The son of a navy doctor, Nikolai Gumilev was born in Kronstadt, Russia in (under the old calendar) 1886. He published his first poem while still in secondary school, and graduated from the school in Tsarskoe Selo in 1903.
Two years later, while studying at the University of Petersburg, he met the poets Innokenty Annensky and Anna Akhmatova. The same year he met Akhmatova he published his book of verse, Put konkvistadorov (The Path of Conquistadors).
In 1907-1908 Gumilev studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and traveled to Egypt and the Sudan. romanticheski tsvety (Romantic Flowers) appeared the following year. In 1909 he helped to found and edit the literary journal Apollon. He also traveled to Abyssinia.
With his marriage to Akhmatova in 1910, Gumilev founded the Poets' Guild, which was to last until 1914, expressing the anti-symbolist poetics of his own writing, Akhmatova's, and others. The publication of Chuzhoe nebo (Foregin Skies) further articulated his Acmeist concerns: balance, precision, craftsmanship, respect for tradition, restraint and clarity.
Throughout this period Gumilev continued to travel, despite the birth of his son Lev, to Italy, Abyssinia again and Somaliland under the auspices of the Russian Academy of Sciences to study East African tribes. He also continued to translate, most notably the poems of Théophile Gautier.
Kolchan (The Quiver) and Shator (The Tent) appeared in 1916 and 1921, and reiterated his concerns for the artistic personality and his fascination with African culture.
During World War II Gumilev fought in Prussia and Poland and served on the staff of the Russian Expeditionary Corps in Paris. Returning to Russia in 1918, he divorced Akhmatova, publishing his sixth book of poetry, Kostyor (The Pyre) and translating Samuel Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
In 1919 he married Anna Engelhardt, who bore him a daughter, Elena, in 1920. The following year Gumilev, still active as a poet, translator and editor, was arrested for alleged participation in an anti-Soviet conspiracy, for which he was executed in 1921.
BOOKS OF POETRY:
Put konkvistadorov (Petersburg, 1905); romanticheskie tsvety (Paris, 1908); Zhemchuga (Moscow: Skorpion, 1910); Chuzhoe nebo (Petersburg: Izdatel'stvo Apollona, 1912); Kolchan (Moscow-Petersburg: Giperborei, 1916); Kostyor (Petersburg: Giperborei, 1918); Mik: Afrikanskaya poema (Petersburg: Giperborei, 1918); Farforovyi pavil'on (Petersburg: Giperborei, 1918); Ogennyi stolp (Petersburg: Petropolis, 1921); Shator (Petersburg: Tsekh poetov, 1921); K sinyei zvezde (Berlin: Petropolis 1923); Stikhotvoreniya. Posmertnyi sbornik (Petersburg: Mysl', 1922); Stitchotvorenija i poémy (Lennigrad, 1988).
ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRANSLATIONS:
The Abinger Garland. Nicolai Gumilev. Poems Translated from the Russian , translated by Yakov Hornstein (Dorking, England: Tanner, 1945); Selected Works of Nikolai S. Gumilev, translated by Burton Raffel and Alla Burago [Russian Literature in Translation Series, edited by Sidney Monas] (Albany: SUNY Press, 1972).