Tryokhprudny Pereylok – Three Ponds Lane

1892 – 1912

The Tsvetaevs in the yard at Three-Ponds Lane
Augusta the governess, Valeria, Marina, Mother Maria with Asya in her lap, Andrey,
standing Nadya and Father Ivan, 1901

Ты, чьи сны еще непробудны,
Чьи движенья еще тихи,
В переулок сходи Трехпрудный,
Если любишь мои стихи

Будет скоро тот мир погублен,
Погляди на него тайком,
Пока тополь еще не срублен
И не продан еще наш дом.

Этот мир невозвратно - чудный
Ты застанешь еще, спеши!
В переулок сходи Трехпрудный,
В эту душу моей души.


You, who are still able to dream,
Whose movements are quiet,
Come to narrow Tryokhprudny lane,
If you love my poetry...

It will soon be a ruined world
Look at it in secrecy
While the poplar has not been cut down
And our house has not been sold...

This world is irrevocably - wonderful.
While you can still find it, hurry!
In narrow Tryokhprudny lane,
In this soul of my soul.


The house in the very center of Moscow where Marina Tsvetaevea was born at midnight on 8 October 1892, and where she spend the first twenty years of her childhood, is gone, but Tryokhprudny pereulok, Three-Ponds Lane still exists and has retained its name. Valeria Tsvetaeva, her half-sister from an earlier marriage of her father, described the grand bourgeois property:

The house has eleven rooms. Behind it is a grassy yard with poplars and acacias, an outbuilding with seven rooms, a coach house, two cellars, and a shed for horses and the cow. Besides the poplars and the acacias there was a white lilac bush by the outbuilding and a snowball-tree by the back door. The best rooms in the house were the large, high-ceiling, white hall with five large windows and a large drawing room painted dark red.
The outbuilding was rented to a family with a shop on Tverskaya Street. They kept a cow. Their Tartar herdsman blew his horn every morning when he drove the cow to Petrovsky Park. There was a hundred-year old silver poplar by the gate, its heavy branches hung out over the street.
VS p.20

Mother Maria Alexandrovna Meyn, 1903

Father Ivan Vladimirovich Tsvetaev, 1895

Marina's mother, Maria Alexandrovna Meyn, the second wife of Ivan Tsvetaev, had sacrificed her ambition of becoming a pianist to her marriage. A stern and serious woman of Baltic-German extraction, she was the opposite of her husband's cheerful first wife. With iron will power she fought her recurring attacks of tuberculosis. There were few joys in her house, little laughter, no festivities, a spartan regimen. She never won the love of her step children. In “Mother and Music”, Marina would many years later write, “Mother, as it were, projected her hopes and dreams into her children.” She made Marina practice the piano several hours a day. Marina obliged dutifully, but sought escape in poetry, which, from very early on, she considered her true vocation.

Ivan Vladimirovich Tsvetaev, an intellectual recluse, was the director of a large private endowment, which was to establish the first fine arts museum in Moscow: the “Emperor Alexander III Museum of Fine Arts”, which would in 1937 be incongruously renamed “Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts.” A generous and enlightened man he was consummately dedicated to this work and took only marginal interest in his children, whose general upbringing he left to the custody of Maria Alexandrovna and their Baltic-Germann governess Augusta.
Yet he spared no money or effort in their education, tutors, travels to Europe, and several years of schooling in Switzerland, Germany, and France.

Marina inherited her intelligence and irreverent skepticism from him. A precociously gifted, strong-willed and sensual child she was often driven to despair, which the adults saw as obstinacy. Marina, oppressed by this home, felt that her mother spent too little tangible affection on her. The lament, “I am alone - an orphan in this world...” runs through her poems like a river. At this point in her life this was obviously a product of her highly sensitive imagination, but she seems to have had no friends with a similar intelligence and disposition. Her imagination soon helped her construct an imaginary world that was early on populated by devils and monsters and later became a highly transcendental fantasy haven of her very own.

