The Faces of Florence in Aleksandr Blok’s Italian Poems




А. Blok, Florence; cycle of poems; V. Rozanov, A. N. Beketov, artistic image


This article examines the first two poems in Aleksandr Blok’s cycle Florence, which describe two opposite images of the city. The poet visited Italy in 1909, and his impressions are reflected in these poems. In the first poem, the city is compared to “Judas”: the poet maintains that Florence has betrayed its glorious past for the sake of the benefits accruing from civilization. Blok’s curses are reminiscent of his argument with V. V. Rozanov about the earthquake in Messina. Rozanov perceived the tragedy sympathetically, as a person capable of perceiving the smallest details of life. Rozanov accused Blok of indifference because the poet considered the earthquake a prologue to future disasters in the life of mankind. The second poem of the cycle compares the city to “a delicate iris”. The tone of denial in the first poem forced the editor of the Apollon magazine to refuse to publish the poem, though Blok explained in a letter that the image had been achieved through suffering. Blok’s perception of Florence was formed by signs of modern life, by Dante’s story (who was expelled from his hometown and found shelter in Ravenna), and by an episode where Blok witnessed the transportation of a dead man. The second image is connected with the poet moving to another part of the city by the Cascine Park, where there were many irises. The image of the flower made Blok remember Shakhmatovo, where he had looked after irises. A description of Florentine irises can also be found in a book by A. N. Beketov, the poet’s grandfather. The image of irises creates a different impression of Florence. The combination of the two visible impressions is connected with the “special optics” of the poet. He found Leonardo da Vinci’s oeuvre similar to his perception of the air, as “black”. The colour inversion when something transparent looks black, like when someone sees another person’s pupils, gives the poet the ability to see the world “from the outside” in its integrity. Such a vision also gives Blok the opportunity to combine the two images of one city.

Author Biography

Sergey Fedyakin

PhD (Philology), Associate Professor, Maxim Gorky Institute of Literature and Creative Writing.

25, Tverskoy Boulevard, 123104, Moscow, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0002-8900-7967


Beketov, A. N. (1870). Iz zhizni prirody i lyudei [From the Life of Nature and People]. St Petersburg, Tipografiya A. M. Kotomina. 445 p.

Biblioteka A. A. Bloka. Opisanie [The Library of A. A. Blok. A Description]. (1984). Book 1. Leningrad, Biblioteka Akademii nauk. 315 p.

Bizilli, P. (1932). Literaturnye eksperimenty. 2. Blok [Literary Experiments. 2. Blok]. In Rossiya i slavyanstvo (Parizh). 3 September. No. 197, p. 3.

Blok, A. A. (1916). Stikhotvoreniya. Kniga tret’ya (1905–1914) [Poems. Book Three (1905–1914)]. Moscow, Musaget. 272 p.

Blok, A. A. (1960–1963). Sobranie sochinenii v 8 t. [Collected Works. 8 Vols.]. Moscow, Leningrad, Khudozhestvennaya literatura.

Blok, A. A. (1965). Zapisnye knizhki. 1901–1920 [A Writer’s Notebook. 1901–1920]. Moscow, Khudozhestvennaya literatura. 663 p.

Blok, A. A. (2015). Pis’ma k rodnym [Letters to Family]. Moscow, Terra, Knizhnyi klub “Knigovek”. 699 p.

Dzutseva, N. V., Kulygina, V. V. (2010). A. Blok i Vyach. Ivanov: mifologema Italii [A. Blok and Vyacheslav Ivanov: The Mythologeme of Italy]. In Shakhmatovskii vestnik. Iss. 10–11. Moscow, Nauka, pp. 297–309.

Lermontov, M. Yu. (2014). Sobranie sochinenii v 4 t. [Collected Works. 4 Vols.]. St Petersburg, Izdatel’stvo Pushkinskogo Doma. Vol. 1. Stikhotvoreniya. 778 p.

Makovsky, S. (1962). Na Parnase “Serebryanogo veka” [On the Parnassus of the Silver Age]. Munich, Izdatel’stvo Tsentral’nogo ob”edineniya politemigrantov iz SSSR. 364 p.

Nebol’sin, S. (1974). Aleksandr Blok i sovremennoe zapadnoe literaturovedenie [Alexander Blok and Modern Western Literary Studies]. In Russkaya literatura i ee zarubezhnye kritiki. Moscow, Khudozhestvennaya literatura, pp. 302–342.

Prozorova, N. G. (2010). “V teni Dante”: A. Blok i I. Brodskij [“In the Shadow of Dante”: A. Blok and J. Brodsky]. In Shakhmatovskii vestnik. Iss. 10–11. Moscow, Nauka, pp. 401–415.

Rozanov, V. V. (1995). Sobranie sochinenii. O pisatel’stve i pisatelyakh [Collected Works. On Writing and Writers] / ed. by A. N. Nikolyukin. Moscow, Respublika. 734 p.

Shchegolev, P. Е. (1929). Kniga o Lermontove v 2 kn. [A Book about Lermontov. 2 Books]. [Leningrad], Priboi. Iss. 2. 248 p.

Shcherbakova, T. V. (2010). Ital’yanskie tsikly stikhov A. Bloka i S. Gorodetskogo: sopostavitel’naya kharakteristika [Italian Cycles of Poems by A. Blok and S. Gorodetsky: Comparative Characteristics]. In Shakhmatovskii vestnik. Iss. 10–11. Moscow, Nauka, pp. 381–392.

Sukach, V. G. (Ed.). (2009). Sochineniya Vasiliya Vasil’evicha Rozanova [Works by Vasily Vasilyevich Rozanov]. Moscow, Progress-Pleyada. Vol. 2. Krasota v prirode i ee smysl i drugie stat’i: 1882–1890. 634 p.



How to Cite

Fedyakin, S. (2020). The Faces of Florence in Aleksandr Blok’s Italian Poems. Quaestio Rossica, 8(3), 861–870.



Problema voluminis