Inspiration, Craft, the Alchemy of the Soul, the Alchemy of the Spirit – Love for Another Person through Belief and Love through Creative Knowledge

You need to search for credulous companions,
Who can’t correct the miracle with number.
But Venice has been made by human hands,
I as a craftsman – know craft of life:

From high and solemn muteness of my heart
To full and whole forgetfulness of soul:
All steps of godly human feelings – from:
My own breath to – telling breath to stop.

Marina Tsvetaeva, June 18, 1922
(Transl. by Victor Enyutin)

As it happens sometimes in Tsvetaeva’s poems dedicated to love relationships, moments of not really jealousy but some “competitive feelings” with other women can be noticed – Tsvetaeva respects her own humanness and is not ashamed by it. The really important is what she does with these feelings that many poetry-philes consider “banal”, “trivial” and unworthy of poetry. In the first line of the first stanza Tsvetaeva, as if, is comparing herself with other women with their credulousness that can suit her beloved. Tsvetaeva is opposing this (flattering men) gullibility – to her lyrical heroine’s existential craftsmanship in love. She explains what she means by “craft of life” in the second stanza.

But the first stanza still keeps two peculiar points – what it means to be “credulous” in love, and the making sculpture of Venice symbol of love relationship, not a representation of the object of love. To be a credulous beloved, according to Tsvetaeva, means not only believing that what you feel is indicative of love and that your beloved is also in love with you – loving through believing, but also – not being able “to correct the miracle with number”. What does it mean – to be or not to be able to correct the miracle with number? For those who are credulous in love, the feeling of being in love is verified with simultaneous intuition that something has happened “with me” or “with us” as a miracle that puts/throws us into the feeling of loving/being loved. But the part of the definition of a miracle is that it cannot be (easily) repeated. Today I am in love or being loved but tomorrow nobody knows what can happen. Tsvetaeva states here that genuine love (rooted in reality, not in the belief), is capable of continuing in spite of its spontaneity – it’s not just a sublime compulsion. “Correcting the miracle with number” is the difference between a more solid and a more human love in comparison with love as an obsession or as a beautiful inspiration. It seems that for Tsvetaeva genuine love is like making from a concrete love relationships sculpture, not the intervention of powers of fascination or metaphor written on our emotions by the unknown. Love is able to reproduce itself into the future. It is a matter of amorous craft rather than just a fever of the soul.

In the first line of the second stanza Tsvetaeva doesn’t use the Russian equivalent of the word “heart” – she is talking about the soul. But this soul is different from the one she depicts in the second line. We have a deal here with two conditions of human soul. The first (soul-heart) corresponds to love relationships characteristic of credulous companions, that Tsvetaeva defines as an experience without much reflection, and is rather with sentimental exaggeration (we all know this pathetic feeling of forgetting about ourselves under the influence of love – as the feeling of our disappearance in emotional mutuality of the two). But in the second line of the second stanza Tsvetaeva addresses already not “solemn muteness of my heart” but “full and whole forgetfulness of soul” – negation of our soul, the denial of the very possibility of being independent from a relationship one is involved in. This is the level of “conscious” dedication to a relationship, refutation of separate existence of souls of the partners in a relationship.

In the last line of the second stance the time has come not only to transcend the sacrifice of the individual souls of the beloveds to the symbiotic blend of two individualities (the muteness of the heart), but to transcend also the higher phase of love – the conscious dedication to the relationship (the forgetfulness of the individual soul). Tsvetaeva mentions spirituality of living (the subject’s breath), but she quickly concentrates on a super-existential spirituality that comes when physical breath stops according to the will of the subject (in the right part of the last line – “telling breath to stop”). Here Tsvetaeva talks, it seems, about stopping caring about togetherness of the two, but as a continuation of loving, as a separation from those we love as an act of love.

It looks that the individual soul after losing itself in blending power of love, quickly regains its spiritual power, at first in a condition of self-reflective caring about love between the two and then in a condition of becoming a spirituality (“my own breath” as a full feeling of an individual existence on its way towards separation/death as a continuation of love). According to the poem, the development of our soul inside the experience of love (losing of heart-soul, losing soul as an agency of individual existence, transformation of soul into existential spirit-breath: sensation of sacredness of living, and separation/death as a continuation of love) is incredibly dramatic and an intense process. To describe it, Tsvetaeva uses three colons in five lines (in the last line of the first stanza, and in the second and third lines of the second stanza). The first colon introduces the explanation of what is “craft of life” as the two positions of human soul in mutual love. Here the difference between “muteness o the heart” (emotional symbiosis) and “forgetfulness of soul” (“conscious” dedication to love) are the two steps of dedication of human soul to love relationship. The second colon prepares us for further transformation: the individual soul regains its separateness from amorous togetherness. Now it loves in another sense, with emotional distance. The third colon opens the last titanic encounter inside human love – between breath: the spiritual acceptance of the individual life as a sacred experience, and the refutation of this acceptance that is a pure act of the spirit inside love as a transcendence into separation/death.

This little poem can be understood not as a premonition of Tsvetaeva’s suicide eighteen years later, but as a sign that her suicide was for her a new phase of love for life from outside life. This poem can lead us to try to understand the meaning of her suicide not as a sign of despair (of “no way out” situation) but as a love for life and those she loved, in a situation when other means to express it were not available to her.

“Craft of life of love” is the ability to move from “solemn muteness of the heart” to “full and whole forgetfulness of soul”, and then to move from/transform this opposition itself into a new one with its internal movement from “my own breath” to “telling breath to stop”. In a new opposition the “solemn muteness of the heart” becomes “my own breath” while “full and whole forgetfulness of soul” – “telling breath to stop”. Symbiosis of the two lovers is “resurrected” (in a new opposition) as a symbiosis of the human individual with her life/breath, while beloved’s dedication to the mutuality of love – as the amorous mutuality of life and death.

Four psychological phenomena inside the experience of love are depicted in four poetic lines.