Аделаида Казимировна Герцык-Жуковская

Adelaida Gertsyk

(1874 - 1925)




Gertsyk, who came from a Russified Polish noble family, was born in 1874 and brought up on her parents’ estate near Moscow. After studying  language and literature, she worked for a while as a teacher, but after 1900 became increasingly active as a writer. A gifted, original, and influential poet, she was one of the first Russian women writers to appropriate a lexicon coloured by archaic and dialect forms to the representation of a ‘magical’ feminine persona. Gertsyk was also the author of interesting essays, combinations of fictionalized memoir and literary commentary, which in some senses prefigure the late writings of Marina Tsvetaeva. A direct connection between the two writers’ work is, in fact, more than likely: Tvetaeva and Gertsky, who had met through the poet and painter Maksimilian Voloshin, were in regular contact during 1914-15. However, Gertsky’s tone is quite different from Tsvetaeva’s,  hovering between  an effusiveness that can occasionally border on the mawkish, and a humorous sense of the ridiculous aspects  in her own behaviour. After the 1917 Revolution, Gertsyk remained in Russia, but had to endure very difficult circumstances; her material hardships were exacerbated  by her complete inexperience in practical and domestic matters, and she rapidly became terminally ill, dying in 1925.







Adelaida (Gertsyk) had been withdrawn and “unaffectionate” as a child, divorced from the life around her, and living in a fantasy world that excluded adults. “I don’t remember,” she wrote in her reminiscences, “when precisely  I became disenchanted with adults. Gradually, the conviction took root in me that nothing new or important could be expected from them, but, on the contrary, one had to protect everything one valued and loved, hide it, and save it from their touch”. Adelaida’s first childhood love was for her girlfriend Grunya, the daughter of a workman, whom she imagined to be a Georgian princess abducted from her native land and forgotten in early childhood. In her youth Adelaida had a passionate love affair with a young man that ended tragically when he died in hospital literally before her eyes. The trauma made her partially deaf.


During the war years, Adelaida immersed herself in the work of the German Romantic writer Bettina Brentano von Armin. She was particularly drawn to von Armin’s Correspondence with her romantic friend, the poet Karoline von Guenderode, which, along with other von Armin works, she translated into Russian. For Gertsyk and the female poets in her circle, Bettina von Armin became a cult figure, a symbol of feminine,  “Amazon” genius. Gertsyk was particularly fascinated by the eroticism of female friendship as expressed in von Armin and Guenderode’s intimacy.


Adelaida played just as significant a role in (Sophia) Parnok’s romantic life of the war years, if perhaps unconsciously. In mid-October 1914 Sonya attended an evening party at the Gertsyks where she met Adelaida’s young romantic friend and surrogate “daughter,” Marina Tvetaeva. The only details available of this fateful first meeting are contained in Tvetaeva’s lyrical recollection of them the following January in the tenth poem of the cycle of lyrics she wrote to Parnok and eventually titled “Girlfriend”.


from “Sophia Parnok – The Life and Work of Russia’s Sappho”, by Diana Lewis Burgin, New York University Press, New York, 1994, ISBN 0-8147-1221-5, pag. 100-103.






Biographies in Russian


Poems in Russian





Ах, не так ты жила, как положено,

Как заповедовали тебе Словеса Его.

Прожила свой век ни огнян, ни студян, -

Ныне приспела пора ответ держать перед Господом.

Тебя Бог пожаловал целеньем райским,

Думу дал поющую, играющую,

В руку дал лазоревый, цвет,

На главу – смарагдовый венец.

Ты наказа Божья не послушала,

Разметала цвет Господний-лазоревый,

Не пошла в селенье свое райское.

Из закутья, с двора не выглянула,

За кудель засела тихомерную,

Взлюбила кротость плачевную.

    Не воспела живучи

    Песни радости,

    Не возжгла светильника

    В ночь под праздником.

Идти бы тебе сырой Земле на преданье,

Засыпать тебя песками рудо-желтыми!






Ah, you have not lived in the way ordained,

As the Word of God laid down you should.

You lived a life neither hot, nor cold –

But the time has come when you must answer to the Lord.

God granted you a stay in Paradise,

Gave you a soul full of song and play,

Into your hand he gave an azure flower,

Onto your head he placed a garland of emeralds.

But you were heedless of the commands of God,

Scattered the petals of God’s azure flower,

And you refused your stay in Paradise.

You stayed in the house, cozy in your corner,

Stayed working, tranquil with your ball of yarn,

And all you loved was tearfulness and gentleness.

    In life you did not sing

    The songs of joy,

    You lit no lamp

    The night before the feast.

So may you be given unto the wet earth,

So may you be sprinkled with ruddy-yellow sands!









Как много было их, — далеких, близких,
Дававших мне волнующий ответ!
Как долго дух блуждал, провидя свет,
Вождей любимых умножая списки,
Ища все новых для себя планет
В гордыне Ницше, в кротости Франциска,
То ввысь взносясь, то упадая низко!
Так все прошли, — кто есть, кого уж нет...
Но чей же ныне я храню завет?
Зачем пустынно так в моем жилище?
Душа скитается безродной, нищей,
Ни с кем послушных не ведя бесед...
И только в небе радостней и чище
Встает вдали таинственный рассвет





How many there were of them, near and far

Bestowing a prophetic answer upon me!

How long my soul wandered, seeking the light –

Making list after list of my favorites,

Still searching for planets I had not discovered

In the pride of Nietzsche, the gentleness of Francis –

Now rising to the heights, now sinking to the depths!

So they all passed – some living, and some dead…

But whose commandment do I keep now?

