Nikolay Stepanovich Gumilev

Poems in this Collection


The Word/Слово
The Lost Tram/Заблудившийся трамвай


Timeline for N. S. Gumilev


Born April 15 on Kronstadt Island naval base in the Gulf of Finland, the son of a Russian naval doctor, Stepan Yakovlevich, and his second wife, Anna Ivanovna, who was also the daughter of an admiral.

Family moves to Tsarskoe Selo.

Family lives in St. Petersburg.

Family lives in Tiflis (Tbilisi, Goergia) in the Cuacasus.

A Georgian newspaper publishes Я в лес бежал из городов ("I fled to the forest from the cities"), Gumilev's first to appear in print. Little of the future poet's Acmeistic or Symbolistic characteristics are apparent here, but it displays the poet's great admiration for the Romanticism of Lermontov and Nadson.

Family returns to Tsarskoe Selo. Gumilev graduates from the town's famous secondary school at the relatively old age of 20. While Gumilev attends the school, Innokentii Annensky is its director and Anna Andreevna Gorenko, who would later change her last name to Akhmatova, was a fellow student. Gorenko and Gumilev fall in love.

Gumilev publishes Путь конквистадоров (Path of the Conquistadors). Here the influence of Symbolists such as Blok, Balmont, Briusov and especially Bely is rather too obvious, but the volume does contain the earnestness and Lermontovian Romanticism that differentiates Gumilev from many of his contemporaries. Briusov, in his famous Symbolist journal, Vesy, gives a tepid review, remarking that Gumilev shows promise despite not being terribly original.

Enrolls in Sorbonne, Paris. Begins travels in North Africa (Egypt and Sudan).

Романтические цветы (Romantic Flowers), released in Paris in March, is Gumilev's second collection of verse and shows the author's further maturation as a unique voice within the Symbolist context. Both from Bryusov and from Annensky, Gumilev's former teacher, the volume receives mixed, though now less hesitant, praise. Enrolls in the University of St. Petersburg but dedicates more time to artistic than to academic endeavors.

With art critic Sergey Makovsky and Annensky, Gumilev begins work on the periodical Apollon. He contributes both poems and a monthly poetry review to the journal. Collaborates with Aleksey Tolstoy on Ostrov, a journal of poetry, but it does not last beyond two issues. Participates in the formation of the Общество ревнителей художественного слова (Society of Zealots of the Artistic Word), a discussion group that includes Ivanov and Blok, among others. Again travels to North Africa, this time to Abyssinia.

Early spring, father dies. April 25, marries Akhmatova, whose first poetry is published by Gumilev in the short-lived journal Sirius. The couple honeymoons in Paris, where they meet and model for Modigliani. They spend the next several months first in Tver' and then in Tsarskoe Selo, with Gumilev's mother. Жемчуга (Pearl) is published to more acclaim, and marks Gumilev's introduction of elements of Realism into his Romantic imagination. Returns to Abyssinia.

Akhmatova, who is becoming an increasingly popular poet in her own right, gives birth to Lev Nikolaevich, the couple's only child. With Sergey Gorodetsky, an older Symbolist, Gumilev founds Цех поэтов (the Poets' Guild), which most notably includes Akhmatova and Osip Mandelstam, the core of the future Acmeist school.

Travels to Italy. Publishes Чужое небо (Foreign Skies), his fourth collection of poetry, simultaneous to the founding of the Acmeist movement. The volume marks the emergence of the mature Gumilev, who has shrugged off the influence of the Symbolists that limited his earlier work and has, in Acmeism, found the perfect combination of Symbolistic imaginings and his own emerging interest in the real (if slightly Romanticized) world. Correspondingly, Gumilev also begins to move away from the typically Symbolist odes and ballads in favor of looser, more innovative forms.

Returns to Africa--to Somaliland and again to Abyssinia. Along with the appearance of the manifesto, "Acmeism and the Legacy of Symbolism," which marked the official beginning of the Acmeist school, Актеон (Akteon), Gumilev's first play, is published by the Acmeists' publishing firm Giperborei. Also, he works on the long narrative poem Мик (Mik).

Publishes translation of Gautier's Emaux et Camees. Volunteers to serve in military in World War I, as part of the Uhlan Regiment, and sees combat in both Prussia and Poland.

Twice receives Cross of Saint George, awarded for valor in battle; transfers military service to Hussar Regiment. Writes plays Дитя Аллаха (The Child of Allah) and Игра (The Game), both of which are published posthumously. Publishes Колчан (The Quiver), his fifth book of verse, which is notable both for its documentation of the poet's experiences in WWI and for the advancements in both lyricism and description that allow Gumilev finally and successfully to express his Romantic life-creation, жизнетворчество.

After the March Revolution, the provisional government transfers Gumilev to Paris, where he becomes involved in an unrequited love affair, about which he writes a cycle of poems, К синей звезде (To a Blue Star), published posthumously. From Paris he travels to London, where he stays for three months.

Returns to Russian and in quick succession divorces Akhmatova, from whom he had been estranged for several years, and marries Anna Nikolaevna Engelhardt. 1918 is Gumilev's most active year in terms of publishing: the final version of Ник: Африканская поэма (Nik: An African Epic), a translated collection of Chinese poetry Фарфоровый павильон (The Porcelain Pavilion), revisions of two previous collections and of a play, and his sixth anthology of new verse Костер (The Pyre). Also begins working with Maksim Gorky on his new journal Всемирная литература (World Literature), to which he contributes criticism and translations of Gilgamesh and Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Teaches in various studios, institutes and societies in Petrograd. His play Гондла (Gondla), the only to be performed in his lifetime, is put on in Rostov with considerable popular and critical success. Takes up residence, with Engelhardt, in Gorky's Дом Искусств (House of the Arts). Birth of daughter, Elena.

Publishes seventh book of verse, Шатер (The Tent), a collection of poems from 1918. Travels to the Black Sea in June. Abruptly arrested on August 3 by the Cheka, the Bolshevik secret police, for his alleged involvement in the so-called Tagantsev conspiracy, and is executed on or about the 25th of the same month. His final collection of verse, Огненый столп (The Pillar of Fire), is published soon after his death.

Dana Fuller

Bibliography of critical works on N. S. Gumilev



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