Text: John M. Gogol, “Two Russian Symbolists on Poe,” Poe Newsletter­, December 1970, vol. III, no. 2, 3:36-37


[page 36, column 2:]

Two Russian Symbolists on Poe

Pacific University

Almost every major Russian symbolist poet was influenced by Poe. Included here are my translations of three interesting Russian works, previously unavailable in English which demonstrate that influence. The two poems on Poe are by the famous Russian symbolist poet, Konstantin Balmont (1867-1943), who also did the definitive translation of Poe into Russian. Though not his best poems they are samples of his many imitations and eulogies of Poe. The review of Balmont’s translation of Poe is by Aleksandr Blok (1880-1921), another major Russian symbolist poet.

Ultima Thule

Ebony and gold,

Varied mixtures of dense incense.

Lamps resembling stars,

Falling in the night from the sky without return.


Gigantic flowers without fragrance

But with bewitching colors glowing there,

It was thus when Adam glanced into their wilting blossoms,

What shines in them — not an instant, but only — sometime.


Papered walls — bygone feasts,

All the purple of a burned out blaze.

Velvet goblet of heavy curtains.


The bronze balls of dead moons

And the black raven from the clouds,

Here is the kingdom of our mad Edgar.

[page 37:]

Edgar Poe

In his violet colored eyes

A heavenly-vigilant spirit dozed in the earthly.

And he had a sensitive sharp ear

That heard the movement of the world.


Hark. Night falls. We only see this.

He heard it. And the rustling of Norns. (1)

And the sigh of a flower which expired on the moon.

He knew all, he was a comet among men.


And an unknown friend came to love him

In whom the knowledge of harmony and chaos was fused,

Who elevated the earthly to the sublime.


On the mortal mound of him whose suffering is forgotten,

Loving and honoring him, he placed,

As a true symbol, a piece of a meteor.

Konstantin Balmont

Review of the Collected Works of Edgar Poe (2)

The fact that Poe lived in the first half of the nineteenth century is no less amazing than that the Spanish artist Goya lived at the end of the eighteenth century. It almost seems that Poe’s works originated in our own time; presently the influence of his creation is so great that it is hardly appropriate to consider him only as the forefather of so-called “Symbolism.” Having influenced the poetry of Baudelaire, Mallarme, Rossetti, Edgar Poe is connected, besides this, with several broad channels of nineteenth-century literature. Kindred to him are Jules Verne, Wells, and other English humorists, and such refined stylists as Aubrey Beardsley with his drawings and novellas, and finally, our own Dostoevsky. Naturally the “Symbolists” are the most indebted to Poe. It should be noted that from Poe’s poetic creations there have emerged not one but several successive moments in the development of “Art Nouveau.” The former followers of the principle of “art for art’s sake” cannot disavow Poe, passing on to the next stage, becoming “Symbolists,” in a stricter sense, in contrast to narrow “Decadence.” Among the Russian public, despite their long-standing acquaintance with Poe (one of his stories was printed in Sovremennik in the year 1838, during the author’s life (3)), the strong opinion is still held that Poe was only an “aesthete,” or speaking more crudely, only entertained and frightened, in general “amused the public.”

To go further into the untruth of this opinion is beside the point (as we have seen this opinion is contradicted by the chain of followers or writers who in one way or another are connected to Poe); we are inclined to show one superficial cause furthering the development of such an opinion: this — the imperfections in the translations. Edgar Poe demands a translator in harmony with his soul; certainly he must be a poet, very sensitive to the music of words and to style. Balmont’s translation satisfies all of these requirements, for the first time it seems. In addition, until this time the cheap edition (two books of one hundred and forty-four volumes published by Panteleev (4)) was widely read. In it a smooth — at times even beautiful — translation (Michael Engelhardt’s) did not approach Poe’s basic tone, did not capture the “depths” of this writer, did not preserve the fascinating “melodiousness” which Balmont succeeds completely in translating. To that which has already been said it should be added that poems occurring in the stories are translated into poetry by Balmont (Engelhardt uses prose, for example, in the tale “The Assignation”) and that the “Skorpion” edition promises to be the first complete edition, although the period for the publication of the volumes has been drawn out. In the present volume, in addition to ten stories, there are three articles, interesting as independent aesthetic research.

Aleksandr Blok, 1906.



(1)  The virgin goddesses of fate in Scandinavian mythology.

(2)  This Collected Works was published in Moscow by Skorpion Publishers in 1906. The review first appeared in the literary [column 2:] supplement No. 2 of the journal Slovo, February 12, 1906, and is reprinted in The Collected Works of Aleksandr Blok (Moscow-Leningrad, 1962), V, 617-618.

(3)  The Contemporary (Sovremennik) was the famous Russian literary journal founded by A. S. Pushkin. The editors of Blok’s collected works note that he was mistaken, as no story by Poe appeared in the Sovremennik in that year.

(4)  Edgar Poe: Collected Works (St. Petersburg; G. F. Panteleev, 1896).


Associated Article(s) and Related Material:

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[S:0 - PSDR, 1970]