Why should my dwelling be so empty?

My soul wanders, a fatherless beggar,

And only in the heavens a mysterious dawn

Rises, purer and more propitious, far away.




Those 2 poems translated by Catriona Kelly, from  Reluctant Sibyls: Gender and Intertextuality in the Work of Adelaida Gertsyk and Vera Merkureva, in Rereading Russian Poetry, edited by Stephanie Sandler, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1999.

ISBN 0-300-07149-3.





                                         Вы сгиньте, обманы,
                                         Укройте, туманы,
                                         Храните глубокую дрему.
                                                     Вяч. Иванов
   Посв. В. Г.
Женщина там на горе сидела.
Ворожила над травами сонными...
Ты не слыхала? Что шелестело?
Травы ли, ветром склоненные...
               То струилось ли море колоса?
Или женские вились волосы?
               Ты не видела?
Что-то шептала... руду унимала?
Или сердце свое горючее?
Или в землю стучалась дремучую?
Что-то она заговаривала -
Зелье, быть может, заваривала?
               И курился пар - и калился жар -
И роса пряла... и весна плыла...
               Ты не слыхала?
Ветер, наверное, знает,
Что она там шептала,
Ветер слова качает -
Я их слыхала.
               "Мимо, мимо идите!
               Рвите неверные нити!
               Ах, уплывите, обманы!
               Ах, обоймите, туманы!
               Вырыта здесь на холме
               Без вести могила, - 
               Саван весенний мне
               Время уж свило...
               Ах, растекусь я рекою отсюда,
               Буду лелеять, носить облака...
               Ах, не нужно зеленого чуда -
               Небу я буду верна...
               Мимо, мимо идите,
               Вечные, тонкие нити -
               Солнце меня не обманет,
               Сердце меня не затянет... "
Ветер развеял слова...
Хочет молчать тишина.
Это настала весна.
Весна 1908




Vanish, deceiving veil,

Draw in, misty haze,

Watch over still sleepers!


(Vyacheslav Ivanov)



        to E.G.


A woman sat in the mountain,

Divining by the somnolent grass –

Have you not heard? Was that mutter

The wind, as it flattened the stalks?

            A sea of corn flowing wide,

            Or a woman’s hair, spreading in waves?

            Have you not seen?

See her whisper… was she raising her hands?

Or lifting her burning heart?

Was she knocking on the dreaming earth?

She was bewitching something…

Perhaps calling green shots to start growing?

            Smoke hovered, heat smothered,

            Dew twisted, Spring floated…

                        Did you hear?

Can the wind know the secret,

Know the words that she whispered?

The wind rocks the words here and there –

                        I heard what they were.

            ‘Go on, go on past,

            Tear the frail threads,

            Sail on, deceiving veil!

            Embrace me, misty haze!

            Here on the hill

            A grave waits for the filling.

            Time has woven and sewn

            Me a shroud for the Spring. –

            I shall nurse, I shall carry the clouds…

            No need for miraculous green,

            I shall be true to the sky…

            Go on, go past,

            Frail, but eternal, threads;

            The sun shall not deceive me,

            Neither the heart mislead me…

The wind swept away the rest.

Peace thinks that silence is best.

Spring arrived at last.







Посв. В. Г.


Опять в тканях, жертвенных

Беззвучино влачишъ прекрасную гвою,

Опять в зопот сада осеннего

Струится белая риза твоя

И стынет, как сон неясная...

            Чем сердце опоить


            Чем улегчить сердце богатое,


Все миги – слитно неслитые

С собой несешь ты в сосуде исполненном…

            Забуь! о, забудь!

Лилию бепую сорви,

На грудь возложи себе!

            Там у источника,

            в куще оливы бледной,

            не ты-ли сидела, светлая,

Тонкую руку в прозрачной струе купая?

И желанья – девы кудрявые

            собой любуясь…

Та-же ты и теперь, светлоокая,

            И не та.

Не изведав разлуки,

            не зная утраты –

вся ты разлука,

вся утрата…

Всем несешь свой привет прощальный,

            безгласно скользящая

в ризе белой, негаснущей…

З шепчет рок, меня вразумояя:

Тише! Учись видеть

            печаль неутешную,

            печаль безотзывную.

Сердце сдержи торопящее.

Молча смотри

в безбрежность немых





        To Evgeniya Gertsyk


Silent, draped in the garments of sacrifice,

You once more draw out beautiful sadness,

Once more, in the gold autumn garden

Your white vestment freely flows,

Then freezes, misty as dreams…

            How can I drug your heat’s


            How can I ease your heart’s richness


You carry time’s brimming vessel,

The drops are blended, yet each one’s distinct…

            Forget, o forget!

Tear these white petals,

Lay these lilies upon your own breast!

            There, by the spring,

            in a grove of pale olives,

            were not you sitting, bright lady,

Dipping your slender hand

                        in the transparent spray?

Your desires were curly-haired maidens

That flocked to their faces in mirroring water…

You are the same, bright-eyed lady,

            Yet you are never the same.

You have not suffered parting,

you have never known loss,

yet you are separation,

are nothing but loss…

You carry your final greeting.

                        wordlessly slipping

in white vestments, and never fading…

Yet fate confound me, whispering:

Hush! Learn to see

            sadness beyond consolation,

            sadness beyond response.

Hold back your frantic heart.

And silently learn

The indifference of eyes

                        struck mute.




Introduction and translation of the last 2 poems from An Anthology of Russian Women’s Writing, 1777-1992, edited by Catriona Kelly, Oxford University Press, 1994