondly because there were other circumstances, which Colonel Repington does not mention which accentuated the ironic side of the abstractions of conversation and the actuality of bombs. It was at the house of Lady Juliet Duff; and among the guests was Major Maurice Baring, who had brought with him a Russian in uniform; who talked in such a way as to defy even the interruptions of Belloc, let alone of mere bombs. He talked French in a flowing monologue that suavely swept us all before it; and the things he said had a certain quality characteristic of his nation; a quality which many have tried to define, but which may best be simplified by saying that his nation appears to possess every human talent except common sense. He was an aristocrat, a landed proprietor, an officer in one of the crack regiments of the Czar, a man altogheter of the old regime. But there was something about him that is the making of every Bolshevist; something I have felt in every Russian I ever met. I can only say that when he walked out of the door, one felt he might just as well have walked out of the window. He was not a Communist; but he was a Utopian; and his Utopia was far, far madder than any Communism. His practical proposal was that poets alone should be allowed to rule the world. He was himself, as he gravely explained, a poet. But he was courteous and complimentary as to select me, as being also a poet, to be the absolute and autocratic governor of England. D'Annunzio was similarly enthroned to govern Italy. Anatole France was enthroned to govern France. I pointed out, in such French as could be interposed into such a mild torrent, that government required an idee generale and that the ideas of France and D'Annunzio were flatly opposed, rather to the disadvantage of any patriotic Frenchman. But he waved all such doubts away; he was sure that so long as the politicians were poets, or at any rate authors, they could never make any mistakes or fail to understand each other. Kings and magnates and mobs might collide in blind conflict, but literary men can never quarrel. It was somewhere about this stage in the new social structure that I began to be conscious of noises without (as they say in the stage directions) and then of the thrilling reverberations and the thunder of the war in heaven. Prussia, the Prince of the Air, was raining fire on the great city of our fathers; and, whatever may be said against Prussia, she is not governed by poets. We went on talking, of course, with no alteration in the arrangements, except that the lady of the house brought down her baby from an upper floor; and still the great plan unfolded itself for the poetic government of the world. Nobody in such circumstances is entirely without passing thoughts of the possible end; and much has been written about ideal or ironic circumstances in which that end might come. But I could imagine few more singular circumstances, in which to find myself at the point of death, than sitting in a big house in Mayfair and listening to a mad Russian, offering me the Crown of England.6
The unidentified officer-poet, opinionated and arrogant, bears a close resemblance to Gumilev, as he is pictured in the memoir literature. Maurice Baring, the English writer and poet who later edited the Oxford Book of Russian Poetry, had spent a great deal of time in Russia before the war, and his interest in poetry might well have brought him into contact with Gumilev. In recounting this episode, Chesterton is, of course, exercising his renowned ironic wit, with, perhaps, more than a little embellishment and comic exaggeration, but the utopian ideas expressed by the Russian visitor are not incompatible with what we know of Gumilev's beliefs. The comments regarding the role of poets in government recall Gumilev's poem, "Ode to D'Annunzio»: «The fate of Italy is in the fate of her great poets» (I, p.262). Gumilev held D'Annunzio in high regard, and though there is no evidence in his writing to indicate special admiration for Chesterton and Anatole France, he might well have been attracted by their patriotism and social-political activism. Apparently, Chesterton was unaware, that despite the apparent incongruity of their ideas, D'Annunzio greatly admired Anatole France and they were friends.7 In any case, the superior nature of the poet is a frequent motif in Gumilev's poetry and prose. Assuming that the ideas expressed here ware indeed Gumilev's, there is no question but that among Russian poets, he considered himself best suited to rule the government. The same arrogant superiority is apparent in his self-characterization to Victor Serge from this period: "I am a traditionalist, monarchist, imperialist, and pan-Slayist. Mine is the true Russian nature, just as it was formed by Orthodox Christianity."8

