In Which We Have Taken On Ourselves This Obligation


Years ticked by for Valery Bryusov. He was married, financially viable if afflicted as a result of pleurisy from time to time, and focused on his writing. Still something strange was happening in his life. He was becoming more like the world, and the world was becoming more like him.

November 26

Now, several weeks before the publication of my most recent book of verse, I solemnly and seriously give my word to abstain from literary activity for two years. I would like to write nothing in that time and of all books to leave myself only three – the Bible, Homer, and Shakespeare. But even if this is impossible, I’ll try to approach this ideal. I will read only what is great and write only in those moments when I have something to say to the whole world. I bid farewell to the noisy life of a journalistic warrior and the loud pretensions of a Symbolist poet. I will withdraw into life, submerge myself in its trifles, and permit my imagination, my pride, my ego to slumber. But this sleep will be only seeming. Thus a tiger closes its eyes, the better to watch its victim. And my quarry is already doomed to be mine. I am on my way. Trumpets, cease!

December 23

Letter to Balmont in Paris. – O my brother! Today they brought me the first copy of Me Eum…and suddenly I looked back on the past. Our wanderings in Sokolniki! Our cold arguments! My impassivity, oh, my impassivity! I did not expect such bitter mockery from life. Just as the Renaissance connects with the antique world, forgetting the Middle Ages, so the day of our separation was the eve of this day. They never happened, they don’t exist – these fifteen long weeks, they did not happen.

February 6

Again, the dismal, colorless life. The history of the lyric, the Church Fathers, the Bible – that’s all, unless you add tutoring my sisters and card playing with my father. Not much.

February 8

My voluntary isolation subjects me to a severe trial. Have I enough spiritual strength to preserve my aspiration amid the petty vulgarity of the life which surrounds me? Have I perceived my path clearly enough to follow it firmly amid gossip about money and conversations about women, amidst cards and carousal, alone in the whirlpool? My bright star! Stay pure and blessed. Do not fade…

March 17

Writing? Writing isn’t hard. I could write many novels and dramas in six months. But it is necessary, essential, to have something to write about. A poet must be reborn, he must meet at the crossroads an angel who will pierce his breast with a sword and place there, instead of his heart, a burning coal. Until that happens, you must drag yourself mutely through the “wild desert”…

October 2

The weeks before my wedding are not recorded. This is because they were weeks of happiness. And how can I write now if I can describe my conditions with only one word, bliss? I’m almost ashamed to make such a confession, but what can I do, that’s the way it is. Is this possibly the “intoxication” about which the old poets wrote so much? – No! No! – For so long I sought that closeness with another soul, that total merging of two beings. I was born for just such endless love, for endless tenderness. I have come into my native sphere – I was destined to know bliss.

To say, “I am happy” is to say a great deal. Do many dare say these words, to say, “I am happy” in the present tense? In memory of these days I will not dare to condemn anything in the future. “Even if I am destined for a moment of repentance…”

November 19

Balmont has come, he whom I so waited and longed for. He is wearing a double necktie and his hair is so carefully cut…

I wrote to Balmont today that I would be alone this evening. He came. I think he wanted to take revenge on me. He had so longed to see me, had created such a picture of me in his imagination. He wrote in his letters that I was the only person he needed in Russia. And of course the original isn’t up to the dream! And besides, much that Balmont is seeking I will never accept.

We talked of Christ. Balmont called him a lackey, a philosopher for beggars. But is a conversation carried on in words? There is a dialogue of souls. And much was said. I felt like crying. When we parted, Balmont half apologized: “Don’t be angry…”

December 1

We were mistaken. We met again and the flame of love quivered between us.

Another time Balmont came early in the morning. After a sleepless night he woke me. We left the house quickly, roamed the streets, dropped into a bookstore, went to his place then to Lokhvitskaya’s. It was a complete resurrection of the past. We rejoiced like children, laughing at everything.

However, we parted more coldly than I had expected. Perhaps he was offended by my negative remarks about Lokhvitskaya, who struck me as a rather untalented woman. Why does she have such a big mouth? And then she had to go and say to me: “I’m used to people diverting me.” I answered, “Then we have nothing to say to each other.” However, her most recent poems are good.

February 11

I went out today for the first time after nearly two months’ confinement. The fresh air intoxicated me; my head spun.

April 9

I must go forward! I must conquer! Could all these proud beginnings, these plans, this work, this ceaseless work of many years possibly come to nothing? My youth was the youth of a genius. I so lived and acted that only great deeds can justify my behavior. They must occur, or I will be ridiculous. To lay the foundation for a temple and build an ordinary hotel! I must go forward, I have taken on myself that obligation.

April 19

Five days of life with nature. The sea is now clear, calm, with dolphins, with gulls, and now foaming, roughened by an uneven wind which hurls it on the shoreline rocks; waterfalls shattered into spray before falling, hanging like flying white dust over the abyss; and torrents, where it is wonderful to sit on jutting ledges amidst the roar of the water from above and below, drowning the voice. Everywhere is that wall of mountains.




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