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Selected Poems

Alexander Blok

Translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France

Cover Picture of Selected Poems
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This title is available for academic inspection (paperback only).
ISBN: 978 1 857544 73 2
Categories: Translation
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Published: July 2000
215 x 136 x 5 mm
128 pages
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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  • How often we sit weeping - you
    and I — over the life we lead!
    My friends, if you only knew
    the darkness of the days ahead!

    from 'A Voice from the Chorus'
    In this Selected Poems, published originally as The Twelve and Other Poems (1970) Jon Stallworthy and Peter France introduce a wide range of Blok's poetry into English, retaining as much as possible his distinctive form and tone. His early poetry is inspired by mystical experiences, and the Beautiful Lady in his work is less a conceit than a powerful enabler. When history filled the sky with smoke and put out the stars, this mysticism did not abandon him. It makes delicate the difficult 'political' poems of his maturity and tempers his disaffection.

     'The Twelve' has claims to being the first great poem of the Russian Revolution. It remains enigmatic, the language elevated, the tone celebratory, even mystical in some respects. No wonder that Mayakovsky, bringing Revolution into the very language and form of his poetry, wrote against Blok and the old forms, answering 'The twelve' itself with '150,000,000'. Trotsky wrote, 'Certainly Blok is not one of us, but he came towards us. And that is what broke him.' But for Pasternak and others among his great successors he was a great and, thankfully, unofficial master. Pasternak said, 'He is free as the wind.'

    Writing 'The Twelve' in January 1918, he was 'surrendering himself to the elemental', celebrating in the twelve Red Guards of the title and their heroism and self-denial what he read as the Bolshevik triumph. He was surrendering not to a cause but to a force, not to an ideology (with which he had no patience) but to a sense of his people on the threshold of just and durable change. When the storm passed and the promised transformation of the world failed to come, Blok fell silent.

    Alexander Blok
    Alexander Blok (1880-1921) lived through his country's savage wars and radical trauma's, trying to welcome the new order. But there was no space in it for his kind of imagination. Trotsky wrote, 'Certainly Blok is not one of us, but he came towards us. And that is what broke him'. His ... read more
    Jon Stallworthy
    Jon Stallworthy, born in 1935, was educated at Rugby, in the Royal West African Frontier Force, and at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he won the Newdigate Prize of Poetry. A Fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Society of Literature, he is a Professor of English Literature at ... read more
    Peter France
    Peter France was born in Northern Ireland of Welsh parents and has lived at various places in England, France and Canada. He is now based in Edinburgh, where he was professor of French from 1980 to 2000. A Fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, he ... read more
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