Asya (11) and Marina (13), 1905

In 1894 a sister, Asya-Anastasia (1894-1993!) had been born. Asya was very different from Marina, she had the practical down-to-earth sense which Marina lacked and a normal intelligence and imagination. She admired her older sister boundlessly, and deprived of other playmates became Marina's closest friend. Asya left a diary of their childhood, which is of invaluable help to our understanding. In the summers of their childhood the whole family moved to a rented house in Tarusa near Moscow. Marina's paradise, where they were allowed to play with other children, and the daily routine was less strict. There Marina could freely indulge in writing poetry to her heart's and soul's delight.

Her mother had been fighting a recurring tuberculosis since 1902. As a last resort Ivan took the family to Nervi, Italy during the winter of that year. Subsequently they lived for some time in Yalta. Between 1903 and 1905 Asya and Marina were sent to boarding schools, first in Switzerland then in Germany. Language tutors taught them when in Moscow. They spoke German, Italian, or French in the family at home and Russian with the service personnel and on the street. In her
Reminiscences Asya describes their life in Moscow and Tarusa, in Italy and Germany, the ups and downs of her mother's illness, the schools, and again and again her nearsighted but always admired older sister. She attributes Marina's often vacant look to her nearsightedness. Apparently she could read at close range, but beyond her book the world was a blur, which might explain many of her peculiarities.

And then at Tarusa, in July 1906, after many a false alarm, Maria Alexandrovna died. While Asya described the day in minute detail,
Marina left us only one distressing poem.


В старом вальсе штраусовском впервые
Мы услышали твой тихий зов,
С той поры нам чужды все живые
И отраден беглый бой часов.

Мы, как ты, приветствуем закаты,
Упиваясь близостью конца.
Все, чем в лучший вечер мы богаты,
Нам тобою вложено в сердца.

К детским снам клонясь неутомимо,
(Без тебя лишь месяц в них глядел!)
Ты вела своих малюток мимо
Горькой жизни помыслов и дел.

С ранних лет нам близок, кто печален,
Скучен смех и чужд домашний кров...
Наш корабль не в добрый миг отчален
И плывет по воле всех ветров!

Все бледней лазурный остров — детство,
Мы одни на палубе стоим.
Видно грусть оставила в наследство
Ты, о мама, девочкам своим!


To Mama

When you played an old Strauss waltz,
we, for the first time, heard your quiet, distressed call,
Since then we have been aliens among living beings
And only enjoyed the quick passing of the hours.

We, like you, welcomed sunsets,
Hypnotized by the proximity of your end.
On better evenings you made us feel enriched,
As you fought for our hearts
You served our childhood dreams tirelessly
(Without you, we only look at the moon!)
You guided your girls through your
Bitter life of sufferings and pains.

In our early years you were close to us, you who was sad,
A joyless and alien home remains in our blood ...
Our ship was set assail at a bad moment
And founders at the whim of every wind!

Ever paler grows the blue island – of our childhood,
We stand alone on deck.
We see the sadness in the inheritance
You, O mother, left to your girls!


They returned to the big house on Three Ponds Lane, which now seemed empty. Their father buried his grief in his work. A theft from the museum roused Ivan's enemies and the envy of the imperial administration. Their accusations hurt him deeply and aged him. Over his desk he had hung a photo of Maria in her coffin, which fascinated and frightened the girls. There is a poem by Marina (1913) which seems to reflect this photo.

None of their relatives offered to take in the two orphans. They were considered too difficult. Marina was sent to a private boarding school (Vonderwies) in Moscow. She only came home on weekends. Ivan finally hired Varvara, an old teacher of his daughters from their Yalta days, to be their companion and run the household. Varvara did not succeed to regain Asya's and Marina's affection. Asya asks herself why: “This is one guilt that weighs on me, and that I cannot explain.” The wounds were too deep. After a few months, Varvara quit her job and returned to the Crimean.

