Let Us Be Like the Sun

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Let Us Be Like the Sun
Balmont Let Us Be Like the Sun.jpg
First edition cover
Author Konstantin Balmont
Original title Будем как Солнце
Country Russia
Publication date
Media type Print

Let Us Be Like the Sun is the sixth book of poetry by Konstantin Balmont, first published in 1903 by the Moscow publishing house Scorpion.[1]


The book was being written in 1901-1902 when Balmont stayed at the Sabynino estate in the Kursk Governorate.[2]:577 In March 1902 the first version of it has been read by the author to the members of G. G. Bakhman's literary circle.[3] Almost instantly the censorship committee got interested in the book and insisted on numerous changes to be made. On July 1, 1903, Balmont wrote in a letter to Yeronym Yasinsky, then the editor of Ezhemesyachnye sochinenya (Monthly Books) magazine: "Have you received the book Let Us Be Like the Sun which while running through the censorship gauntlet has lost ten poems in the process? They wanted to throw out "The Devil's Artist" too, but it was saved by the fact that it had been published already in Ezemesyachnye sochinenya."

For an epigraph Balmont has chosen the words of Anaxagoras: "I entered this world to see the Sun."[2]:578

It had also the dedication which read like this: "I dedicate this book, woven with rays, to my friends whom my soul is ever open to: my brother in musings, poet and magian Valery Bryusov, tender like mimosa S. A. Poliakov, dark as a rock Yu. Baltrushaitis... and summer flower of Lucy Savitskaya, whose soul is clear and free, like a forest stream."[4]

The book was ready in the end of 1902 and published in 1903. Its second edition became part of the Collection of Poems (1904, Scorpion, Moscow), the third - of Complete Poems of Balmont (1908, Scorpion, vol.2), the fourth - of the Complete Balmont (Scorpion, 1912, vol.3), the fifth - of The Collection of Lyrics (Moscow, 1918, vol.5)[2]:578

Problems with censorship[edit]

The book, notably its erotic section, "Enchanted Grotto", has been severely cut by censors.[5] Decades later scholar V.N.Orlov was the first to have made an attempt to publish it in the original form as an academic edition.

The book was presented to the Moscow censorship committee in November 1902. The author had to change details and remove some pieces but still on March 3, 1903, the censor Sokolov committed his report to the Saint Peterspurgh Publishing Department, writing: "Konstantin Balmont's book consists of 205 poems [...] From the censorship's point of view all of them are worthy of attention, since they belong to the so-called symbolism, too many of them being erotic, cynical and even sacrilegious. As a censor I found the book in question exceptionally detrimental and would recommend it to be reported immediately to the General Publishing Dpt., adding the notion that it might be especially harmful for modern times when the majority of readership, young people in particular, are so fond of symbolism."[6][2]

On March 4 there came the resolution demanding the withdrawal of the book, already pressed and sending it for further examination, to censor M.Nikolsky. The latter's verdict was more favourable even if it demanded several cuts being made in already pressed pages.[5] M.N.Semyonov, Polyakov's relative and associate at the Scorpion, wrote in the latter dated May 17: "Brother Sergey, things with Let Us Be Like the Sun as they stand now, are appalling. I've seen Zverev today and he told me: 'When we met for the first time I told you some pornographic poems would have to go, but now, another Committee member has read it, and he found there many anti-religious verses and this complicate things a lot."[5]

Twenty years later Balmont came up with an idea of restoring the poems cut out by censors. "We've made a deal with painter N.S.Goncharova about a certain poetry project. I'll reproduce in a small notebook all those poems from The Enchanted Grotto that's been destroyed by censorship, add a couple of dozens of my best and most daring pieces, about human passions, Lucy Savitskaya will translate them and Goncharova will provide her majestic illustrations. We'll easily find a French publisher for such a project and the book, I presume, might have great success," he wrote in a letter to Dagmar Shakhovskaya.[7] This plan failed to materialize and Balmont has never mentioned it since.[5]

Many poems, excluded from "The Enchanted Grotto", have been later mistakenly attributed to Maximilian Voloshin (who's copied them for some reason to his notebooks), and scholar V.P.Kuptchenko has put a great effort into sorting this problem out.[8]

Critical analysis[edit]

The book, according to critic M.Stakhova, amounted to an attempt to recreate with artistic means the cosmogonist picture of the Universe with the Sun at its center. The whole of the book was a kind of pantheist Bible of worshipping elements, the Moon and the stars. Another theme, that of 'stopping the time' and reaching the 'magic in moment' was also there prominent ("The thought has got no means to fathom depths/ No means to slow down the running Spring/ It can, though, say Stop! To time/ Break down its own chains and now be chained by Dream").[9][10]

Fire, the earthly 'face' of the Sun, has had its own special place in Balmont's scheme of things. "Russian literature has never known such fire-worshipper, as Balmont was," biographer Nikolai Bannikov wrote.[11]


  1. ^ Vengerov, Semyon. "Konstantin Dmitriyevich Balmont". Brockhaus and Efron / Russian Biographical Dictionary. Archived from the original on August 18, 2011. Retrieved 2010-06-01. 
  2. ^ a b c d Makogonenko, Darya. Life and Destiny. The Select Works by K. D. Balmont. Moscow, Pravda Publishers, 1990. — ISBM 5-253-00115-8
  3. ^ Bryusov, Valery. Diaries, 1891—1910. Мoscow, 1927, р.119
  4. ^ Zaytsev, Boris. "Remembering the Silver Age.". Archived from the original on August 18, 2011. Retrieved 2010-07-01. 
  5. ^ a b c d Bogomolov, N.A. "On the history of the best book by Balmont.". НЛО, 2005 N75. Archived from the original on August 18, 2011. Retrieved 2010-07-01. 
  6. ^ The Russian State Archives (ЦГИАЛ). Funds 776.
  7. ^ A letter to dagmar Shakhovskaya, May 2, 1923. Publication by J.Sheron, Zvezda magazine. 1997. No9. P.156.
  8. ^ Voloshin, Maximilian. The Works by... Moscow, 2003. Vol.1. P.430.
  9. ^ У мысли нет орудья измерить глубину/ Нет сил, чтобы замедлить бегущую весну/ Лишь есть одна возможность сказать мгновенью: Стой!/ Разбив оковы мысли, быть скованным - мечтой.
  10. ^ Stakhova, M. "The Lives of the Silver Age Poets. Konstantin Balmont". litera.ru. Archived from the original on August 18, 2011. Retrieved 2010-06-01. 
  11. ^ Bannikov, Nikolai (1989). "The Life and the Poetry of Balmont". Detskaya Literatura. Archived from the original on August 18, 2011. Retrieved 2010-06-01.