By Jenifer Presto
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Extra info for Beyond the Flesh: Alexander Blok, Zinaida Gippius, and the Symbolist Sublimation of Sex
If in much of her early poetry Akhmatova dedicates herself to overtly erotic themes that were far removed from the poetics of domesticity, in at least one of her early lyrics she addresses the problem of reconciling marriage with the bohemian lifestyle of the avant-garde, perhaps not thinking so much of herself as a woman poet as of her poethusband. In her famous poem, “He loved . ” (“On liubil . ”) (1910), penned in the same year as her marriage to Gumilev, Akhmatova’s poetic speaker chronicles the difficulties that her adventurous lover encountered when faced with the tedium of family life.
Yet for all of their avowed bohemianism, the acmeists did, at times, demonstrate a willingness to treat domestic problems in their poetry. And nowhere can this better be seen than in some of the early work of Akhmatova, the leading member of the acmeist movement from the distaff side. If in much of her early poetry Akhmatova dedicates herself to overtly erotic themes that were far removed from the poetics of domesticity, in at least one of her early lyrics she addresses the problem of reconciling marriage with the bohemian lifestyle of the avant-garde, perhaps not thinking so much of herself as a woman poet as of her poethusband.
Unbearable Burdens 25 Akhmatova opens this deceptively complicated little lyric by defining the preferences of her as yet undefined male muse as inclined toward the exotic. 11 White peacocks are unlike their more colorful feathered friends in that they are unable to reproduce—a fact of life that Akhmatova perhaps implicitly associates with her beloved here. Birds of a feather flock together, or so the old English adage goes. And in the next three lines of the poem, Akhmatova reinforces the notion of her beloved as reluctant family man when she describes his dislike of sticky domestic scenarios composed of crying children, tea with raspberry, and female hysterics.