Gumilev's notebook indicates that he very likely met C.R.W. Nevinson, a British, Futurist artist and later, official war artist. An article on Nevinson's work, which appeared first in the London journal, The Egoist, in, January, 1917, subsequently appeared in Russian in Apollon.9 Another memorandum in Gumilev's notebook indicates that Nevinson referred,!him to his friend, the Italian artist Gino Severini in Paris, Gumilev probably became, acquainted with other representatives of, the art world in London. Lifted in his notebook are the Grafton Galleries, the Chenil Gallery, and the Omega Workshops. Roger Fry founded the Omega Workshops, which became the focus of artists of the modern movement and attracted such visitors as Yeats, Wells, and Shaw. Gumilev's notebook also includes letters of, introduction to the Italian writers Giovanni Papini, L. Giovanola, and P. Sgabellari, written for Gumilev by Arundel del Re.10 Apparently, Gumilev expected to proceed to the Salonikan front through Italy and, planned to take the opportunity to visit the Italian literary community.

Many of the writers and artists whom Gumilev met in London were in one way or another, connected with the journal The New Age. Edited by A. R. Orage, The New Age: A Weekly Review of Politics, Literature and Art, promoted progressive movements in both art and politics. Around 1911, it became associated with the poetic theories of Imagism, which were set forth in its pages by Ezra Pound and T. E. Hulme, two regular contributors. The wartime alliance with Russia created a lively interest among English readers in Russian literature, and The New Age, along with other journals, fostered this vogue by frequently publishing translations and articles. In one translator's phrase, "the Russian boom was on," and anything new and original from Russia found a ready market.11 Practically every month during the war years, London journals published translations of Sologub, Chekhov, Andreyev, Rozanov, and Evreinov. Poems by Bryusov, Solovyov, Merezhkovsky, Bal'mont, and Sologub appeared in English translation in The New Age, as well as an article by Merezhkovsky.12 Gumilev may have intended to contribute to the propagation of Russian poetry with an article entitled "The Leaders of the New School: K. Balmont, Valery Bryusov, Fedor Sologub." The beginning of this unfinished article is included in one of Gumilev's notebooks from his London-Paris period. (IV, pp. 375-377). In any case, Gumilev must have found an appreciative audience in this atmosphere of interest in Russian literature.

Listed in Gumilev's notebook is the address of The New Age, (not written in Gumilev's hand), with the comment, "Le journal le plus éclairé de I'Angle-terre." Gumilev's contact at The New Age was C. E. Bechhofer, whose interview with Gumilev was published there on June 28, 1917.13 Carl Earl Bechhofer Roberts, subsequently the author of numerous biographies, novels, and travelogues, had served as foreign correspondent in Petrograd, where he met Gumilev in 1915. From December, 1914, to November, 1915, he sent back a series of "Letters from Russia," in one of which he describes an evening at the Petrograd cafe, "The Stray Dog," and his meeting with an unnamed poet, who is most likely Gumilev.
Then there entered a young volunteer — a poet fresh from the war. He soon recited a poem he had made on the field. It was quite good. "I feel I cannot die," was the burden, "I feel the heart of my country beating through my pulse. I am its incarnation, and I cannot die." I chatted with him afterwards. "You think it is horrible?" said he, "no, at the war it is gay." "More horrible than Petrograd," said I, "it cannot be." "Then you must come with me tomorrow night!"14
Bechhofer subsequently made other; acquaintances in the Petrograd literary world, and frequently returned to the subject of Russian literature in his "Letters," After the Revolution, Bechhofer returned to Bolshevik Russia and sent back a report to the Times Literary Supplement of the fate of his "two best friends among the younger Russian poets,'' Gorodetsky and Gumilev. This letter, dated Oct. 13, 1921, was in fact the first obituary of Gumilev in the Western press.15

The last of Gumilev's "Letters on Russian Poetry" was published in Apollon in early 1916, During and after the war, he published little in the way of theoretical or critical commentary on literature, and there remains only the fragmentary plan for his projected book on poetics to i indicate the development of his literary theory. Part of the difficulty in interpreting Gumilev's post-revolutionary work is due. to the lack of information about his ideas and interests duringuthis period. The interview below is the most extensive first-hand account available of Gumilev's thoughts on literature in, 1917, and it provides significant insight into his artistic intent in his mature work.

