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The epitaphs of a poet

“Until the next time, friend, until the next time, /I carry you in my heart, my dear. This predestined separation /offering a meeting somewhere else. /Until the next time, friend, do not feel sad, /without offering my hand I go, without words. In this life, death is nothing new/ nor is life, /of course.”


Armando Orozco Tovar


It seems that when Sergei Yesenin killed himself, the Russian poet was in a great hurry to find ink in the England Hotel in Leningrad, given that he decided to cut his own vein and use his blood to write an epitaph. This is a piece of writing that every person must, before passing on, try to create poetically, to ensure that others do not leave badly worded scribbles over a cemetery gravestone for all eternity.

Sergei Esénin

The poet’s farewell was so well done it seemed he had employed Edgar Lee Master, the American famous for his epitaphs. But he didn’t require such collaboration; his own genius as a poet, comparable with Pushkin or Rimbaud, wouldn’t allow it.

His epitaph is certainly disheartening and full of pain, very similar to his stormy life, cut absurdly short at only thirty years of age.

Born in the remote village of Konstantinovo, from the age of nine Sergei Yesenin began to refine his pain and his verses with great talent, learning from the minstrels that sang their stories over and over outside his front door.

In this way he learnt this ancient art of speaking with the birch trees, the snow and the animals, things which understood him.

He abandoned his impoverished family home very young, travelling to Moscow to be a proof-reader, or was it proof-corruptor? in a printing company. Before the fall of the Tsar he went to Saint Petersburg and converted himself into a fashionable poet in the city’s literary circles. He became a dandy, a bohemian, and daily, a scandalous drunk, as required by the Russian tradition that is so indulgent with the inebriated.

Very soon after the socialist revolution Yesenin met Isadora Duncan, the Californian dancer. It was love at first site for both of them.

She was almost thirty and he was very young.

She had come to perform a revolution herself, but in her case, with her body. She did this above all with her nudity as she performed across the stages of the great theatres, frightening the prudish, but not the first generation of Bolsheviks who accepted her among their hole-ridden tents, as they too were in the process of stripping away, removing the lies of capitalism using the truths of Marxism-Leninism. She danced among transparent red veils, as this was the colour of and the fire behind the new flag of the Soviet Union: the newly born Communist nation.

It was a similar cloth to the shawl which three years after the death of her husband broke her neck in an accident in Nice, France, when the silk threads got caught in the spokes of her carriage. A global star and dance instructor for proletariat children in Moscow, she liked to collect art, pleased by both the worst and best of artists, such as the great painter Pablo Picasso, and likewise by poems and poets.

She travelled to all parts with or without money. She was a woman persecuted by bad luck, from the fire in her house in California to the drowning of her two small children in the Seine.

Three years before her accident, the poet Sergei Yesenin took his own life, hanging himself with a rope, but leaving his work alive in the hearts of his people.

Boris Pasternak said of him: “The Russian land has never produced anything of better stock, quality, talent or creative depth or force. Yesenin had the living, burning spirit of an artist…”

On his death the poet Vladimir Mayakovski, supreme bard of the October revolution, wrote to refute Yesenin’s last verses by way of epitaph, suspecting that they would spread despondency: We must tear out, /happiness /from future days. /In this life /death is something easy /Making a life, /is much more difficult. For him the word was an instrument of world transformation, but for Sergei Yesenin, it was only ever a tool with which to sing of his Russian homeland, in search of the lost paradise of his childhood.”

“Get drunk!: ordered the French symbolist poet Charles Baudelaire: “Always be drunk. That’s it! The great imperative! In order not to feel time’s horrible burden upon your shoulders, weighing you down, grinding you into the earth, Get drunk and stay that way…”

Yesenin, the accursed poet of the revolution, would, when the revolutions allowed it, climb and descend the steps of all the Moscow taverns, and of the European cities too, travelling on account of his dancer, mixing tonnes of vodka with beer in his destroyed liver. At the end of his life, he still had his poetic neurones intact while writing his epitaph using the ink of his veins, as it was demanded by Nietzsche.

Others say that those responsible for his death were the bureaucrats (who gave rise to the future Russian mafia.), those that ensured that Vladimir Mayakovski, standing at two metres tall, also committed suicide ten years later, when the filicides of the iron man’s government made his life impossible.

The ultimate poet of the October revolution, who defined himself as: “A cloud in trousers” left his epitaph consigned to a poem to Esenin, written just before the suicide of the “last poet of the countryside”, a product of the monotony of the new regime managed by the “Stalinococos”: “It’s better to die from vodka than from boredom.”

(Translated by Tim Huntington)

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