Semen Nadson

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Nadson, Semen Iakovlevich


Born Dec. 14 (26), 1862, in St. Petersburg; died Jan. 19(31), 1887, in Yalta. Russian poet.

The son of a government official, Nadson graduated from the Pavel Military School (1882) and served in the military as a second lieutenant. His first collection was entitled Poems (1885). In 1882 he began contributing to the journal Otechestvennye zapiski (Fatherland Notes). Nadson’s poetry expressed the moods of progressive young people during the crisis of narodni-chestvo (Populism). Nadson’s lyrical hero, a child of his times (for example, his poem “Our Generation Does Not Know Youth”) and a conscientious intellectual living during a period of government reaction, had a tragic view of the world. Experiencing a profound civic sorrow, Nadson sought to evoke in his unknown “suffering brother” (the poem “My Friend, My Brother . . . “) a “painful yearning for the ideal and tears for liberty” (”My Dear Friend, I Know . . . ”).

In his poems “Halfway” and “Forward!” Nadson warned his contemporaries against the temptation to make compromises and to stop halfway. Nevertheless, while he regarded himself as belonging to the “fighters for desecrated liberty” (“Day-Dreams”), Nadson was far from having a genuinely revolutionary attitude toward life (“Do Not Blame Me, My Friend”). Tending toward the Nekrasov school of civic lyric poetry, Nadson’s poetry was nonetheless lacking in social concreteness and was characterized by abstract, bookish imagery. In later poems, civic motifs are generally muffled. Nadson’s lyric poetry dealing with love and landscapes attracted the attention of many composers (C. A. Cui, S. V. Rachmaninoff).

The sensitivity to social injustice and the sincerity of Nadson’s poetry, inseparable in the minds of his contemporaries from the bitter fate of the poet himself (Nadson died at an early age from tuberculosis), contributed to the great popularity of his poems, making them a symbol of a period of social stagnation. Nadson is buried in St. Petersburg.


Poln. sobr. stikhotvorenii. [Introduction by G. A. Bialy.] Moscow-Leningrad, 1962.


Nazarova, L. N. “Nadson.” In Istoriia russkoi literatury, vol. 9, part 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1956.
Istoriia russkoi literatury XIX v.: Bibliograficheskii ukazatel’. Moscow-Leningrad, 1962.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.