One Less Hope: Essays on Twentieth-Century Russian Poets

By Constantin V. Ponomareff | Go to book overview

Vladislav Khodasevich’s Nightmare World

bol’no
Zhit’ v etom mire! Zachem ty menya rodila?

(It is painful/ To live in this world! Why did you
give birth to me?).
“To My Mother” (Autumn of 1910)

Etot mir lyubit’ ne perestanu.
Khorosho mne v sumrake zemnom!

(I’ll never stop loving this world./ I feel good
in the terrestrial dusk!).
“Paradise” (December 1913)


Early Poems, 1907-13

Vladislav Khodasevich was born in Moscow in 1886 into a Catholic family of Polish-Jewish descent. Born with a weak and ailing constitution that was to mark him for life, no one thought he would survive his infancy. He owed his life to a Russian peasant wet nurse, who sacrificed her own child in order to save him. She became his nanny and was very close to him. Though he remained a Catholic all his life, his intense identification with Russia was no doubt in part due to her influence.

Though Khodasevich’s first two collections of poetry - Youth (Molodost’, 1908) and A Happy Little House (Schastlivyy domik, 1914) - were, for the most part, poems about his love affairs, the overall tone of this early poetry give or take a few poems in the second book - was one of depression, not joy: a depression riddled by feelings of sorrow and anger, pain and existential despair. A poem of June 1907, expressed his state of mind well:

V moey strane, ni zim, ni let, ni vesen,
Ni dney, ni zor’, ni golubykh nochey.
Tam kruglyy god vladychestvuet osen’,
Tam - seryy svet bessolnechnykh luchey.97

97 Vladislav Khodasevich, Sobranie sochineniy v chetyrekh tomakh, edited by V. P. Kochetov
in collaboration with others (4 vols.; Moscow, 1996-97), I, 61. Further references to this

-57-

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