“And the Two will be Risen as One”

Marina Aptekman, Wheaton College

The paper will discuss the alchemical and Gnostic allegory of androgyny in the poetry of the Silver Age, primarily the works of Mikhail Kuzmin and Nikolai Gumilev. The androgynous allegory originates in early Christian and Jewish mysticism. It became particularly widespread in seventeenth-century alchemy where it was used to depict chemical processes symbolically, primarily the unity of elements at the stage that preceded the emergence of the philosophical stone. As one alchemical manuscript of the early 1700s noted: “sexual coupling occurs at the bottom of the retort when man acts inside the woman, and the hermaphrodite is born from two mountains. Thus two will die and be risen as one.” In the late seventeenth century the Christian mystic Jacob Boehme popularized this alchemical concept in his mystical works. It was later adopted and widely used by literary writers, firstly by German Romantics, and then by William Blake and French Symbolist poets.

The image of androgyne enters Russian poetry at the beginning of the twentieth century where it is connected with the Silver Age’s general interest in occult and mystical subject. I believe that the understanding of this image is quite significant for the perception of some important poetic texts of this era.

In my paper I will analyze three poems by Nikolai Gumilev, "Androgin", "Adam" and "Pervyi Adam", and a famous poetic cycle by Mikhail Kuzmin "Forel' razbivaet led". I will compare Kuzmin’s and Gumilev’s interpretation of the allegory of the androgyne, discuss the origins of this allegory in both writers’ work and the relevance of this image to their poetic ideology in general.