ALEXANDER BLOK (1880–1921) is the greatest Russian poet after Pushkin and perhaps the greatest poet of the twentieth century in any language. This volume consists of translations of three collections of Blok’s verse: Ante Lucem (1898–1900), Verses about the Beautiful Lady (1901–1902), and Crossroads (1902–1904). These poems describe Blok’s visions of Sophia, the Beautiful Lady, who appeared to him at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. Sophia is the mysterious feminine principle behind all creation; Blok calls her the Mysterious Maiden, the Empress of the Universe, the Eternal Bride, and he sees her in the blue sky and the heavens full of stars, as well as in the dawns and sunsets of Russia. He identifies the Beautiful Lady with a real girl, Liubov Dmitrievna Mendeleeva, whom he courts ardently in the woods and meadows of the countryside outside of Moscow, as well as in the misty maritime setting of Petersburg.
Praise for Poems of Sophia:
“After his major translations of Russian religious philosophy and of several works by Dostoevsky, Boris Jakim has turned his hand to poetry. Following a collection of Vladimir Soloviev’s religious poems, he now gives us masterful English versions of the early lyrics of Alexander Blok — his poems to the ‘Beautiful Lady,’ Sophia, who is at the same time a flesh-and-blood woman, the Eternal Feminine, and Divine Wisdom. Jakim’s translations capture the rhythms and music of this greatest of Russian symbolist poets. There are none better in English.”— RICHARD PEVEAR, translator of War and Peace and The Brothers Karamazov
“Blok, like so many of the truly admirable Russian literary figures of his generation, has received in the West nothing like the attention he merits. The poems he wrote to Sophia—Lady Wisdom—are among the most lyrically ecstatic, moving, and profound of his writings, and Boris Jakim has rendered an inestimable service to English-speakers with this limpid, lucid, and faithful translation.” — DAVID BENTLEY HART, author of The Experience of God and Atheist Delusions
“The three collections of poetry that Boris Jakim has translated here were Blok’s debut as a literary artist, a debut as brilliant as it was far-reaching in its influence. By presenting the three collections in their entirety in a translation of great precision and clarity, Jakim empowers readers without Russian to undertake a serious exploration of Blok’s imaginative world, including his Beautiful Lady, a mythologem comparable to Sophia or the Eternal Feminine. This edition of Blok’s poetry brings a healthy corrective to abstract ‘sophiology’ in that it allows us to assess the meaning of Sophia in the concrete, existential context of a creative individual’s life and work.” — PAUL VALLIERE, author of Modern Russian Theology and Conciliarism
About the Author
BORIS JAKIM is a leading translator of Russian philosophy and literature. He has translated books by S. L. Frank, Pavel Florensky, Vladimir Solovyov, Sergius Bulgakov, and Fyodor Dostoevsky.