NOTES

1. Gumilev's military service record is included'in the Struve-Filippov edition of Gumilev's Sobranie sochinenii v chetyrekh tomakh (Washington: Kamkin, 1962-1968), I. pp; xlv-lvi. Subsequent references to this edition will be noted in the text by volume and page number.

2. "Pis'ma M. F. Larionova a N. S. Gumileva'' and "Iz pisem B. V. Anrepa," Mosty, Kn. 15 (1970), pp. 403-412, Mikhail Larionov, the Russian theater designer and painter, founder of the Royalist movement, left Russia in 1915 to join Diaghilev's Russian Ballet in Paris and collaborated with Natalia Goncharova in designing many ballets.

3. "Po povodu Londonskoi vystavki s uchastiem russkikh khudozhnikov," Apollon, No. 2 (1913) , 39-48.

4. Ottoline at Garsington: Memoirs of Lady Ottoline Morrell, 1915-1918, ed. and introd. Robert Gathorne-Hardy (London: Faber and Faber, 1974), 98. For a further characterization of Anrep in 1916-1917, see p. 157, pp. 202-203. Anrep's introduction into Lady Morrell's circle is described Memoirs of Lady Ottoline Morrell: A Study in Friendship, 1873-1915, ed. Robert Gathorne-Hardy (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964), 183, 230-231.

5. Letters of Atdous Huxley, ed. Grover Smith (New York: Harper and Row, 1969) 126-127.

6. The Autobiography of G. K. Chesterton (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1936), 259-261. The description of the Russian officer-poet here raises the question of Gumilev's language ability. Though he read English, (he translated Coleridge's ''Ballad of the Ancient Mariner"), it is doubtful that he had facility in conversational English. There is conflicting evidence regarding his fluency in English. He had studied in Paris in 1907-1908, yet his French compositions and translations from 1917 show numerous orthographical and grammatical errors (See Struve, I, xi). On the other hand, he certainly had acquired some fluency in the spoken language. Irina Odoevtseva, whose acquaintance with Gumilev began after his return to Russia in 1918, says that Gumilev spoke and wrote French fluently, though with mistakes [Na beregakh Nevy (Washington: Kamkin, 1967), p. 107]. Chesterton's description of the Russian's "flowing monologue" probably characterizes the manner of speech rather than its accuracy, and the picture is fully consistent with most descriptions of Gumilev's character, in the final analysis, the most convincing argument to support the identification of the Russian officer in Chesterton's memoirs as Gumilev is simply the coincidence of facts. Gumilev was the only Russian poet of any stature to serve as an officer in the Imperial Army, and it is extremely unlikely that two such individuals should visit G.K. Chesterton at this period.

7. Philippe Julian, D'Annunzio (New York: Viking, 1971), 203-204.

8.Victor Serge, Memoirs of a Revolutionary, trans. and ed. Peter Sedgwick (London: Oxford University Press, 1963), 59.

9. John Cournos, “The Death of Futurism,” The Egoist, IV, 1 (January, 1917), 6-7; republished as "Smert' futurizma," Apollon, Nos. 8-10, 30-33. John Cournos, a Russian-born American poet and journalist, was a close friend of many of the British Imagist poets, including Richard Aldington and Ezra Pound. His translations of Sologub, Andreyev, and Rozanov introduced modern Russian literature to the British public. In October 1917, Cournos visited Petrograd as a member of an official delegation and met with Sologub, Remizov, and Kornei Chukovsky.

10. Del Re, whose address also figures in Gumilev's notes was an Italian journalist and critic, associated with Marinetti and Futurism, who contributed articles and translations to several English journals, and for a time was an editor of The Poetry Review and Poetry and Drama. Giovanni Papini, whose stories appeared in The New Age in Del Re's translations, had at one time been the Italian correspondent for the Symbolist journal Vesy.

