The tumultuous lives and tragic ends of two Russian poets

Vladimir-Sergei

Sergei Yenesin

Sergei Yesenin 1895-1925

Sergei Yesenin (also spelled Esenin) was a troubled russian poet and ladies’ man who married 4 times before the age of 30 (there are accounts of up to 8!). He’s also known to have had several male lovers. He had four children from three different women, the last one he never got to see.

Sergei was a rebellious writer and suffered through bouts of alcoholism, violent behavior and depression. He wrote his last poem Goodbye, my friend, goodbye after binging on vodka for two days, and using his own blood for ink after slitting a wrist. He then hanged himself. Sergei was only 30.

Unfortunately his suicide inspired copycats, a lover of his even hanging herself on a tree by his tomb a year later. And his writings were banned for years after his death. Here’s a great, in-depth blog post by a fellow WordPress blogger which sheds more light on the deeply flawed poet.

This is the last poem he wrote, to the 20 year old Jewish poet Wolf Ehrlich he supposedly had a love affair with just days before his suicide:

Goodbye, my friend, goodbye
My love, you are in my heart.
It was preordained we should part
And be reunited by and by.
Goodbye: no handshake to endure.
Let’s have no sadness — furrowed brow.
There’s nothing new in dying now
Though living is no newer.

Vladimir

Vladimir Mayakovsky 1893-1930

The poet Vladimir Mayakovsky was so deeply affected by Sergei’s suicide he wrote his own poem he titled To Sergei Esenin. The poem talks of Sergei’s alcoholism with deep empathy and sadness. But then he goes on to say had Sergei have more class he may not have been so talented.

He himself had a troubled life, going to prison four different times in his teens and inciting prisoners to disobedience. But that was not all for naught; solitary was where he first began to write. Five years after Sergei’s suicide, Vladimir became involved in a stormy relationship with actress Veronika Polonskaya. At the time he was going through some professional failures and after a heated argument with his lover he went against his own poem lamenting the uselessness of suicide, and shot himself in the chest at the age of 37.

The last lines of his poem to Sergei:

Forward march! That time may whistle by as rockets flare.
So the wind shall carry to the past of ours
only the ruffling of our hair.
Our planet is poorly equipped for delight.
One must snatch gladness from the days that are.
In this life
it’s not difficult to die.
To make life
is more difficult by far.

Though their lives were full of strife they each had incredible talent and eventually became respected Russian poets post mortem with both getting statues to commemorate them.

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