The second volume of Blok’s lyrics coincides in time with an acute, critical moment both in the personal fate of Blok and in the fate of the whole people.
1905 is the year of the first revolution in Russia, the year of Bloody Sunday. In Blok’s biography, this period of time is marked by a family drama – the mutual passion of his wife and friend – Lyubov Dmitrievna and the writer, poet Andrei Bely.
And the lyrics of this period are strikingly different from the lyrics of the first.
Bely spoke of the splitting of the Beautiful Lady as a natural beginning of the second stage of creativity: “According to the laws of the development of images, the Beautiful Lady had to decompose – and here is the second stage, the beginning of this decomposition, the era of “Unexpected Joy” [quoted from 8; 51].
In the “Introduction” to the second volume of the Collected Poems, the following lines are heard:
You went to the fields without a return,
May Your Name be hallowed!
Red drops of sunset again
They extended the tip towards me.
The beautiful Lady “departed”, she left the poet, the lyrical hero, the world, and left “without return”.
But it cannot be said that this image is completely absent in the second volume. In fact, he will never disappear from Blok’s lyrics. All the same, the Beautiful Lady will be present, almost invisibly, like some distant shadow, flickering from time to time, like the light of a beacon, as a kind of hint, and not a full-fledged answer. The Beautiful Lady is called “stranger”. She is now accompanied by blue, which is not equal to blue.
A train splattered with stars
Blue, blue, blue eyes…
Baevsky V.S. believes that “from the context it can be understood that “blue” is each time not just a detail of the picture, but a symbol of the collapse of youthful faith in world harmony, in the happy mystical life of the spirit.”
In 1906, Blok wrote the quatrain of the “Virgin Revolution”:
Oh, Virgo, I’m coming for you –
And it’s scary to follow you
In love with your soul
In love with your body?
Blok’s attitude to the revolution is a very complex topic, in this period of life in Blok’s work the female image, the image of the Beautiful Lady, merges with the image of the revolution. She is endowed with features that were previously inherent in the image of the Eternal Wife, her arrival is expected with the same spiritual strength. Later, of course, Blok would write about the revolution in a slightly different vein. Blok looked at the modern city and saw the fate of his Beautiful Lady in this “terrible world.”
The heroine of poetry 1905-1908 already an earthly woman, a woman who has not only a soul, but also a body, a woman weighed down by earthly, life problems. The poet is no longer looking for his heroes and heroines in the “blue distance” and not in the “purple twilight”, but much, much closer to the earth:
In taverns, in lanes, in windings,
In an electric waking dream
I was looking for infinitely beautiful
And immortally in love with rumor.
The first of Blok’s new heroines is a simple girl whose fate is labor, misfortune, poverty. This is a victim of the city.
Such is the heroine of the poem “To the Girl”. She is defenseless before the roughness of life, before cruelty. Such is the heroine of the poem “The Ring-Suffering”:
Lord God! Already the morning is swirling
Where, and how will I live this day? ..
Narrow windows. Behind them is a girl.
Thin fingers lay on the canvas.
Curls fell on delicate fabrics –
That’s right, she worked all night long …
Cheeks are pale from sleepless dreams
And a dying voice sings…
The poem “A Cold Day” is indicative, in which Blok himself speaks of the decline of the female image:
The second type of the heroine is also a “victim” of the city, but her fate is different: “A harlot woman from a bed of drunken desire …”, “The fiery hips of a prostitute in the market are dancing …”, etc.
Here, one of the key poems is the famous “The Stranger”. Blok saw in the Stranger “not just a lady in a black dress with ostrich feathers on her hat”, but “a diabolical fusion from many worlds, mostly blue and purple, a kind of Vrublevsky Demon.” Let us quote the words of Blok himself: The stranger “is a beautiful doll, a blue ghost, an earthly miracle”, “a devilish fusion.” According to Blok, the Stranger is the antipode, the antithesis of the Beautiful Lady. Blok also writes a “lyrical drama” with the same name “The Stranger”.
If we talk about the place of the image of the Stranger in the chain of Blok’s lyrical works, then we can imagine the following scheme: Beautiful Lady – Stranger – Russia.
The image of the stranger is strikingly different from the previous female images of Blok: she has a bodily shell, and, it should be noted, almost no attention has been paid to her inner world.