11. John Cournos, Autobiography (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1935), 281.

12. «War and Religion" was published in The New Age with the first of Bechhofer's "Letters from Russia," XVI, 10 (January 7, 1914), 239-240. Merezhkovsky's article was republished in a Russian wartime almanac, At the Rear, where it was severely cut by the censor. See Bechhofer's account in his "Letter," XVII, 21 (September 23, 1915), 497-498.

13. The New Age, XXI, 9 (June 28, 1917), 209. Gumilev may have subsequently Introduced some of his friends to The New Age. Anrep's article, "Beauty and the Beast" [The New Age, XXII, 14 (January 31, 1918), 267-268] is an ironic account of the reactions of Anrep's "Russian friend" (Gumilev?) to contemporary English art. A few years later. The New Age published M. F. Larionov's "Art Notes: Rayonnism" [XXX, 15 (February 9, 1922), pp, 195-196] as well as reproductions of Larionov's and Goncharova's drawings [XXX, 13 (January 26, 1922) ,165], At about the time of Gumilev's visit, Roger Fry initiated a correspondence with Larionov and Goncharova, and in 1919, he exhibited Larionov's work in his Omega Workshop and published a laudatory evaluation in The Burlington Magazine, XXXIV, cxcli, 112-118.

14. The New Age, XVI, 13 (January, 28,1915), 344. The poem referred to here is "Nastuplenie" (I, p. 240), published first in Apollon, No. 10 (1914). The approximate date of this meeting can be fixed as early January, 1915, since in the following "Letter," Bechhofer refers to his arrival in Warsaw on Orthodox Christmas [The New Age, XVI, 14 (February 4, 1915), p. 378] . Gumilev's service record does not indicate that he was in Petrograd at this time. However, in an episode from his "Sketches of A Cavalryman," published December 6, 1915, there : is a reference to his failing ill, returning to Petrograd and spending a month in the hospital (lV, 507). There are also two poems from this period which Gumilev apparently wrote under the influence of his hospital experience (II, 136-139). Gumilev’s service record and his poem "Memory," where he refers to his «breast untouched by bullets» call into question the reports of Gumilev's hospitalization (IV, 316-317), However, according to his story from "Sketches of a Cavalryman," Gumilev was not wounded, but rather fell ill after a reconnaissance mission; during a blizzard. Bechhofer's account of the poet's appearance at "The Stray Dog" would seem to indicate that Gumilev' was, in fact; on leave in Petrograd at this time and tend credence to the reports of his hospitalization.

15. TLS, October 13, 1921, 661.


INTERVIEWS. By C. B. Bechhofer

XIII — MR. NICHOLAS GUMILEFF.

The passage through London recently of Mr. Gumileff, one of the best known of the younger Russian poets and the literary editor of the Petrograd “Apollon,” enabled me to learn his opinions on present-day poetry.

“It seems to me,” he said, “that we have now finished with the great period of rhetorical poetry in which nearly all the poets of the nineteenth century were immersed. The main tendency to-day is that everyone is striving for an economy of words which was Quite unknown both to the classical and the romantic poets of the past, such as Tennyson, Longfellow, Musset, Hugo, Pushkin, and Lermontov. They talked their poetry, but we want to say 'it! The second parallel tendency to-day is the search after simplicity in images, in contrast with the work of the Symbolists, which as very complicated, exaggerated and sometimes even confused.

“The new poetry seeks simplicity, clearness, and authenticity.1 Curiously, all these tendencies involuntarily remind us of the best work of Chinese writers, and interest in the latter is visibly increasing in England, France, and Russia.2 Yet there seems to be everywhere a striving after really national forms of poetry. English poets — Messrs. G. K. Chesterton, Yeats and ‘A. E.’3 for example — are working to reestablish the ballad form and folklore, because English lyrical creation finds therein its highest expression. For a similar reason, French poets have been writing very simple and very clear poems — almost songs. In particular, I might mention Vildrac, Duhamel,4 etc. In Russia, the poets of to-day are attempting a variety of subjects and forms, in order to fill up the gaps in the young poetry of their nation. Nevertheless, they, like the others, are ignoring foreign moulds and themes. They write neither ballads nor songs, but poems of psychologic content in touch with present-day cultural and philosophic currents of thought, both Russian and foreign.