Marina hated school, it bored her. She attached herself to a group of long-haired co-students who considered themselves “revolutionaries”. At the end of the year the school expelled her. She never mentioned this experience. “Anger was Marina's element. Her other was shyness. She could barely control the torments caused by embarrassment,” writes Asya. “She would blush to the roots of her hair. If this happened before the prying eyes of a poetry-reading, she would hauntingly walk to her execution, livid with disdain. Had she raised her cast-down green eyes, she would have appeared like Medusa.”[ASYA] a - At seventeen Marina began to smoke, a habit that never left her.

In 1909 her father allowed Marina (17) to enroll in a summer course at the Sorbonne, her dearest wish. For the first time she went alone abroad. During the past year she had translated Edmond Rostrand's verse drama
L'Aiglon. Now she saw the aging Sarah Bernhardt in the main role of the Duke of Reichstadt (Napoleon II) and fell in love with her, Reichstadt, and Napoleon I, his father. These infatuations became her precious treasures, all consuming, she kept them from everyone. - Until she placed a picture of Napoleon in the icon corner in her room. “Father became very angry when he noticed this sacrilege by accident, demanding the removal of Napoleon's picture. Marina in blind anger, grasped a heavy candle holder and was about to smash the arrangement - when father turned around and left her room wordlessly.” [ASYA]

Part of the summer 1910 they spent in Tarusa, which repaired the fractured relationship between the sisters. Afterward Marina and Asya were sent to a new school. A close friend of the family offered to take care of the house, if Ivan Tsvetaev would marry her. The wider families raised a howl, and Ivan had to abandon this hope. When not in school the girls did as they pleased.

Marina had her poems published by small Mamontov Press. She paid for the printing herself, carefully selecting the paper and the dark-green binding.
Evening Album” became an unexpected success. Soon she was asked to read her poems to the “Circle for Literature and Art” in a private house. Mayakovsky and Maximilian Voloshin were among her audience. Bryusov presided.

Marina (18) reading her poetry, 1910

To control her shyness she had persuaded Asya to come along for support. Together as one voice the two recited several poems. “The applause was thunderous,” reports Asya, “an absolute no-no in this honorable circle.” [ASYA] Gumilev reviewed Evening Album as new voice of great independence, even Bryusov found some kind words. She was given the first and only prize in her life.

Я только девочка. Мой долг
До брачного венца
Не забывать, что всюду - волк
И помнить: я - овца.

Мечтать о замке золотом,
Качать, кружить, трясти
Сначала куклу, а потом
Не куклу, а почти.

В моей руке не быть мечу,
Не зазвенеть струне.
Я только девочка,- молчу.
Ах, если бы и мне

Взглянув на звезды знать, что там
И мне звезда зажглась
И улыбаться всем глазам,
Не опуская глаз!


I'm just a girl. My duty
Before the wedding altar is
Not to forget, everywhere are - wolfs
And to remember: I am - a sheep.

Dreaming about golden castles
Shake, turn, jump
At first a doll, and later
No longer a doll, but nearly one.

In my hand there is no sword
No singing string.
I'm just a girl - silent.
Oh, if I were only

Looking at the stars that I know are there
And I star-lit
And my eyes all smile,
I would not lower my eye!


She didn't realize how close she was to finding the love she was craving for.

    ...Послушайте!- Еще меня любите -
    За то, что я умру.


...Listen! - Would someone love me -
For that I would die.


Her new friend would become Maximilian Voloshin. Asya described his first visit to Three Ponds Lane: “I had never seen a man like him. I observed him carefully. He was not tall but huge. A non-human head on broad shoulders. Father Zeus in Papa's study. A mountain of curls. The beard flowing from the crater of his head like hot lava. His hair chestnut brown with traces of red. His eyes scrutinized me, reached deep into my soul...” [ASYA] Marina read her poems to him. Voloshin was the only person who took the childish and the poetic side of Tsvetaeva equally seriously. With a warm, understanding smile, he talked about his house in Koktebel - and invited them for the summer of 1911. Their friendship would last unbroken until his death in 1932.