In October of the same year, Tolstoy noted, “There is much that is blown-up, empty, but I did find some good things this time.” too, and penned down a draft translation of “Beat! Whitman needed not a mere celebrity endorsement, not just an appreciative aesthete, but a lover in Russia; a passionate, devoted reader who would accept him without judgment.
Before Chukovsky could have the luxury of spending years on his eleven editions of Whitman’s poetry, somebody else had to discover Whitman.
In subsequent essays, Balmont developed a language of such reverence and grandeur as were rarely bestowed on poets even within Russia’s then indulgent artistic milieu: Whitman was an “ultimate”, an “inevitable”, “strong” poet, “as inescapable in the life of our souls as the first love, first grief, a moonlit night, or a sunny morning.” His poetry, then, could not be akin to anything before or contemporary to it.
Writing in 1908, Balmont denied Whitman’s verse any “accessible consonance of rhyme”, “common ornamentation of poetry”, or any “correct measure”, seeing in it, instead, the “movement of waves”, “rustling of breezes”, and the “breath of the sea”.
This symbolist treatment was supported by Balmont’s main venue at the time — the influential literary almanac Balmont’s own position as an important symbolist poet and translator had long been secure.
His apologia for Whitman as a cosmic, universal prophet of new order could not have reached a more grateful audience than that of Russian students and intellectuals who were being wooed by the ideas of a universal, sweeping revolution that would propel their country into the front ranks of the new century’s democracies.
Chukovsky’s own poetic sensibilities can best be characterized as avant-gardist; this is considered by biographers one of the reasons for which Chukovsky’s talent as a poet was conscribed to children’s verse in the Soviet era.
Unlike Balmont, who had an intuitive — and brilliant — affinity for complexly metered, if not necessarily rhymed, verse, Chukovsky’s ear was more rhythmically tuned.
Chukovsky was a school student, teaching himself English from dictionaries, old newspapers, and whatever he could buy from sailors.
What were the chances that on that particular day, for that particular school-kid, the sailor would bring He was surprised to learn from his friends abroad that in Europe his own work was often compared to Whitman’s, and conceded to give the book a second chance. ” but that single sheet remained the full extent of his interest in Whitman.