“As for vers libre, we must agree that it has won for itself citizen’s rights in the poetries of every country. Nevertheless, it is quite clear that vers libre ought to be employed very rarely, since it is only one of the many new forms which have recently arisen, and it by no means replaces all the others. On the contrary. Rhyme has been attracting more attention to itself than ever, and has become more and more important to poetry. Indeed, rhymes have begun to appear very often in the middle as well as at the end of the line, and even at the beginning. This, of course, has taken away from the exactness of the rhymes, and they have given way to Assonance; and this gives quite a new musical interest to poems written in the old metres.

“I do not think Futurism in poetry has a future, simply because the futurism of every country is different from that of the others; and all the futurisms taken together do not at all make up a single school. For example, in Italy the futurists are militarists; in Russia they are pacifists. Again, the futurists build up their theories upon a complete contempt for the art of the past, and this is bound to have a very bad influence on their artistic development, their taste, and their technique.”

Mr. Gumileff said that he thinks a renaissant poetic drama may take the place of the old prose theatre. Modern poets have the advantage of being much more emancipated than their forerunners, and poetry itself has become richer in nuances and energetic expressions. When a rather vulgar play5 by Rostand can be so successful in Paris, certainly plays written by better poets might attain enormous success. But the public must be educated to them, if only by repetition. The public does not like innovations, but it is easily persuaded to admire whatever is often placed before it. At first, verse drama will probably fail, but on repetition it is sure to please. “Unfortunately, the increased public desire for spectacles — bread and circuses — and the consequently heavy expenses of production have made theatre-directors unenterprising. This is a great pity, since in a new repertoire of verse dramas there would be room both for new painters and new composers, who are at present just as remote from the public as writers are. The new theatre, I imagine, would not be one of pale events and pale movement and emotions, like that of Maeterlinck, but, on the contrary, would be full of passion and action and noble moments. And, after all, only in the theatre can a wide public be made acquainted with the art of its contemporaries.

“Of recent dramatic essays in Russia,” Mr. Gumileff continued, “the attempts of such producers as Meyerhold and Evreihov to restore the old Italian comedy are bound to turn out a failure, simply because the form is too shallow ar^d superficial, and in no way attains the depth and tragicalness so characteristic of the present time with its mighty 'discoveries, its War and its revolution,”

I asked Mr. Gumileff if he did not think the period was one for epics, “No, this is not the time for epics. Epics always follow after the events they celebrate. But we are now in the midst of great events, and, therefore, this is a time for drama, and will be so perhaps for a long while yet. It is quite certain, however, that the events of to-day will serve for centuries to provide epics for future generations.

“Of; other poetic forms, we may sajy! thif didactic poetry is now quite deajl, Our sense of humor is too far developed and we are too fastidious to pay; attention to moral instructions in verse.

“There remains mystical poetry. To-day it is renaissant only in Russia, where it is connected with the great religious ideas of the people. In Russia there is still a very strong expectation of a third Testament.6 The Old Testament is ' that of God the Father; the New Testament is of God the Son; the Third Testament should be of God the Holy Ghost, the Consoler; That is what is really awaited In Russia, and mystical poetry was parallel with the expectation. And in France, too, one might hope for a renaissance of mystical poetry, such as is already to be seen in the work of Paul Claudel and Francis Jammes.7 Perhaps it will develop beside the French neo-Catholicism, or perhaps in quite another quarter, beside the philosophical ideas of Bergson,”8

I asked Mr. Gumileff if he thinks there caii be any relation between poetic drama and mystic poetry. “They seem to me,” he answered, “to lead in different directions. One is of the soul, the other of the spirit. When a poet of to-day; feels responsible for himself before the world he strives to turn his thoughts to drama as the highest expression, of human passion, of purely human passion. But when he thinks of the final fate of mankind and of the life beyond the grave, then he will turn at last to mystic poetry.»9

