Konstantin Balmont

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Bal’mont, Konstantin Dmitrievich

 

Born June 4 (16), 1867, in the village of Gumnishchi, Vladimir Province; died Dec. 23, 1942, in Noisy-le-Grand near Paris. Russian poet.

Bal’mont was born into a gentry family. In 1887 he was expelled from Moscow University for participating in a student movement. His first works— Collection of Verses (Yaroslavl, 1890) and Under Northern Skies (1894)—contained motifs of patriotic grief. Bal’mont became one of the early representatives of Russian symbolism. Examples are the collections In Boundlessness (1895), Silence (1898), Buildings on Fire (1900) and Let Us Be as the Sun (1903). Bal’mont welcomed the Revolution of 1905, as seen in the cycle of poems Songs of an Avenger (Paris, 1907). Succeeding collections of his poetry include Fairy Tales (1905), Liturgy of Beauty (1911), and Sonnets of the Sun, Sky, and Moon (1917). He collected and published examples of the folk culture of various countries including Egypt, Mexico, Peru, and India in the book Calls of Antiquity: Hymns, Songs, and Thoughts of the Ancients (1908), among others. Bal’mont’s poetry is characterized by features of the decadence movement, motifs of a frenzied, ecstatic perception of nature, and the self-assertion of a strong personality. His verse is distinguished by its fluidity, musicality, and rich alliteration although, at times, it does not lack a certain exoticism and pretentiousness. Bal’mont translated many Western European writers, including P. B. Shelley (complete works). P. Calderón, W. Whitman, E. Poe, P. Ver-laine, and C. Baudelaire. He was the first to translate into Russian Sh. Rustaveli’s narrative poem Knight in Tiger’s Skin, Kalidasa’s dramas, and other works. Not accepting the revolution, Bal’mont emigrated from Russia in 1920. Abroad he published the collections of verses Gift to the Earth (1921), Haze (1922), Mine—To Her: Poems About Russia (1923), In the Parted Distance (1930), The Northern Lights (1923), and The Blue Horseshoe (1937) and two books of autobiographical prose— Under the New Sickle (1923) and Air Path (1923). He translated Czech, Bulgarian, Lithuanian, and Polish poets. In 1930 he published a translation of The Tale of Igor’s Campaign.

WORKS

Polnoe sobranie stikhotvorenii, vols. 1–10. Moscow, 1908–13.
Sobranie liriki, books 1–6. Moscow, 1917.
Stikhotvoreniia.[Compiled, edited, and introduction written by V. Orlov.] Leningrad, 1969.

REFERENCES

Mikhailovskii, B. V. Russkaia literatura XX v. Moscow, 1938.
Istoriia russkoi literatury kontsa XIX-nach. XX vv: Bibliograzficheskii ukazatel’. Moscow-Leningrad, 1963.
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