“U groba” simvolistskogo geroja: Blok in Mandel′štam’s “Pust′ v dušnoj komnate …”

In the entire period from 1908 to 1915 (the period in which the poems of Kamen′ were written), Mandel′štam wrote only six sonnets (in addition to the tercets of “Net, ne luna, a cvetlyj ciferblat” which clearly functions as a sonnet fragment). Other than “Sport” (1913), all of them were written in 1912. Three and a “half” of these followed in order in the 1916 edition of Kamen′ and form the cornerstone of Mandel′štam’s Acmeist reprisals with the Symbolist aesthetic (to which the cathedral poems make little open reference). The last two sonnets are “Šarmanka”—the image is most likely a send-up of the “staraja pesnja” the Symbolists have become—and “Pust′ v dušnoj komnate, gde kloč′ja seroj vaty.” “Pust′ v dušnoj komnate,” published in the Acmeist journal Giperborej (1913 no. 8) alongside “Paden′e—neizmennyj sputnik straxa,” was not included in the poet’s collections and, to my knowledge, has never been analyzed in the critical literature.

However, “Pust′ v dušnoj komnate” plays an inordinately large role in delineating Mandel′štam’s relation to Blok in the younger poet’s early Acmeist period. While there is much high quality analysis of the problem of Mandel′štam and Blok spread throughout books and articles on Mandel′štam (cf. especially Ginzburg’s O lirike [1974], Ronen [1983], Freidin [1986]), there is a surprising dearth of articles which make the question of Blok’s poetic influence on Mandel′štam the focus of their attention. (One might name only Jurij Ivask’s 1976 article, “Venecija Mandel′štama i Bloka,” which treats the problem far more superficially than the scholars mentioned above.) This may be due to the diversity of the voices permeating every Mandel′štam poem and making an analysis focusing on any one poet or source seem precariously one-sided. Still, there remain many elements of the Mandel′štam/Blok relationship which would profit from closer critical attention.

This paper is part of a longer work in progress focusing on the influence of Blok and Ivanov on Mandel′štam’s developing poetics. In “Pust′ v dušnoj komnate,” as in the loose cycle of sonnets to which it belongs, the poet struggles to come to terms with and expel from his poetics many elements of the Symbolist heritage. (Shortly thereafter, some of these elements will come creeping back.) In particular, this sonnet may be the only place in Mandel′štam’s earliest Acmeist poetry where he deals—almost—openly with the problem of Blok and Blok’s poetics. (Interesting in this regard is “Admiraltejstvo,” which polemicizes with the Symbolists, and in an early, unpublished version, as noted by Ronen, contained an obvious intertextual reference to Blok.)

If the poetry of any one of his Symbolist predecessors demanded an answer, it was certainly Blok. (Cf. “V suščnosti futurizm dolžen byl napravit′ svoe ostrie ne protiv bumažnoj kreposti simvolizma, a protiv živogo i dejstvitel′no opasnogo Bloka,” “Burja i natisk” [1923].)

In my paper, I analyze “Pust′ v dušnoj komnate,” discussing its ramifications for the poet’s perception of Blok and placing it in the context of Mandel′štam’s other Acmeist sonnets (the form, as well as some subtextual evidence, points to the influence of Annenskij’s Tixie pesni [1904], a book which takes a thoughtfully critical stance toward the contemporary poetry of the “younger” Symbolists). In “Pust′ v dušnoj komnate,” Blok’s lyric hero is manifested through his marked absence (the bol′noj providing a portrait in relief) in conjunction with the presence of a series of Blokian subtexts, most prominently “Šagi Komandora” (1910–1912) and “Moej materi” (1905). Moreover, I will argue that, in the sonnet, it is primarily Blok’s lyric hero (or the expectations derived from his latent presence) which Mandel′štam seeks to drive out of his poetic world.