NOTES ON GUMILEV’S INTERVIEW

1. With his emphasis on simplicity, clearness, and authenticity, Gumilev essentially restates the poetic program of Acmeism. This formulation is fully in line with the theories of Imagis , which had been propagated in The New Age since 1908 [F. S. Flint, “Recent Verse,” November 26, 1908, pp. 95-98.] In his column “I Gather the Limbs of Osiris,” beginning in 1911, Ezra Pound repeatedly called for directness or utterance, precision of observation, attention to techniQue, and emphasis on concrete imagery, in terms that parallel the Acmeist statements of Gumilev, Gorodetsky, and Mandelstam, Gumilev may have been aware of the Imagist program even before his London visit, perhaps through Zinaida Vengerova’s article and interview with Pound in the Russian journal Strelets (“Angliiskie futiristy,” No. 1, 1915, pp, 93-104). Though her evaluation is critical, and though she fails to distinguish between Imagism, Vorticism, and Futirism, Vengerova offers Russian translations of a poem by Pound, “Before Sleep,” and the well-known poem by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle Aldington), “Oread,” which ha been noted as the apotheosis of Imagism. Though Gumilev could not have met Hulme, who died at the front in September, 1917, he may well have come into /contact with other representatives of Imagism. In his notebook there is a reference to The Poetry Bookshop, established in 1913 by Harold Monro, where the Imagists regularly held public readings. In 1913-1914, The Poetry Bookshop published a journal, Poetry and Drama, to which Arundel del Re, Boris Anrep, and John Coumos Were contributors. An imaginary reconstruction of Gumilev’s London visit would include a meeting between Gumilev and the very conspicuous American Ezra Pound, but though a meeting between them was certainly possible, considering the intersecting circles of the London artistic world, I have found no evidence to document such an encounter. Though Pound continued to contribute to The New Age, his collaboration with Wyndham Lewis on the journal Bias? and in the Rebel Art Center had put him at a distance from those artists and poets who gathered around the Poetry Bookshop and Fry’s Omega Workshops. Unlike his fellow American, T. S. Eliot, Pound di not seek entry into the more elite circles of London society, In any case, by 1917, the early Imagist stage of Pound’s activity, which had much in common with Gumilev’s Acmeism, had passed into the more radical Vorticism, with which Gumilev most likely would not have sympathized.

2. Whether or not Gumilev actually met Pound, an acquaintance with his work may be inferred from the reference here to Chinese poetry. A collection of Pound’s translations from Oriental writers was published in 1915, and some of his translations had appeared in The New Age just one week before the issue containing Gumilev’s interview (June 22, 1917). Gumilev may well have met another translator of Chinese poetry, Arthur Waley, whose name is listed in his notebook, Waley, a close friend of Fry, was a sinologist in the Oriental Sub-Department of Prints and Drawings of the British Museum. His first translations were printed privately in 1916, and his collection, A Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems, appeared in 1918, Gumilev himself was occupied with the translation of Oriental poetry at this time; his collection of Eastern poetry in Russian, The Porcelain Pavilion, was published on his return to Petrograd in 1918. Since he mentions Waley as one of his sources, Gumilev must have been familiar with Waley's very first, privately printed translations.

3. A. E. Housman, Professor of Latin at Trinity College, Cambridge, wrote lyrics of striking simplicity. His best known work, A Shropshire Lad (1896), was included in Gumilev’s “shopping list.”

4. Charles Vildrac and Georges Duhamel, along with Jules Romains and Rene Arcos, formed the “Abbaye” group of poets in Paris, 1906, which attempted to combine intellectual pursuits with manual labor. Associated with the doctrine of “Unanimisme,” their poetry sought to express the ideals of universal brotherhood in a simple, unadorned verse style, It is possible that Gumilev became acquainted with members of this group when he was at the Sorbonne in 1907-1908, through the introduction of Valery Bryusov, In 1910, Vildrac and Duhamel collaborated on Notes sur la technique poétique, which influenced Pound and the Imagists, Vildrac was a friend and correspondent of Roger Fry’s and operated an art gallery on the Left Bank in Paris, Gumilev’s notes list the Paris address of Mme. Rose Vildrac, wife of the poet, who ran the gallery during her husband’s wartime absence.

