TRAMVAI

stop 4 - Troitsky Bridge

Three Bridges: "Across the Neva, the Nile, and the Seine"



"The Lost Streetcar"

Nikolai Gumilev’s poem "The Lost Streetcar" ("Zabludivshiisia tramvai"), published in 1921 shortly before the poet’s death, is the paradigmatic text for the tram’s incarnation the modernist literary imagination.

The tram—this distinctly modern means of transport—moves through a space which possesses characteristically modernist dimensions. The space traversed by the streetcar is simultaneously the unfolding of individual memories and subjective associations and the real, mappable city.

"Too late. We had already skirted the wall,
We leapt through the grove of palms,
Across the Neva, the Nile, and the Seine
We thundered across three bridges.
"

Around certain points on the route, immediate external reality coalesces with the lyrical hero’s subjectivity: as he crosses the Neva, the movement evokes other rivers from Gumilev's own biographical experience—the Nile and the Seine—corresponding to the time he spent in Egypt and Paris (in 1907). The grove of palms might be those of the poet's exotic travels as well as being evocative of one of the city’s familiar nicknames, "Severnaia Pal’mira" ("Northern Palm").

The poem—and the tram’s movement - plots the dimensions of Bergsonian "duration": the experience of time as simultaneously accumulation and continuous flow; the interpenetration of successive states of consciousness; memory where the past exists always embedded in the present moment of recollection. Thus the lyrical hero’s journey through Petersburg simultaneously evokes the locations of Gumilev’s foreign travels of the past.

The streetcar gives concrete realization to Bergson's theory, in which he saw motion as "the living symbol of duration", capturing time in its flow, rather than as a series of discrete units. The resulting stretched and distorted dimensions transform the urban setting into the surreal, dream-like space of the imagination.