Konstantin Balmont

(1867–1942)

Biography of Konstantin Balmont

Konstantin Balmont poet

Konstantin Dmitriyevich Balmont (3 June 1867 – 23 December 1942) was a Russian symbolist poet, translator, one of the major figures of the Silver Age of Russian Poetry.

Konstantin Balmont was born in village Gumnishchi, Shuya (then Vladimir Guberniya, now Ivanovskaya oblast), the third of the seven sons of a Russian nobleman, lawyer and senior state official Dmitry Konstantinovich Balmont and Vera Nikolayevna (née Le′bedeva) The latter, having come from a family of military men where enthusiasm for literature and theater was almost hereditary, had the most profound influence over her son: she introduced him to the world of music, history and folklore. Vera Nikolayevna knew several foreign languages and often received guests who might have been deemed 'politically risqué' at the time. It was from her that Konstantin Balmont, as he later remembered, inherited 'tempestuousness of character' and rabble-rouser mentality.

Balmont who learned to read at the age of five (while watching his elder brother’s family lessons) cited Pushkin, Nekrasov, Koltsov and Nikitin as his first favorites. He insisted, though, that "the family house, the garden, creeks, marshy lakes, whispering leaves, butterflies, birds and sunrises" were his first poetry teachers. Balmont used to remember those ten years he spent in his family’s Gumnishchi estate with great love and warmth, referring to the place as "a tiny kingdom of silent comfort".

Balmont who learned to read at the age of five (while watching his elder brother’s family lessons) cited Pushkin, Nekrasov, Koltsov and Nikitin as his first favorites. He insisted, though, that "the family house, the garden, creeks, marshy lakes, whispering leaves, butterflies, birds and sunrises" were his first poetry teachers. Balmont used to remember those ten years he spent in his family’s Gumnishchi estate with great love and warmth, referring to the place as "a tiny kingdom of silent comfort".

In 1876 the family moved to the town of Shuya where Vera Nikolayevna owned a two-story decrepit-looking house. At the age of ten Konstantin joined the preparatory class of a local gymnasium, an institution he later described as "the home of decadence and capitalism, good only at air and water contamination".

It was here at school that, rather vexed with the educational system's restrictions, he became interested in French and German poetry and started writing verses of his own. His first two poems, though, were criticized by his mother in such a harsh manner that for the next six years he made no attempts to repeat this first poetic venture. What he became involved in instead was an illegal circle (formed by students and some traveling teachers) which printed and distributed Narodnaya Volya proclamations. "I was happy and I wanted everybody to be happy. The fact that only a minority, myself included, was entitled to such happiness, seemed outrageous to me", he later wrote, explaining his early enchantment with revolutionary activities.

Vera Nikolayevna transferred her son to another gymnasium, in Vladimir, but here the boy had to live in the house of a Greek language teacher who took upon himself a duty of a warden, becoming a source of much psychological suffering for a boy. In the late 1885 Balmont made his publishing debut: three of his poems appeared in a popular Saint Petersburg magazine Zhivopisnoye obozrenye. This event (as a biographer put it) "has been noticed by nobody except for his (tor)mentor" whose ultimatum included a veto on any further publications until the graduation day. Balmont graduated in 1886. having spent "one and a half years in prison-like conditions" "I curse gymnasium wholeheartedly. It ruined my nervous system completely," the poet remembered in 1923.

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The Shine Of Pain

"Give me your heart, but only - not divided" -
Heard Tarial the words of Nestan-Djar.
Oh, how there was strong and deep her charm,
That just by her he was since left delighted.

Only by her he was since tortured, lighted,
For Nestan-Daredjan was all his flame,
And only lightning gives a strike the same -
That she can't help being to ashes blighted.

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