5. The “vulgar play” by Rostand probably refers to Cyrano de Bergerac (1897), the highly romantic “heroic comedy” which enjoyed tremendous popularity. Gumilev’s reference to poetic drama “full of passion, action and noble moments” reflects his own artistic concerns of this period. His poetic drama, Gondla, which depicts the conflict between paganism and Christianity in ninth-century Iceland, appeared in the first issue of Russkaia mysi' from 1917. During his stay in Paris and London, Gumilev was working on a poetic tragedy based on Byzantine history. The Poisoned Tunic, which was published in the West only after his death. Apparently, Gumilev’s interest in drama continued after his return to Petrograd. In addition to his classes in poetry, he gave a course at the literary studio of the House of Arts on dramaturgy, and a report of “works in progress in the journal of the House of Arts indicates that he was working on a historical play entitled The Conquest of Mexico” at the time of his death (Dom iskusstv, No, l, 1921,p, 70, 74).

6. The doctrine of the Third Testament recalls Merezhkovsky’s plan of man’s evolution, toward spiritual perfection, toward the union of divine spirit and earthly flesh in the Testament of the Holy Spirit, [See Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal, Dmitri Sergeevich Merezhkovsky and the Silver Age (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1975), pp, 93-97.] In evaluating the significance of this idea for Gumilev, one might do well to keep in mind that the interviewer, here Bechhofer, had come under Merezhkovsky’s influence, though to be sure, elements of the Merezhkovskian “God-seeking” are present in the enigmatic, unfinished novella. The Joyful Brotherhood, which Gumilev was working on while in Europe.

7. Paul Claudel and Francis Jammes were representatives of the Catholic literary revival in France, which was characterized by a mystical, visionary approach to the world, Jammes had begun his career in reaction to Symbolism as a poet of everyday life, and Gumilev refers to him favorably in this context in a review from 1912 (IV p. 294). After his conversion to Catholicism in 1906, Jammes’ work became increasingly religious. Claudel converted to Catholicism after a spiritual experience in 1886, and his poetry and drama became extremely “Christocentric.” His masterpiece of poetic drama, L’Annonce Faite à Marie, was performed in English in London during Gumilev’s stay there in 1917. Larionov’s letter to Struve indicates, that he and Gumilev often discussed the work of Gerard de Nerval, another representative of the mystical strain in French literature, whose poetry combines delirious subject matter with lucid language. Gumilev’s comments here on “mystical poetry” are unique in his writings and present an interesting opposition to his opening references to simplicity and clarity It is precisely this complexity which underlies the poetry of his two post-war collections.

8. The philosopher Henri Bergson also indicated a sympathy for Roman Catholicism. His emphasis on intuition and his conception of art as a direct contact with reality were very influential for T. E. Hulme's formulation of the theory of Imagism. Indeed, Hulme had popularized Bergsonian philosophy in the pages of The New Age. Gumilev could have been familiar with Bergson’s Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience, [English title Time and Free Will] (1888), Matière et mémoire (1896) and L’Evolution créatrice (1907). Bergson’s theories of time and memory may be especially significant for the interpretation of some of Gumilev’s most enigmatic poetry from Pillar of Fire, particularly “The Lost Tram” and “Memory.” Indeed, Bergson’s «realistic idealism» may be the key to the complex synthesis of mysticism and realism which underlies Gumilev’s mature work.

9. Gumilev’s interview provoked a, critical response from one uninformed correspondent, who took exception to several of Gumilev’s comments and questioned his authority as a poet [See The New Age, XXI, 11, July 12, 1917, p. 255], Bechhofer replied in the next issue with a clarification and a statement of support for Gumilev’s opinions. He writes, “Mr. Gumileff is well known in Russia and in translating circles abroad as a leader of the younger school of contemporary Russian verse, and also as an influential critic of literature and art” [The New Age, XXI, 12 July 19 1917 p. 275].

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