The beginning of the poem introduces us to “settings”: a restaurant on the outskirts among ditches and dusty lanes where people gather only to drink. Every evening a girl appears there, “Breathing in spirits and mists, // She sits by the window.” The author sketches her image with just a few strokes: “a girl’s figure, seized with silks”, “elastic silks”, “And a hat with mourning feathers, // And a narrow hand in rings”, a dark veil, “bottomless blue eyes”. We can only guess who she is and how she ended up in the restaurant; perhaps this is someone’s kept woman or a fallen woman. The author says that “all the souls of my bend // were pierced by tart wine”, which gives us the opportunity to assume that the stranger may not be as beautiful and charming as she appears before us. The author is shackled by “strange closeness”, he himself cannot explain what exactly attracts him so much in this image. We do not know what she is doing – is she waiting for someone, is she drinking wine, like the rest of the restaurant’s visitors, is she dreaming about something. This is an earthly girl, she is material and bodily, and, what is especially important, we can only speculate about her inner world. Her whole image is an appearance, indicated by a few careless strokes, and an aura of mystery with which the author surrounds her. “There is a treasure in my soul, / And the key is entrusted only to me!” – perhaps the other visitors of the restaurant will not pay attention to the stranger, sitting alone at the window and hiding her face behind a dark veil, only for one person behind her “the enchanted coast // and the enchanted distance” open.
The poet seemed to have shifted his gaze from the height of heaven to earth. He sees with pain, bitterness that his Ideal, his Beautiful Lady, having also descended to earth, cannot but change her appearance. Life denigrates the Ideal, makes it sellable, vulgar, vulgar. A beautiful lady in this world, on this earth, in this city turns into a lady of the demi-monde, perhaps a woman of easy virtue.
The lyrical hero in this poem makes an attempt to get off the ground:
Deaf mysteries entrusted to me
Someone’s sun has been handed to me
There is a treasure in my soul
And the key is entrusted only to me!
But the lyrical hero of Blok does not hope for the possibility of another breakthrough into the sky, to God, and agrees:
You’re right, drunk monster!
I know: the truth is in wine.
This same feeling is shown in a more subdued, almost parodic form in Free Thoughts. The hero, meeting a beautiful young woman, perceives her as an unearthly, ephemeral creature and gives her in his dreams the “sublime” name “Thekla”, and then sees how she goes arm in arm with a vulgar officer and shouts after her: “Hey, Thekla! Fekla!
In the winter of 1906, Blok met Natalya Nikolaevna Volokhova, an actress at the Kommisarzhevskaya Theatre. Her image inspired and permeated the cycles of poems “Snow Mask” and “Faina” .
The heroine of these cycles is an earthly woman, passionate, beautiful and destructive. The motif of a snake is associated with her: she “snakes in a golden bowl”, she has “heavy snake hair”, “dreams of a light snake blizzard” reign around, a smile “snakes” on her lips, and even “a sensitive snake dozes on the toe of a narrow shoe”.
In connection with it, a stable motif of darkness appears:
I’m overturned in dark jets
And I breathe in again, not loving …
And the brilliant run of the sleigh …
Dark eyes lit up in the sky
The Cup of the Long Passionate Night,
Cup of dark wine.
This woman is emphatically bodily: in contrast to the appearance of the Beautiful Lady, the features of her appearance are mentioned: “black silks”, “narrow hand”, “dark veil”, “bright”, “dark” eyes in the slits of the mask, “thin figure”, “ narrow boot”, “slim waist languor”, “dullness of sloping shoulders”, “black braid”, etc.
True, even these traits are given in fragments, the hero, as it were, cannot see it in its entirety, because his state of mind is restless, agitated.
She is vicious, “unfaithful, crafty, insidious.” Her main sign: coldness, i.e. she has no feelings for the lyrical hero, perhaps she is generally not capable of experiencing strong feelings.
But wanders beyond the distant poles
Sun of my heart
The hours of celebration have passed –
My intoxicated lips
Kissed in death anxiety
Your cold lips
And of course, love for such a woman can no longer be a mystical service to the ideal. It is a passion: strong, painful, deadly. She threatens with inevitable death. It is akin to a whirlwind, blizzard, snowstorm, wind. It burns, as it burns not even fire, but cold, snow.
Like the Beautiful Lady, this is not an ordinary woman: she is a sorceress, sorceress, sorceress. The poet calls her: “pre-sunset”, “Snow Maiden”, “enchanting maiden”, etc.
Summing up all of the above, we can come to a paradoxical conclusion: the Snow Maiden is the same as the Beautiful Lady. Only all the signs changed – where there was a “plus” – it became a “minus”: everything that was light became dark, everything that was innocent became vicious, etc. This is the same Eternal Femininity, the same original female essence of the world, only from its dark side.